In a world linked by electronic networks and cheap, nearly instantaneous communications, the physical location of your law school shouldn’t matter. But it does. Not all cities are created equal.
New York City, home of Wall Street and the United Nations, holds more influence over global law, business, culture and politics than most. And with more law schools and lawyers per square mile than any other city in America, it’s a good choice for doing an LL.M.
As Christopher Fromm, executive director of Kaplan Bar Review, says: “While one could study the law from anywhere, the opportunities New York offers are second to none. From live instruction and access, to true experts, to the ability to mingle with some of the countries’ most influential lawyers, New York offers it all.”
What’s more, he says, the New York State Bar is viewed to most foreign-educated lawyers as the American Bar. “Being licensed in Maryland, Texas, or even California does not carry the same weight as being admitted to practice in New York,” says Fromm.
New York City: home to law firms, banks, startups and more
New York City is home to some fantastic law schools, many of which offer LL.M. programs, from behemoths like NYU Law and Columbia Law to Fordham Law School and Brooklyn Law School, so potential LL.M. students have many options.
It’s not just law schools that are in the Big Apple. The city hosts offices from every major global law firm, and nine of the top 20 are headquartered there. It’s also a hub for business and finance, with global banks, accounting and consulting firms having major presences in NYC. And it’s a center for advertising, media, medicine and digital technology, with NYC startups second only to the Bay Area in attracting venture capital.
This gives students innumerable opportunities for externships and employment as well as networking — the city boasts bar associations that cater to every conceivable interest and affinity group.
Erica Silbiger, director of admissions at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University says: “New York really has everything. There is an enormous market here in NYC that truly displays the depth and breadth of the legal industry, on a national and international level.”
Matthew D'Amore, assistant dean at Cornell Tech, a technology, business, law and design campus on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan, agrees. “Connections are everything. Our students connect every day with the most accomplished and successful professionals in the world, building networks that will continue long after they graduate.”
For instance, through the LL.M. in Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship at Cornell Tech, students hear about bias in facial recognition software from Brad Smith, chief legal officer at Microsoft; about life in Silicon Valley from former Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer; and about privacy and security as it impacts marginalized populations from Sunny Consolvo, a researcher at Google.
In NYC, there are limitless opportunities to learn about new areas of law, meet those on the cutting edge of their practice area, and of course network with a wide array of lawyers, judges and professors across the entire legal spectrum.
“Our adjunct faculty is drawn largely from the NYC market — the largest and most sophisticated legal market in the country, and supplemented by the many domestic and international visitors that come to New York on a regular basis,” says Toni Jaeger-Fine, assistant dean for international and non-J.D. programs at Fordham Law School in NYC.
“You can feel vibrancy in every corner”
There are few places like the city, in terms of multiculturalism. Experts say that as many as 800 languages are spoken throughout its five boroughs and all its unique neighborhoods, where students can find a home away from home.
“No two people are the same in this city,” says Silbiger at the Cardozo School of Law. “Being around and learning about these different cultures and environments gives students a learning experience they can’t get anywhere else.”
Since Desiree Jaeger-Fine moved to New York City from Germany for an LL.M. in 2011, she has been head over heels in love with the Big Apple, both for the lifestyle perks and commercial prowess.
“The city is the epicenter of opportunity: whatever you want to do or when you want to do it, you can make it happen,” she says. “You can take any class you want to take, eat any food you want to eat, see any show you want to see. You can feel vibrancy in every corner.”
D'Amore at Cornell Tech says: “We know our students don’t study around the clock. The wonders of Broadway, Central Park, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and other iconic NYC destinations are well known to people throughout the world.”
But it’s not for everyone, he says. “It can be crowded and noisy. It sees all four seasons, with cold, snowy winters and sometimes steamy summers.”
The LL.M. graduate Jaeger-Fine says the myriad stimuli can be intense. She’s now the director of international programs at Brooklyn Law School. “Some people complain that the speed of the city is too stressful, but it’s not hard to take a break,” she says. “I often visit the beach on a Friday afternoon, a 55-minute train ride from midtown Manhattan. You can also explore upstate New York with its amazing lakes and mountains.”
Cardozo School’s Silbiger adds: “NYC is a tough city to live in and it will quickly teach you independence, heighten your ambition, and pique your curiosity — all qualities that a good lawyer needs.”
One major drawback to studying in NYC: cost of living
But while New York City has many pluses, almost every resident will tell you that the cost of living is expensive, especially the cost of Manhattan housing, though moderately priced options in outer boroughs like Brooklyn are just a brief commute away.
“You cannot think about moving to New York City without thinking about how to finance it,” says Fromm at Kaplan Bar Review. “While salaries are often higher than in other parts of the country, it doesn’t necessarily match the high costs of rent and food.
“Like with any move or investment, take a look at your finances to make sure you can do it,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is start an LL.M. program and then on the third month of rent, realize you can’t afford it.”