With countless incoming LL.M. candidates heading to law school in the fall, the summer is the right time to start preparing to hit the ground running. So what is the best way to prepare for an LL.M. program and avoid feeling overwhelmed when you arrive on campus?
Admitted students can start their preparation for their LL.M. course from the moment they receive their admission letter, says Aparna Gupta, Director of External Relations at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Caruso School of Law.
At this law school, part of Pepperdine University in California, admitted LL.M. students have a chance to connect with classmates s in-person or online, speak with alumni and faculty, and participate in talks and lectures featuring renowned lawyers.
“All of these connections can help admitted students outline their goals for their LL.M. program and consider their post-graduate career pathways,” Gupta says.
She adds that admitted students can also read books or watch videos about the U.S. legal system that can equip them with the foundational knowledge to help them succeed in their LL.M. studies.
Prospective students can go even further and start preparing for their LL.M. as soon as they have decided to do one, argues Caryn Voland, Assistant Dean of Graduate Admissions for Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C.
Incoming LL.M. students are probably already quite prepared academically, but there are other kinds of important things to focus on before the start of the program. First, Voland says give yourself plenty of time to work out the logistics and finances of studying in a new city. “Talk to your admissions office and to students who have gone there before you about the best way to find an apartment.”
In addition, she says to make sure you budget appropriately for the academic year and include a cushion for emergencies or unexpected expenses.
Furthermore, future students should prepare to make the most of the experience by thinking about what they want to achieve during the LL.M. “Talk to graduates of the program to get their advice,” says Voland. “It’s important to have goals, but at the same time to be open to the unexpected during what will be a very transformative year.”
And, if you are not a native speaker of English, you can start exposing yourself as much as possible to English media of all types so that you feel comfortable living and working in an English-speaking environment.
Open your mind to learning
When you eventually arrive on campus, it’s important to get to know the LL.M. cohort, says Ali Aguilera-Djoubi, an LL.M. candidate at the Dickson Poon School of Law, at King’s College London. “Indulge in your intellectual curiosities, and really open your mind to learning as much as you would like to,” he says. “Law is a dynamic and ever-expanding field of knowledge, and the odds are that, regardless of the modules you enroll in, the only real limit to the amount of knowledge you can take in is your own intellectual ambition.”
But as much as you will want to dive headfirst into all manner of activities when you arrive at law school, you should take steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed at the start of a hectic and jam-packed LL.M. program.
“I think it’s essential to create a study schedule where you organize your study time and spread it throughout your modules in a proportional and logical way,” says Aguilera-Djoubi. “Staying up to date on class material is the most important thing to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
“It’s also important to avoid feeling intimidated — simply remind yourself of the amount of people that have completed courses like ours successfully. If your focus is on learning, academic success naturally flows.”
Keep your head above water
It is hard not to feel overwhelmed when you are starting an LL.M. program in a brand new country, says Gupta at the Caruso School of Law. “The first step is to share their challenges with a trusted friend, professor, or program administrator.” Law schools may have resources to help with students who are feeling overwhelmed.
Students can work with their programs to locate housing and basic necessities. “When students, especially international students, are able to feel connected to one another and to their LL.M. program and faculty, they feel supported and ready to begin their studies,” Gupta says.
At Georgetown, Voland adds that you should take it slowly. “It may seem like you have a lot of free time if you are only spending 12 or so hours per week in the classroom,” she says. “However, you will soon find that preparing for those hours of class can become a full time job.
“Wait a couple of weeks before committing to an on-campus job. Also, use this time to get a sense of the extracurricular opportunities that are available, so you can prioritize your involvement in the ones that interest you the most.”