What do European LLM Programs Think of "Average" American Applicants?


Now, obviously it depends on the applicant and school to which they are applying. I'm currently finishing up my third year at a low-tier (if you follow the rankings) law school and I have a very average (3.0) gpa. I have a very good resume, recommendations, essays, etc. I plan on taking the bar, working some and then applying to an overseas LLM next year.

My question: What schools should I immediately rule out? What schools am I a shoe-in for? Any help? I've been a lurker on this site for a long time and have found many of you quite informative. Thanks!
Now, obviously it depends on the applicant and school to which they are applying. I'm currently finishing up my third year at a low-tier (if you follow the rankings) law school and I have a very average (3.0) gpa. I have a very good resume, recommendations, essays, etc. I plan on taking the bar, working some and then applying to an overseas LLM next year.

My question: What schools should I immediately rule out? What schools am I a shoe-in for? Any help? I've been a lurker on this site for a long time and have found many of you quite informative. Thanks!
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Ria80
Hi,

My situation was similar to yours, I went to a lower tier law school, was an average student, and had good work experience and recommendations. I was accepted to every school I applied to in Europe and decided on Lund University in Sweden (my 1st choice). I think a JD from any law school in the US is well respected and will help you get in to most of your first choices, especially when you consider that most the LLM's only require an LLB, so a JD is much better. This is just my opinion and what I experienced this year while applying. I guess it would also depend on the area of law you want to study, scholarships, etc.

Hope this helps!
Hi,

My situation was similar to yours, I went to a lower tier law school, was an average student, and had good work experience and recommendations. I was accepted to every school I applied to in Europe and decided on Lund University in Sweden (my 1st choice). I think a JD from any law school in the US is well respected and will help you get in to most of your first choices, especially when you consider that most the LLM's only require an LLB, so a JD is much better. This is just my opinion and what I experienced this year while applying. I guess it would also depend on the area of law you want to study, scholarships, etc.

Hope this helps!
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Thanks, that's a big help!
Thanks, that's a big help!
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AlexIL
Hey guys,

My situation is similar (except that I'm from Australia and only have an LLB) and I also received offers from all the programs I applied to. [Except Lund, but Lund didn't like the certification of my documents so they didn't evaluate my application - I don't count that in my strike rate ;)]

I don't think you should rule out applying to any schools thinking you can't get in. You just have to play to your strengths - any good marks in relevant subjects, good work experience that shows commitment to the area you're applying for [think about using the Europass format CV], good recommendations [get a few more than 2 if you need to and pick the best ones; you can also get them to mention your interest in the specific area of law you're applying for]; and don't underestimate the advantage of being a native speaker of English [European universities have a lot of trouble with applicants who have scored well in IELTS/TOEFL but have never studied in English and have a lot of trouble keeping up when they arrive.]

Your motivation letter is a really good place to demonstrate great English and it's the only thing completely in your control when you apply. Don't get out your thesaurus, but really take a few weeks to make sure you've made yourself stand out, that it makes an impact in showing your English expression and interest in the subject (and is formatted well). And really, you only have to write it once (except for possibly a sentence somewhere about the program/university/country you're apply for).

Good luck,
Alex
Hey guys,

My situation is similar (except that I'm from Australia and only have an LLB) and I also received offers from all the programs I applied to. [Except Lund, but Lund didn't like the certification of my documents so they didn't evaluate my application - I don't count that in my strike rate ;)]

I don't think you should rule out applying to any schools thinking you can't get in. You just have to play to your strengths - any good marks in relevant subjects, good work experience that shows commitment to the area you're applying for [think about using the Europass format CV], good recommendations [get a few more than 2 if you need to and pick the best ones; you can also get them to mention your interest in the specific area of law you're applying for]; and don't underestimate the advantage of being a native speaker of English [European universities have a lot of trouble with applicants who have scored well in IELTS/TOEFL but have never studied in English and have a lot of trouble keeping up when they arrive.]

Your motivation letter is a really good place to demonstrate great English and it's the only thing completely in your control when you apply. Don't get out your thesaurus, but really take a few weeks to make sure you've made yourself stand out, that it makes an impact in showing your English expression and interest in the subject (and is formatted well). And really, you only have to write it once (except for possibly a sentence somewhere about the program/university/country you're apply for).

Good luck,
Alex
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Thanks, Alex! That's great advice. I'm able to get the Dean of my law school to write a letter for me... would that carry a lot of weight? (He's also been my professor twice).
Thanks, Alex! That's great advice. I'm able to get the Dean of my law school to write a letter for me... would that carry a lot of weight? (He's also been my professor twice).
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AlexIL
I went for a Senior Lecturer (former Dean, but that wasn't on the reference) & a Lecturer who taught me twice in what I thought were relevant subjects in which I did decently (constitutional & administrative law) & who supervised me in a moot. Neither of them is well-known in any sense, but they're both teachers I really liked.

Also, they both saw my results transcripts (I have everything from fails to high distinctions in there, & it all averages out to a mediocre GPA). They both talked about my results in the references including the screw-ups & what they thought I was good at. The first time I read them I was a bit worried, but apparently the honesty was effective.

So, back to your question: Yeah, I think having someone like the Dean or someone well-respected in a relevant field on-side is really good. But: most of us don't know anyone influential enough to assist your application just by putting their name to it. So I think the content of the reference is more important.

I would recommend going for people who you like (& who like you), who you can sit down with & talk about what you want to do & what you're worried about in your marks (you can give them summaries of the programs you're interested in & copies of your transcripts). I think it's important that your referees are people who know you, you trust & who will want the best for you. I think they're more likely to take the time to come up with convincing arguments that address your particular situation rather than regurgitate overused reference-type phrases that take up space but don't address the concerns of a selection committee.
I went for a Senior Lecturer (former Dean, but that wasn't on the reference) & a Lecturer who taught me twice in what I thought were relevant subjects in which I did decently (constitutional & administrative law) & who supervised me in a moot. Neither of them is well-known in any sense, but they're both teachers I really liked.

Also, they both saw my results transcripts (I have everything from fails to high distinctions in there, & it all averages out to a mediocre GPA). They both talked about my results in the references including the screw-ups & what they thought I was good at. The first time I read them I was a bit worried, but apparently the honesty was effective.

So, back to your question: Yeah, I think having someone like the Dean or someone well-respected in a relevant field on-side is really good. But: most of us don't know anyone influential enough to assist your application just by putting their name to it. So I think the content of the reference is more important.

I would recommend going for people who you like (& who like you), who you can sit down with & talk about what you want to do & what you're worried about in your marks (you can give them summaries of the programs you're interested in & copies of your transcripts). I think it's important that your referees are people who know you, you trust & who will want the best for you. I think they're more likely to take the time to come up with convincing arguments that address your particular situation rather than regurgitate overused reference-type phrases that take up space but don't address the concerns of a selection committee.
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Thanks! And if it helps, I'm looking at all of the Netherlands schools, Lyon, Vienna and Stockholm. How do you think that I'd do here? Thanks again!
Thanks! And if it helps, I'm looking at all of the Netherlands schools, Lyon, Vienna and Stockholm. How do you think that I'd do here? Thanks again!
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AlexIL
I think those are pretty good schools to be looking at - I applied to Lund & Stockholm via studera.nu & to Leiden & Erasmus Rotterdam, so if you need any help with those be in touch.

The Swedish application system is a bit convoluted & pretty badly explained on the website, so if you're applying Sweden make sure you join the "studera.nu (National Admissions to Higher Studies in Sweden)" Facebook group & read their "Knowledge Base". Look out in particular for the special requirements for the way in which US applicants have to send in their results transcripts. A good idea is to send everything a couple of months early - that way they'll tell you if there's anything missing or anything they don't like in time for you to correct it.
I think those are pretty good schools to be looking at - I applied to Lund & Stockholm via studera.nu & to Leiden & Erasmus Rotterdam, so if you need any help with those be in touch.

The Swedish application system is a bit convoluted & pretty badly explained on the website, so if you're applying Sweden make sure you join the "studera.nu (National Admissions to Higher Studies in Sweden)" Facebook group & read their "Knowledge Base". Look out in particular for the special requirements for the way in which US applicants have to send in their results transcripts. A good idea is to send everything a couple of months early - that way they'll tell you if there's anything missing or anything they don't like in time for you to correct it.
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Iowa
I would expect that European LLM programs will see an onslaught of middling American law graduates this year given the state of the economy. Some are already referring to 2009 and 2010 JDs as "the lost generation of law graduates."
I would expect that European LLM programs will see an onslaught of middling American law graduates this year given the state of the economy. Some are already referring to 2009 and 2010 JDs as "the lost generation of law graduates."
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AlexIL
Yeaap - competition will probably only get tougher & I think an LLM is a pretty good way to keep increasing your value (particularly if you choose an area you really want to pursue).

If I was applying again (& to people applying for next February or September), I'd apply to a lot more programs than I did, I would get organised & have my applications in *much* earlier, especially to universities that evaluate candidates & fill places as applications come in (as opposed to evaluating everyone together after the official deadline) - this applies to most of the Netherlands unis. To be honest, I feel a bit like I won the lottery this time around, for all the times I ran to the post office 20 seconds before it closed on the last day possible.
Yeaap - competition will probably only get tougher & I think an LLM is a pretty good way to keep increasing your value (particularly if you choose an area you really want to pursue).

If I was applying again (& to people applying for next February or September), I'd apply to a lot more programs than I did, I would get organised & have my applications in *much* earlier, especially to universities that evaluate candidates & fill places as applications come in (as opposed to evaluating everyone together after the official deadline) - this applies to most of the Netherlands unis. To be honest, I feel a bit like I won the lottery this time around, for all the times I ran to the post office 20 seconds before it closed on the last day possible.
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Iowa
Congratulations to you. You had the foresight, and you'll never regret your LLM. There are a lot of middling JDs who just sit around complaining instead of thinking outside the box. (Many JDs, perhaps most, never consider an LLM, let alone a foreign one.) How early would you recommend JDs start applying for 2010?
Congratulations to you. You had the foresight, and you'll never regret your LLM. There are a lot of middling JDs who just sit around complaining instead of thinking outside the box. (Many JDs, perhaps most, never consider an LLM, let alone a foreign one.) How early would you recommend JDs start applying for 2010?
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AlexIL
Aw thanks Iowa - I'm v. excited about it.

Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Belgium: Considering that scholarship applicants need to have received LLM offers & sent in scholarship applications by December or January, & that they will already be filling up the spots in the courses you want months before the official deadline, I would recommend applying start of November (though some go even earlier). This gives you a chance to apply for scholarships too - hey, why not? This means starting serious research around September to give yourself enough time to ask International Offices all the questions you need & put together your documents & letters.

As far as Sweden goes - with online applications due mid-Jan & hard copy documents due 1st of Feb - you have to factor in the time it takes your documents to get there (you're supposed to send to a PO Box, so you can't use courier - though there's ways of getting around this); the time it takes for central admissions to check all your documents & inform you whether everything is ok; if everything is not ok, the time it takes to find out what exactly you need to do to fix your application; then the time if will take for a new set of documents to get to Stromsund; considering also that US applicants need to have certain documents sent *by* their university (which, if your university is anything like mine, is a real hassle) --- I'd be looking at sending documents off start of October & doing my research in August/September.

This doesn't apply to MM, but some Scandinavian universities also have a system where you can request detailed brochures about courses (you'll want any information not available online in writing your motivation letters). One of either Oslo or Helsinki (can't remember which) also requires you to request a hard copy application form for the course you're interested in. All this takes weeks by post & effectively prevents anyone who hasn't planned ahead applying to their courses last-minute. You'd be looking at requesting any information/application forms in August.

Having said that, if you're running late & it's close to the deadline (or even after the deadline), you have nothing to lose (apart from maybe an application fee) by express posting what you've got & hoping for the best.
Aw thanks Iowa - I'm v. excited about it.

Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Belgium: Considering that scholarship applicants need to have received LLM offers & sent in scholarship applications by December or January, & that they will already be filling up the spots in the courses you want months before the official deadline, I would recommend applying start of November (though some go even earlier). This gives you a chance to apply for scholarships too - hey, why not? This means starting serious research around September to give yourself enough time to ask International Offices all the questions you need & put together your documents & letters.

As far as Sweden goes - with online applications due mid-Jan & hard copy documents due 1st of Feb - you have to factor in the time it takes your documents to get there (you're supposed to send to a PO Box, so you can't use courier - though there's ways of getting around this); the time it takes for central admissions to check all your documents & inform you whether everything is ok; if everything is not ok, the time it takes to find out what exactly you need to do to fix your application; then the time if will take for a new set of documents to get to Stromsund; considering also that US applicants need to have certain documents sent *by* their university (which, if your university is anything like mine, is a real hassle) --- I'd be looking at sending documents off start of October & doing my research in August/September.

This doesn't apply to MM, but some Scandinavian universities also have a system where you can request detailed brochures about courses (you'll want any information not available online in writing your motivation letters). One of either Oslo or Helsinki (can't remember which) also requires you to request a hard copy application form for the course you're interested in. All this takes weeks by post & effectively prevents anyone who hasn't planned ahead applying to their courses last-minute. You'd be looking at requesting any information/application forms in August.

Having said that, if you're running late & it's close to the deadline (or even after the deadline), you have nothing to lose (apart from maybe an application fee) by express posting what you've got & hoping for the best.
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Thanks so much! I plan on applying in September, getting a fairly early start. What has been your experiences as far as scholarship offers? Are they very tough to get, or can qualified applicants count on picking up a little something?
Thanks so much! I plan on applying in September, getting a fairly early start. What has been your experiences as far as scholarship offers? Are they very tough to get, or can qualified applicants count on picking up a little something?
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Matches (and anyone else who wants to weigh in):

I don't have any answers for you regarding your chances of admission or scholarships, but if you don't mind sharing, what are your career aspirations? I'm an experienced American lawyer hoping to expand into the field of international law and work in Europe (possibly in an international organization), and am considering getting an LL.M. from a European school to help me go down this path. I don't actually know any attorneys who have done anything like this, though, so I ultimately don't know if it is a good idea. Do you know anything about the job prospects for American lawyers with European LLMs? If you don't mind sharing, what is your rationale for getting an LLM from a European school instead of an American one?
Matches (and anyone else who wants to weigh in):

I don't have any answers for you regarding your chances of admission or scholarships, but if you don't mind sharing, what are your career aspirations? I'm an experienced American lawyer hoping to expand into the field of international law and work in Europe (possibly in an international organization), and am considering getting an LL.M. from a European school to help me go down this path. I don't actually know any attorneys who have done anything like this, though, so I ultimately don't know if it is a good idea. Do you know anything about the job prospects for American lawyers with European LLMs? If you don't mind sharing, what is your rationale for getting an LLM from a European school instead of an American one?
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Hi there, Intlwannabe. Those are some great questions. With my International LLM, I'd like to work in a foreign country. As far as taking those credentials back here with me, I'd like to teach at a private high school or a college (an LLM is not a PhD, I know, but there are schools that would hire you) or work in private practice as a lawyer or in the specialty of my LLM.

I'm choosing to go overseas because it costs less (usually, and the living expenses are something that I don't begrudge because I think that it will be a fun experience) and to be honest with you I'm sick of the states right now.

More importantly, I have a thriving passion for International Criminal Law, and I want to learn all that I can about it and contribute to its understanding and practice.

How about you?

Thanks!
Hi there, Intlwannabe. Those are some great questions. With my International LLM, I'd like to work in a foreign country. As far as taking those credentials back here with me, I'd like to teach at a private high school or a college (an LLM is not a PhD, I know, but there are schools that would hire you) or work in private practice as a lawyer or in the specialty of my LLM.

I'm choosing to go overseas because it costs less (usually, and the living expenses are something that I don't begrudge because I think that it will be a fun experience) and to be honest with you I'm sick of the states right now.

More importantly, I have a thriving passion for International Criminal Law, and I want to learn all that I can about it and contribute to its understanding and practice.

How about you?

Thanks!
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AlexIL
Hey MM,

I don't know anything about scholarships at all - my applications were all very last minute. I have heard that there is a lot of money left unclaimed every year (don't know to what extent this applies to the US), so if you have the time it probably doesn't hurt to try.

Alex
Hey MM,

I don't know anything about scholarships at all - my applications were all very last minute. I have heard that there is a lot of money left unclaimed every year (don't know to what extent this applies to the US), so if you have the time it probably doesn't hurt to try.

Alex
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AlexIL
Hi MM and IntWannabe,

I think it's interesting how North American students generally (I'm not leveling this specifically at you guys - I've had a look at a few other threads) seem to be so much more ingrained than others in the principles of market competition. There's so many questions like: What's the return on investment of going to school X? Is it better than school Y? Is the return better on a JD or LLM? On European schools or US schools? How tough will the market for LLM graduates be when we finish? What about for JD graduates? Will I get job A with this degree, or job B?

Call me naive, but I think statistics are rarely transferable directly to individual circumstances and plans only work when they are very flexible (which doesn't make them plans so much as ambitions). I think as long as you're learning things you want to learn and doing things you're passionate about, opportunities will present themselves. The less we hold onto preconceived notions of what we want those opportunities to look like, the more objectively we can evaluate our options as they appear and the more willing we are to embrace them and work with what we get.

Forethought, research and planning are all good, but maybe not quite that far ahead - not that the GFC has influenced my decision in the least, but think back to us deciding to go to law school: none of us knew this thing was coming to ruin the chances of a large portion of 2009 law graduates who had all made their long-term plans of well paid corporate jobs, Mercs and houses on the basis of how things looked, from the outside, in 2003 and 2004. Which is why I think people should go to law school (or any other school) on the basis of a passion for justice or rights or business (or corresponding things for other types of schools), rather than because they want to be clearing 200 K after tax by 20XX.

So this is all a bit philosophical, motivational-speechy and exaggerated, but what I'm trying to say is that maybe it's more important to focus on what you want to learn, who you want to learn it from and where you'd like to live, because everything else is much less susceptible to planning and will probably only distort your decision without paying off in the end.

Alex
Hi MM and IntWannabe,

I think it's interesting how North American students generally (I'm not leveling this specifically at you guys - I've had a look at a few other threads) seem to be so much more ingrained than others in the principles of market competition. There's so many questions like: What's the return on investment of going to school X? Is it better than school Y? Is the return better on a JD or LLM? On European schools or US schools? How tough will the market for LLM graduates be when we finish? What about for JD graduates? Will I get job A with this degree, or job B?

Call me naive, but I think statistics are rarely transferable directly to individual circumstances and plans only work when they are very flexible (which doesn't make them plans so much as ambitions). I think as long as you're learning things you want to learn and doing things you're passionate about, opportunities will present themselves. The less we hold onto preconceived notions of what we want those opportunities to look like, the more objectively we can evaluate our options as they appear and the more willing we are to embrace them and work with what we get.

Forethought, research and planning are all good, but maybe not quite that far ahead - not that the GFC has influenced my decision in the least, but think back to us deciding to go to law school: none of us knew this thing was coming to ruin the chances of a large portion of 2009 law graduates who had all made their long-term plans of well paid corporate jobs, Mercs and houses on the basis of how things looked, from the outside, in 2003 and 2004. Which is why I think people should go to law school (or any other school) on the basis of a passion for justice or rights or business (or corresponding things for other types of schools), rather than because they want to be clearing 200 K after tax by 20XX.

So this is all a bit philosophical, motivational-speechy and exaggerated, but what I'm trying to say is that maybe it's more important to focus on what you want to learn, who you want to learn it from and where you'd like to live, because everything else is much less susceptible to planning and will probably only distort your decision without paying off in the end.

Alex
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Iowa
Right on!

If I may speculate as to why we think this way: I think one of the reasons why we try to boil it down to economics so often is the fact that it is all so expensive. By the time you're applying for an LLM, you've spent at least 7 years in post-secondary education. Even leaving aside opportunity cost, a JD is very, very expensive (usually). Many are $150K in debt when they receive their JDs, and the prospect of another $50K for an LLM requires introspection.

By the way, is it just me or are there more JDs on this board lately? It always seemed this was a non-JD board for the most part (as you can see, I've been thinking about an LLM for awhile).
Right on!

If I may speculate as to why we think this way: I think one of the reasons why we try to boil it down to economics so often is the fact that it is all so expensive. By the time you're applying for an LLM, you've spent at least 7 years in post-secondary education. Even leaving aside opportunity cost, a JD is very, very expensive (usually). Many are $150K in debt when they receive their JDs, and the prospect of another $50K for an LLM requires introspection.

By the way, is it just me or are there more JDs on this board lately? It always seemed this was a non-JD board for the most part (as you can see, I've been thinking about an LLM for awhile).
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AlexIL
Yeah, fair call Iowa.

I guess it's probably not all culture (though arguably the US education system is a product of its culture) & I probably speak of the way things should be, rather than the way they are for most US students. I guess I've been lucky with two very useful citizenships where I've not had to give a great deal of thought to the money invested in my education.

On a more positive note - it is almost your last chance to go to Sweden for a free LLM (still paying your living expenses) as fees have been postponed till 2011. Lund, Uppsala & Stockholm are all very well regarded universities.

Alex
Yeah, fair call Iowa.

I guess it's probably not all culture (though arguably the US education system is a product of its culture) & I probably speak of the way things should be, rather than the way they are for most US students. I guess I've been lucky with two very useful citizenships where I've not had to give a great deal of thought to the money invested in my education.

On a more positive note - it is almost your last chance to go to Sweden for a free LLM (still paying your living expenses) as fees have been postponed till 2011. Lund, Uppsala & Stockholm are all very well regarded universities.

Alex
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Great comments, guys. I'm really benefitting here.

Are the schools in Switzerland any more or less attainable than some of the others that I mentioned?

And right now Lyon is near the top of my list... with an American JD, solid resume, great recommendations / references and a quality essay, how am I doing?

I hate to be another one of those annoying "Will I get into this school blah blah" type of folks, it's just that I'm absolutely clueless as to how these overseas LLM programs accept and reject people. As of right now, I'm feeling confident.

Thanks again!
Great comments, guys. I'm really benefitting here.

Are the schools in Switzerland any more or less attainable than some of the others that I mentioned?

And right now Lyon is near the top of my list... with an American JD, solid resume, great recommendations / references and a quality essay, how am I doing?

I hate to be another one of those annoying "Will I get into this school blah blah" type of folks, it's just that I'm absolutely clueless as to how these overseas LLM programs accept and reject people. As of right now, I'm feeling confident.

Thanks again!
quote

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