Law in Contemporary Society
The eternal dilemma of the graduating LL.M.

1.- Commencement is finally here. Caps and gowns have been picked up; most of my grades are already in; friends and relatives are flying in from various parts of the globe to be present on this occasion; students are selling back their once cherished textbooks, and apartment leases are coming to an end. In short, we are witnessing all the signs indicating the end of a cycle.

And so, in this context of transition, we look back on the past ten months, draw up a balance of the academic year and wonder: was it all worth it?

2.- For most of the LL.M.’s, coming to New York for this program meant a substantial investment, both in terms of actual cash disbursements, debt incurred, and lost profits. Indeed, most of the foreign students took an unpaid leave of absence from work, bleeding cash for the past ten months but with no income to counter the loss. Also, it meant withdrawing ourselves from the legal market of our respective countries for almost a year, thus freezing the relationships and networks that we have been carefully building since graduation.

Aside from the economic aspect, families and friends were left behind, relationships interrupted, and other personal projects suspended. In this sense, one of the toughest sides to this experience was during the first couple of weeks, as we realized that we lacked most of the perks that we took for granted back home. No friends to call when one is bored, no usual bar to fall back to when there is nothing to do on a Saturday night. The entire social safety net that one builds slowly throughout the year was left behind, and we were forced to rebuild it from scratch here in New York. And so, in the face of such a monumental investment, or, to be more precise, of such a gamble, one cannot help but wonder if he or she made the right move. That is, if we got from the University and the program a value that is reasonably equivalent to our sacrifice.

3.- I’ll start with the academic point of view, which –of course- is one of the main objectives of taking an LL.M. program and which I found to be perhaps one of the most satisfying. In this sense, I feel that we were given an adequate variety of courses to choose from, all of them taught and planned with evident dedication and, in some cases, even great passion. If diligent with the research on the courses and by asking around a little, one could easily tailor a satisfying academic curriculum, with useful and -most importantly- very current and up to date subjects. In the end, I can say with certain confidence that, in most of cases, LL.M. students are taking back valuable knowledge and concepts that will be certainly be of use on their professional lives.

Networking is also an invaluable asset in the legal profession, and the University provided a magnificent environment in which each student could foster professional ties with colleagues from other jurisdictions and areas of practice. With a little initiative, it is more likely than not that most of us graduating LL.M.’s have secured a solid professional network that will prove to be extremely valuable in the future of our professions. Finally, the social side of the program was nothing short of spectacular. From the very beginning of the academic year, everything was staged in order for the students to socialize and fraternize. Indeed, so many gatherings, cocktails, lunches and dinners were organized by the Law School that one had to make a conscious effort not to make friends.

4.- However, as I read “Transactional” from Lawyerland, I could not help but feel that the University fell short in a key aspect.

I expected this experience to change my point of view, to shift the structure of my thinking and, in the end, to widen my horizons. I thought the LL.M. was truly going to be a kind of “legal enlightenment”, from where I would spring into areas of the profession which I never thought were within my reach. Instead, as I passed the pages of “Transactional” and read about the comings and goings of Thomas Rao and Richard Karpinsky, I got the feeling that my legal education has deliberately lead me in one specific, precise direction, and that anyone could have predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy 9 years ago from this date, the law firm in which I would be working and the area of practice that I would be specializing in.

As a way to give me a boost down an already traveled road, I believe that the LL.M. was all that it was supposed to be. At the very least, it was what I expected. I am getting a degree from a respected institution, with a brand name known across the globe and especially in the professional circles I will move in. Also, I acquired a lot of general knowledge and legal terminology which has leveled me at a global level, thus allowing me to be an active participant in the world of international lawyering. What I mean by this is that, as a calling card, my LL.M. has paid off, or at least it will pay off in the near future.

At the same time, I cannot help but feel that I sacrificed a lot in terms of originality. By coming here, I have labeled myself as a specific type of lawyer, for a specific type of law firm and a very well defined client profile. And so, in the end, I leave with the uncomfortable feeling that I closed more doors than I actually opened.


Webs Webs

r2 - 08 Jan 2010 - 22:46:12 - IanSullivan
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