An Online Dual LL.M.?

mexican american flagThe Washington University School of Law is continuing its push for online education. In September, the school will launch a new dual LL.M. program targeting Latin Americans lawyers and other legal practitioners trained outside the U.S. “It’s a logical choice, given that the interaction of business between Latin America and the U.S. is tremendous,” says Associate Dean of International and Graduate Programs Michael Koby. He added that Wash U. wanted to expand its Latin American footprint. 

The introduction of this new program also marks the expansion of Wash U.’s online offerings. At the start of last year, the school began an online LL.M. in U.S. Law for international students. Starting in September, the school will also launch an online Master of Legal studies for professionals who would benefit from legal training—just not three years of it.

Koby acknowledges that online education doesn’t have the greatest reputation. “Universities are shying away because they see how it’s done poorly,” Koby says; the low quality of many online programs “turns their stomach.” But in his opinion, the existence of these low-quality offerings isn’t a reflection of online education as a whole. “We wanted to do it where it was comparable to what we do on campus,” he says. 

As with the online LL.M. in U.S. Law, Wash U. has partnered with 2U to deliver a program with live teaching. There’s a big emphasis on recreating an authentic American classroom experience. “We have kind of scrambled and deconstructed the Socratic method, but it’s opened up some interesting opportunities,” says 2U Chief Content Officer Ian Van Tuyl. (For more details on how the program works, see Wash. U, USC Launch Game-Changing Online Law Programs.) 

So, what differentiates this online LL.M. program from the first one, aside from the word “dual”? It involves a partnership with the Tecnológico de Monterrey’s Escuela de Gobierno y Transformación Pública (EGAP). (Try saying that name five times in rapid succession.) Tecnológico de Monterrey is the largest private university in Mexico, and EGAP, its public policy school, had a partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government between 2003 and 2012. 

Under that partnership, students receive one LL.M. in U.S. Law from Wash. U and another LL.M. in Transnational Legal Practice from EGAP. The former will give graduates the option of sitting for the California bar. (California is the only state that allows for online legal education.) Understandably, earning both requires a significant time commitment: 24 to 36 months, depending on whether students choose to enroll on a full-time or part-time basis.

Wash U. is expecting to attract students with 7 t0 12 years of legal work under their belts. “The whole idea was, we were wanting to reach practicing lawyers who have established careers,” he says. Plus, plenty of these lawyers can’t just leave their families behind to study in the U.S. 

In what situations would having both LL.M.s be helpful? Koby provides an example: Suppose there’s an American company establishing its Brazil office and seeking Brazilian lawyers. The combination of the two LL.M.s is by no means a prerequisite for employment, but Koby says that it can make a candidate look a lot stronger. He also mentions the real case of a Brazilian student who, during the single online LL.M. program, got a job with Google Brazil; the fact that her program allowed her to understand Google Brazil’s American counterpart was a plus. 

But—and there’s always a “but”—gaining all that expertise costs a pretty penny: $61,200 total, to be exact. At least the program is meant for people with established careers as opposed to 20-somethings with little legal experience. 


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