Best Path To Law School For International Applicants
In theater, they’re called triple threats: Performers who can sing, dance, and act. Their versatility enables them to audition for more parts, and that means more credits and higher incomes over time. In law, attorneys generally don’t master a range of specialties. However, there are areas where a more eclectic background can prove quite lucrative. The ability to practice law in both a home country and the United States is one such example.
In a recent U.S. News and World Report column, Shawn O’Connor, a Harvard Law grad and Founder and President of Stratus Prep, advises international applicants on the educational requirements for practicing law in the United States. For these students, O’Connor recommends two options.
First, they can earn JDs in the United States. Along with qualifying these students to sit for the American bar, a JD “affords students three years of exposure to the U.S. legal system and offers the chance to participate in two summer internships,” in O’Connor’s words. The downside, of course, is that a three-year law program is quite expensive (with the New American Foundation recently reporting an average law school debt of $140,616 in the United States). If students already have law degrees from their home countries, O’Connor encourages them to pursue LL.M. (Master of Laws) degrees.
According to O’Connor, an LL.M. degree cuts costs and generally only requires one year of study. Plus, students with overseas law degrees can bypass the LSAT entirely. However, there are a few catches. First, some state bars have rules that don’t favor international applicants. For example, Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island maintain residency restrictions. In addition, a one-year program places international attorneys at a disadvantage during the bar. “[These] students only get one year of exposure to the common law system,” says O’Connor. “This can make passing the bar exam challenging, particularly for students from civil code countries like France or Spain who may have minimal experience with the common law system.”
In short, international students should consider their goals, finances, and eligibility. “Both options should be explored thoroughly . . . before making this strategic decision about their future,” O’Connor notes.
Source: U.S. News and World Report
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