Research Reports

Agents of Globalization in Law: Phase 1 (GR 09-01)

This project seeks to understand the ways in which US graduate legal education shapes the careers of transnational lawyers. Since the mid-1990s, US law schools have admitted increasing numbers of non-US law graduates to their 1-year LLM degree programs. At about that time, the LLM shifted from a degree aimed at students interested in academic careers to one that was focused on students who intended to practice law. For U.S. law schools, LLM students internationalize their student bodies, offer the promise of building important connections with foreign practitioners and organizations (including academic organizations), and generate important tuition income. In addition, LLMs may also serve as agents of a process of global exportation of a U.S. approach to law and legal education.

But what is the benefit of the LLM to the foreign law graduate? This is the question addressed by the research reported here. The project has two phases. Phase 1 consists of a survey of foreign law graduates who completed a US LLM in 1996, 1998, or 2000 at one of 11 US law schools. This report pertains primarily to the survey results and draws on the responses of 360 graduates of the 11 schools. Phase 2 uses interviews to tease out additional information from survey respondents.

As described in the following report, the LLM attracts a geographically diverse group of students who bring quite different backgrounds and credentials—some but not all with work experience—to their U.S. law schools. The respondents primarily work with business and commercial clients. Respondents who worked for law firms before the LLM and continue to do so indicated that they are less involved in representing individuals and small and start-up businesses now than in their pre-LLM practices. This points to the LLM as a mechanism for mobility but also as one that deepens the divisions among local practitioners. In addition, while respondents enter their LLM programs with substantial international connectedness to foreign nationals and foreign clients, they report even more in the post-LLM period, particularly in terms of their working with foreign nationals. Finally, the difference between respondents who work for international law firms (those with international branch offices) and those who work for domestic firms (those without international branch offices) with regard to their international connectedness appears to disappear after the LLM, supporting the hypothesis that the LLM is especially helpful to domestic law firms in their efforts to compete with international firms for talent and clients.

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