Greet a student in the halls of the University of Pennsylvania Law School this fall and you might find yourself conversing with a Japanese or Korean diplomat, an assistant to a Member of the British House of Commons, a Brazilian utility regulator, or a compliance manager for Bristol-Myers Squibb in China.
They are among more than 115 foreign-trained lawyers, judges, NGO leaders, and government officials who comprise the Master of Laws (LLM) Class of 2014. Selected from a record-high pool of over 1300 applicants, the students in this year’s class come from 35 countries.
The LLM program, which was established in 1898, brings international students to the Law School for a year of study to enhance their understanding of American law and its global connections.
The LLM students, who take classes alongside upper-level JD students, arrived in August to participate in a special summer program introducing them to the U.S. legal system and legal research and writing before the fall semester begins.
“The international perspective and professional experience of our LLM students contribute enormously to the classroom atmosphere and cultural diversity of the Law School,” said Matthew Parker L’00, Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies, who oversees the LLM program.
He noted that most members of this year’s class have experience in private practice, typically at international or major domestic firms, representing corporate clients in complex transactions. They have gained exposure as interns, worked as associate attorneys, and some are now partners with impressive deal sheets. A significant number of students have experience as in-house counsel, including as a Senior Consultant at PwC, Vice President of Compliance at Sun Financial, Legal Counsel for Japan’s largest telecommunications company, and the head of the International Compliance unit at PETRONAS, the Malaysian oil and gas company.
Lawyers involved politics, government and diplomacy are also prominently represented in the class. A few are full time professors, while many others teach law while also practicing.
“There is also a commitment to service in this group,” Parker said. “Most of our class has been involved in volunteer work with many envisioning using the skills that they gain at Penn law to help others in the future.” He noted, for example, that students from this year’s class have served as pro bono counsel to an NGO that fights against human trafficking in South America, volunteered at an orphanage, assisted the Archbishop of Panama in reviewing labor contracts, interned for the Socio- Economics Rights Institute of South Africa, assisted at an NGO in Mumbai offering pro bono aid to female victims of domestic abuse, and spent over a decade assisting women victims of abuse in the courts of Colombia.
Many of the LLM students have received outside grants and scholarships to attend Penn Law, including three Fulbright and two Thouron Scholarships. In addition, a number of law firms, companies and governments that recognize the value of a Penn Law LLM degree have supported students by granting them leave, paying part or all of tuition and or living expenses, and even providing the students with his or her regular salary for the year.
“Each year, the LLM’s form incredibly strong bonds with the Law School,” Parker said. “They help it forge links with legal practitioners and academics around the world, as we continue to develop innovative new international programs.”