Information for International LL.M. Students
Lewis & Clark has welcomed students from around the world into its LL.M. program. Our LL.M. program is deliberately small and selective so that each student can receive personal attention from the faculty and staff. Our international LL.M. graduates are now at work in many countries around the world as law partners, barristers and solicitors, professors, government officials, and legal advisors for non-governmental organizations.
(2011-12 International LL.M. Students Rehan (Pakistan), Maureen (Nigeria) and Nandita (Trinidad) enjoy a hike in the Columbia Gorge)
Frequently Asked Questions - International LL.M. Degree:
I would like to obtain an LL.M. degree at Lewis & Clark, but I am not particularly interested in environmental law. Do you have LL.M. degrees in other areas of the law?
We offer an LL.M. degree in Environmental Law at Lewis & Clark and it is limited to students who want to concentrate in environmental and natural resources law. We also offer the world’s first Animal Law LL.M. Information about that program can be found here. LL.M. students can study many areas of the law that intersect with environmental and natural resources, such as courses in trade and environment, international environmental law, and environmental business law. However, if you are not particularly interested in environmental and natural resources law, Lewis & Clark is not the best LL.M. program for you. Try searching for an LL.M. program that fits your needs at LLM Guide.
My ultimate goal is to obtain a doctorate in law. Is the LL.M. program a good way to begin?
The answer to this question depends on your circumstances and your reasons for obtaining a doctorate. See our explanation of the hierarchy of law degrees in the U.S. If you are planning a career in legal education and your home country requires a doctorate-level degree, depending on the country you may be able to achieve that with a J.D. degree, which does not require an LL.M. degree, or you may have to obtain an LL.M. and then an S.J.D. degree.
I have earned a degree that is not a law degree, but it includes courses in law. Am I eligible to apply to the LL.M. program?
Unfortunately, no. You need to graduate with a law degree in your home country (that is, a degree that would qualify you to take the professional examinations to become a lawyer or judge) before you enroll in the LL.M. program. If you obtained a dual degree (law and another subject) that met the professional qualification requirement, then you would be eligible. If not, we would welcome your application to our J.D. program.
My ultimate goal is to practice law in the United States. Would an LL.M. degree help me to reach this goal?
An LL.M. degree is not a direct route to U.S. law practice. For that, you normally need a J.D. degree. In some cases, for example in the state of Oregon, an LL.B. from a “law school equivalent to a law school approved by the ABA,” i.e., a common-law law school very similar to U.S. law schools, may entitle you to sit for the bar. The requirements for proving the equivalence may vary; please contact the bar examiners of the state in which you would like to practice for more details.
For anyone from a non-common-law country, or from a common-law country in which the course of study is not similar to that of U.S. law schools, please take time to read the American Bar Association’s advice for prospective international LL.M. students when considering an LL.M. degree if you want to practice law in the United States. Obtaining an LL.M. degree alone, from any institution, does not equip you to practice law in the United States. Successful passage of a bar exam is a prerequisite to practicing law. Almost all state bar associations, with only a few exceptions (primarily New York and California), require a J.D. from an American Bar Association-accredited U.S. law school before registering for the bar examination. Even the jurisdictions that do not require an American J.D. have specific requirements for training and other qualifications of foreign lawyers. Please investigate these requirements before choosing an LL.M. program. If becoming a practicing attorney in the U.S. is your goal, please contact our Admissions Office for more information about our J.D. program.
A very small number of our international LL.M. graduates have successfully gone on to obtain a J.D. degree and practice law in the U.S. Academic credit obtained in our LL.M. program may, under certain circumstances, be applied to our J.D. degree program. This route is feasible only for LL.M. graduates who demonstrate outstanding qualifications for J.D. study, which includes earning a high grade-point average in the LL.M. program. Please note that LL.M. scholarships do not transfer to the J.D. program and that competition for J.D. scholarships is intense.
I see that you offer a joint degree (J.D./LL.M.) program. Can I apply for that program through my LL.M. application?
No. The joint degree application is designed for Lewis & Clark J.D. students who also want to obtain the LL.M. in less time than both degrees would normally take. Under the joint degree program students first complete the J.D. degree and then move into the “LL.M. only” phase. Thus, the LL.M. program is not an appropriate access point for the joint degree because you would start with higher-level courses in the LL.M. program and then take lower-level courses in the J.D. program. If you are interested in obtaining the J.D. degree, then you should apply for the J.D. degree where you can learn the foundations of American law before taking upper-division courses. That said, outstanding LL.M. students may inquire about the J.D. and joint degree program after their first semester grades are posted. If you are thinking of doing this, be aware that (1) only a small percentage of our LL.M. students have achieved the grade level required for consideration, and (2) financial aid and scholarship awards are completely separate in the J.D. and LL.M. programs and any LL.M. scholarships will not carry over to the J.D. program. The chances of a transfer student receiving financial aid as a J.D. student are very low, so you should be prepared to cover the full costs of attending the J.D. program before you consider such a transfer.
Questions about the application process
Why do I need to submit a TOEFL score? Are there any alternatives?
Fluency in English is essential to success in any U.S. law school; our top-ranked program is very demanding. The level and pace of instruction requires a sophisticated grasp of written and spoken English, which is why we require a minimum TOEFL or IELTS score or proof of equivalency.
If you are a lawyer from a British Commonwealth country or India, and your education has been in English, you do not need to submit a TOEFL score. If you are not from an English-speaking country but have been educated in an English-speaking school and are fluent at a graduate-school level, you may submit alternative proofs and have a telephone conversation with the program director in order to establish your fluency.
For everyone else, here are the minimum scores you need in order to meet our standards:
Internet-based TOEFL: 100
For those students who have not attained college-level fluency in English, Lewis and Clark College offers an Academic English Studies program. Admission to AES is separate from admission to the LL.M. program. If you do not meet the English proficiency standards but otherwise are well-qualified for the program, you may apply for conditional admission to the LL.M. program, meaning that you would enter the LL.M. program after successful completion of the Academic English Studies program.
What style of legal writing do you require for the writing sample?
Any of the following composed by you would be fine:
- An undergraduate or graduate legal research paper or thesis
- A memorandum to a client or law partner (blanking out any confidential names or information) explaining the law applicable to the client’s case
- A legal brief written for a court of law
- An article on some aspect of the law written for a law journal or bar newsletter
- Your own well-organized legal research paper, answering a legal question or explaining an area of the law in your home country
The writing does not necessarily have to be on an environmental or natural resources law topic. It should, however, be well-organized, show a strong grasp of legal principles and applications, and give appropriate citations for all sources of information.
How can I finance my LL.M. studies?
Most U.S. law schools do not provide financial aid for international LL.M. students. Lewis & Clark is an exception to this rule. Highly qualified LL.M. applicants may receive tuition scholarships (up to a maximum of 50% of tuition costs depending on financial need). You will need to complete a Certificate of Financial Responsibility in addition to providing a letter explaining your needs. Obtaining a scholarship award from Lewis & Clark may help you obtain additional grants from other sources. For more ideas about funding sources, visit LLM Guide or the International Education Financial Aid website. Please note that we do not offer scholarships for anything beyond tuition such as housing, travel or books.
U.S. visa regulations severely restrict the type of paid work available to international students and their families. It may be possible to qualify for some limited kinds of on-campus employment during your studies. However, these positions are rare and you should not rely on working on-campus to support your studies. For more information about these restrictions, and about legal employment opportunities, consult our International Students and Scholars Office.
Questions about logistics
How can I obtain a study visa to the United States?
Lewis and Clark also maintains an International Students and Scholars Office to provide assistance and advice to our international students. This office provides a wide variety of services, including assisting students in obtaining visas to study in the U.S. It is important for you to stay in touch with this office throughout the application and arrival process so that we can make your transition into the United States as easy as possible.
Can I bring my family with me?
This depends on your financial circumstances. U.S. Homeland Security requires a Certificate of Financial Responsibility for all students entering the United States. In addition, you must complete the Supplement for International Students and provide information about your family. The financial requirements are considerably higher for families than for individual students. American daycare for children can be costly and it can be expensive to purchase a car and the mandatory vehicle liability insurance. It is also difficult to even buy a car from a dealership without holding at least an International Driving Permit issued by your home country, in addition to your driver license. Many of our international students have successfully obtained Oregon driver licenses after studying the Oregon driver manual and taking both a computer-based test and a driving test at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Holding an Oregon driver license can save you a significant amount of money in car insurance premiums.
If you are planning to bring your family, please give full details early in the process to the International Students and Scholars Office so that they can help you plan ahead.
How should I prepare for success in my LL.M. study at Lewis & Clark?
It is important to recognize that legal education in the United States differs in very significant ways from legal education in most other countries. First, U.S. law schools teach at the graduate level rather than the undergraduate level. Second, the common-law system of education relies on the Socratic method of instruction, where professors expect students to be actively engaged in their education, to be able to respond to questions in class, and to understand how the courts shape the law as an equal partner with the U.S. legislature and administration. Third, at Lewis & Clark, the level of instruction is even more demanding;our international students are often surprised by how many small discussion seminars we offer and by the close interactions between students and professors. The kind of active, creative legal thinking that typifies American law schools and the common law system can be daunting for lawyers trained in civil code systems, and the final exams in American law courses often demand not only knowledge of the law but an ability to construct legal arguments on behalf of various parties and to think critically about the law.
With these differences in mind, our two-credit International LL.M. Seminar: Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law and Legal Study provides international students with a concentrated introduction to United States legal structure and law study. This seminar is a prerequisite for all Lewis & Clark international LL.M.s who were not trained in the common law tradition. You must successfully pass this seminar (or an equivalent offered at another U.S. law school) before taking the rest of your LL.M. classes. The Seminar begins the first week of August, before the fall semester begins.
Additionally, if you would like to prepare independently for study in the United States while you are still in your home country, our director would be happy to give you suggestions for readings you can do at home.
What housing is available?
Given that our law school is a graduate school and the LL.M. is an advanced professional degree for lawyers, we do not maintain dormitories for law students. All of our law students live off-campus in apartments or shared housing. Some students enjoy sharing multi-bedroom apartments or houses with other students; others prefer to have a small apartment to themselves. There are many good options for rented living space in the neighborhoods around campus that are accessible by walking, biking or public transit.
Our Admissions Office maintains a listing of available rental spaces. The Orientation Office, which opens in June, can be a helpful resource for helping you find housing that works for you. In addition, the teaching assistant for the International LL.M. and Visitor Program can help you with the rental search and leasing process. You may also temporarily rent a space in the campus dormitories during the summer while you are making housing arrangements. Be sure to reserve your dormitory room as soon as you have made your flight arrangements, because dormitories are on a space-available basis.
What is the Optional Practical Training program?
OPT is an option for LL.M.s on F-1 visas who complete their degrees and want to gain some practical experience in a legal setting in the U.S. Finding a paid OPT internship may be difficult (in the current economic climate it is practically impossible), and it is best to start your search process early upon arriving in the United States. Law schools do not assist in procuring OPT positions for students; you must find one on your own. Exceptional LL.M. graduates who want to remain in the U.S. and cannot find a paid OPT position may apply to Lewis & Clark’s unpaid teaching fellow program. For more information about OPT requirements, consult our International Students and Scholars Office; to find out more about our teaching fellow position, contact the international LL.M. director.
Some of our international LL.M. students choose to experience American law practice during their studies through our Clinical Internship Seminar class, which matches students to placements under the supervision of practicing attorneys in law firms, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. Students are not paid for clinical internships, but they do receive academic credit towards their LL.M. degree. Placement is dependent on the qualifications of the individual student. If you think you would like to take the Clinical Internship Seminar, you should contact the program director at the time you register for classes for more information and to see if a placement can be found for you.
What is the best way to contact Lewis & Clark’s international LL.M. program?
If you have questions about our LL.M. program for international lawyers, the most efficient way is to email the Assistant Director of the Environmental Law Program, Lucy Brehm at email@example.com. Or you can call her at 503-768-6882. Be sure to take the time difference into account when you call. Office hours are generally between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time, Monday through Friday.
The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program is located in Wood Hall on the Law Campus.
Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program
Lewis & Clark Law School
10015 S.W. Terwilliger Boulevard, MSC 51
Portland, OR 97219