Minnesota Law’s LL.M. Program Celebrates 30 Years of Excellence and Impact
This fall, the LL.M. program celebrates 30 years of bringing lawyers from around the world to study at the University of Minnesota Law School. One of the longest standing programs of its kind, it is widely recognized for its individualized attention and support.
“We know everybody’s name, what they are studying, how they are doing,” says Kara Galvin, program director. “Students know our door is always open.”
While the pandemic had a significant impact on enrollment, the number of LL.M. students is bouncing back with the end of travel bans. This year, 40 students from 22 countries will be on campus. Students hail from such places as Germany, France, China, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Cambodia, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. Since its founding in 1993, the program has welcomed students from upwards of 90 countries.
Minnesota Law offers both a Business Law LL.M. and a general LL.M. with the option to earn one of eleven concentrations. In 2019,the ABA approved an opportunity for LL.M. students to extend their study for a third semester to earn an additional concentration. Minnesota is the first law school in the country to offer this innovative opportunity.
Most LL.M. students arrive at Minnesota Law with a Bachelor of Laws degree, which allows them to practice law in their home countries. Students often work with or in global businesses and are seeking greater knowledge of U.S. law, says Galvin. “Having an LL.M. gives them a significant competitive edge,” she says.
Furkan Ozkundakci graduated with his LL.M. degree this past spring after earning a bachelor’s degree from Istanbul University. “The LL.M. program made me a multi-jurisdictional lawyer,” he says. “Aside from enhancing my grasp of different legal contexts, it gave me the opportunity to meet the demands of globalizing legal markets.”
Kathya Dawe, LL.M. ’19, was an experienced lawyer with international experience who decided to go back to school for an LL.M. “It was the best decision I made. I have received attractive job offers to work with immigration, human rights, and even to teach at another law school,” she says.
LL.M. students arrive three weeks before J.D. students to complete an Introduction to American Law orientation course. Program staff also plan numerous social events to introduce them to each other and to their new Minnesota home. “These three weeks are the hallmark of our LL.M. program,” says Galvin. “We offer a mixture of substantive law and foundational information, with many faculty coming in to talk about their area of expertise. But we also leave plenty of time for students to build community. They are together for three weeks straight and make lifelong friendships.” LL.M. students then are integrated into classes with J.D. students.
“There is an excitingly supportive culture among the law school community,” Ozkundakci says. “The LL.M.’s program’ssize makes the scholars admiringly accessible and allows you to tailor your schedule more to your needs.”
Ian Wang earned his LL.M. in 2002 and then stayed on to earn his J.D. in 2005. He now practices law in China and continues to serve as an important ally for Minnesota Law. “The LL.M. exposed me to common law knowledge and enabled me tobetter position myself in cross-border legal service market,” he says. He also notes that the small class size andpersonal attention were particularly meaningful.
Recruiting students from around the world is not easy. Galvin and her assistant director, Hannah Logan, make multiple trips annually to Europe, Asia, South America, and more. Alumni are especially helpful. “People who come here fall in love and develop a loyalty,” Galvin says. “So many alumni are willing to be ambassadors for us after they return home.”
Galvin says her team continues to make enhancements to the program while retaining the traditional elements that have worked so well for three decades. “Covid forced some good changes, including the creation of an online platform where students can work at their own pace outside of class to build legal skills.”
As for the traditional elements, one event remains sacred: the annual winter clothing outing. “We rent a bus and take the whole class on a shopping trip to the outlet mall,” Galvin says. “Many of these students come from places where the weather is much warmer. This is one of the special and unique things we do as a group.”
Meet the 30th CohortIlkin Gurbanov
Jung Ho Shim
Jieyun (Lucy) Zhang