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Class of 2004
UVA LL.M. Class of 2004

LL.M. Grads Come From Different Places, Leave With Tight Bonds

Denise Forster

Students in the Law School’s Graduate Studies Program — the LL.M. Program — come from myriad nations and different stations in life. Some have practiced law, perhaps in Buenos Aires, others have taught finance, maybe in Seville. But they leave their jobs or government posts and make their way to Charlottesville to learn about the American legal system and its countless intricacies. Can it be done in just a year?

A year is all they have. With the help of the Graduates Studies Program staff, LL.M. students find a home, grasp Virginia culture, and settle in for challenging classes. For more than 40 years, the LL.M. Program has provided a graduate American legal education to lawyers who have obtained their first law degree in their home countries. “Most are young lawyers who have been practicing in their home countries but want to learn about the U.S. legal system because some of their clients are doing business in the U.S. or their governments are interested in the American way of doing things,” said Michael Dooley, William S. Potter Professor of Law and Director of Graduate Legal Studies.

“Virginia’s LL.M. students are talented individuals with wide-ranging interests and experiences who make important contributions to life in and out of the Law School classroom,” Dooley said. By maintaining its small and selective program, the Law School ensures a supportive atmosphere for students. In a typical year, the program admits several dozen students, all holders of the academic degree regarded as their countries’ first professional degree in law (equivalent to the J.D. degree). Virtually all are from abroad, but occasionally some are members of the U.S. military’s Judge Advocate General Corps.

Students fashion individual courses of study under Dooley’s guidance, taking courses with upper-level J.D. students. The LL.M. Program is designed to provide both a broad introduction to American law and legal theory, and advanced training in specialized areas of the law that are relevant to the individual student’s planned career in private practice, academics, or public service.

In their exit interviews LL.M. Program alumni repeatedly praise the quality and collegiality of Virginia’s program. They form deep bonds with the school and their classmates and become the best recruiters for future students. Many students find fascinating the approachability of the faculty and the openness of the J.D. students.

Two recent LL.M. alumni’s comments about their respective experiences in the program appear at right. Angela Henke earned her Ph.D. from Muenster University and will soon be serving a clerkship with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Sergey Peremyslov is Counsel for American Express in the General Counsel’s Office in London. He is focused on emerging markets in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region.

henkeAngela Henke LL.M. ’03

My LL.M. studies at the Law School were the greatest year of my life.… The uniqueness of Virginia is a great opportunity for LL.M.s to get very close to each other, each other’s families, J.D. students, law professors, and local residents. Every LL.M. may obtain a J.D. Buddy, and the LL.M. class has several J.D. Peer Advisors. My personal appreciation of UVA has grown steadily as I think back on all the great social events that encouraged interaction among students, families, and professors. I also think that the perfect size of the Virginia LL.M. class contributed to our growing together and remaining in contact with each other. I consider these new friendships to be the most important thing about the LL.M. program.

PeremyslovSergey Peremyslov LL.M. ’03

The academic advisers help to tailor the study program to the specific needs of each individual international student. In my case it was an excellent combination of theoretical and practical courses. Theoretical subjects included a splendid course on U.S. contract law — taught by a distinguished professor — and corporate law subjects, while practical courses consisted of a legal negotiations and communications techniques workshop and an international banking transactions class taught by a managing director of Deutsche Bank. The Virginia LL.M. program attracts the best legal practitioners from all over the world and the friendships and contacts made during the program are a valuable asset for any lawyer pursuing an international legal career.

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