Quick, Give Me Some Questions
I may be serving on the Q&A panel during orientation this Friday for the incoming class of LL.Ms.
If you were in such a position, what would you like to know?
Comments open as always (albeit moderated); I'm also happy to answer by email.
I realized with a start that I will be interacting with four LL.M classes during my time here at Liberal College Law. First, my own cohort, that weird, special, dramatic bunch that they were. (But I keep getting into trouble by blogging about people, so I won't go into it--although if you follow that linkage you will see why I am trying to shut up more often). Then over the course of my dissertation, there will be up to three more classes of LL.Ms. More bises and cappucino breaks for Belle! Seriously, last year I was so thoroughly Europeanized, that I forgot how to hug (the mwa mwa of the bises desensitized me to cheek kissing) and was constantly caffeinated. Oh, those Europeans...
And the program here at LCL keeps getting bigger. Even if the S.J.D. class doesn't grow commensurately, making it still very competitive to get into the doctoral portion for aspiring academics, and extremely competitive for any American-trained aspiring academics. I was lucky to get in here, being one of four Americans during my year--and only one of two serious academic aspirants. The others were looking for degree specializations. It's a tough academic market at any stage, I'll tell you that.
Yet, since they're all new admits, they don't really want to hear much of this. I know some are interested in the S.J.D. program, but most are not. There are only 10-15 slots for the 20-30 applicants from LCL's own LL.M pool (it's limited to taking our own), which totals roughly 70-85 students--almost all of whom are from foreign jurisdictions. There were nearly a thousand applications for the LL.M program. Again, it's very tough for American J.D.s pursuing post-graduate degrees. I was very, very lucky to be admitted to the LL.M program, much less the S.J.D. program. Yes, I do feel special, and am very grateful.
Mostly though, I expect the students will ask about what classes to take, what professors are good, and where to eat. I remember getting recommendations for local tourist destinations. I always wish that these orientation things were more useful. They are of limited utility and even more rarely of interest. But I don't think I can do much to change that. I expect that information overload is the problem, and so that's why orientations are just feel-goody back-patting sessions. You just want to congratulate people for being admitted, and make them feel welcome and try to delude them into thinking that they belong there. Which maybe they do, but it's work to convince someone of that on the first day, much less when that person is from an entirely different country and culture.
Not so surprising how I called it last year. The year was worse than I expected in many ways, and surprisingly good in others. I really liked taking Statutory Interpretation, Sociology of Law, Law and Social Policy, and Federal Courts. I much like one article I wrote last year, although I hate my thesis. I enjoy traveling to conferences and am a good presenter, and find that I'm surprisingly good at networking (for an introverted geek that is). I liked meeting my roomate, and the few people whose company I stil keep. I love this city and the bigger city next door. This part of the country is great. Everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING, I hated.
An LL.M year is just the three years of law school intensified and concentrated, which means more potent drama in various accents, and less time to get all of your work done and your grades in. It's such a work-intensive year that I only last week got to seeing some of the botanical gardens, thanks to an impromptu running tour (because everything is multi-tasking in my universe, unless I'm truly chilling out) by Sci Guy. I think he is bemused by the fact that I've been here a year and have gone to the City so rarely, and have seen so little of my own campus and neighborhood. When you get out less than a scientist--man, you really have to wonder about your program.
Still, and this is the platitude I will cheerily parrot on Friday, try to enjoy that year and make the best of it. That's all I can advise. Or actually, all I'll say--I don't really think anyone wants to hear the truth. That's the funny thing about the first day. You really want to make it a fresh start, and imagine a world of possibilities, the most important possibility being that things will work out, that you will do well, and that you will be happy. I could never take that away from anyone.