The LL.M. program at William & Mary Law School offers students from all over the world the chance to explore the American legal system while also being a part of the William & Mary student community. Many LL.M. students have practiced in their home country for years and choose to come to the United States to learn more about American law for use in their respective practice areas.
Some, like Shruthi Khetan, came to deepen their understanding of American law and lawyers for use in their practice dealing with American businesses. Khetan obtained her J.D. in India and practiced in corporate law working on direct investments with multinational companies. She wanted to better understand how business practices in other countries worked, so she looked for schools that would teach her more about the American practice of corporate law and how lawyers in the U.S. operate.
Khetan liked that William & Mary was the oldest law school in the U.S. (founded in 1779) and has been happy with her choice ever since. She credits Professor Jennifer Stevenson, Professor Ronald Rosenberg, and Ms. Brenda Stone, who run the law school’s international program, with the instrumental assistance in helping her adjust to school in a foreign country.
Like Khetan, Lin Wang chose the LL.M. program to deepen his knowledge of American legal practices for his work as in-house counsel doing mergers and acquisitions in Beijing, China. He was excited to come to William & Mary because he could study law while his wife worked toward her M.B.A. at William & Mary’s Mason School of Business just down the road.
Wang’s coursework has provided him with a foundational knowledge in areas such as Civil Procedure, Evidence and Legal Writing. He particularly enjoys Business Associations, where he learned that corporate structures in the U.S. are very different from corporate entities in China. He believes that he can now work and act more efficiently and effectively with his company’s American business partners and facilitate common understandings in negotiations between multi-national corporations.
Others, like Adriano De Seta, came to the U.S. to work and play a larger role in the American legal system. De Seta has a law firm in Italy and works for the Italian Consulate based in Virginia Beach. He helps Italian immigrants apply for visas or dual citizenship. He wants to use his LL.M. to work toward becoming counsel to the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia and to eventually teaching international comparative law.
Still other LL.M. students come to further their own personal education. Priscilla Pontes Vaz fell in love with Williamsburg and William & Mary as soon as she walked through the door. She decided that this was “her place” and is confident that she made the right decision. She was a tax lawyer in Brazil and wanted to study immigration and tax law here.
Pontes Vaz interned this summer for an immigration law firm in Florida and loved her work. She appreciates having both classroom and practical experience to better understand the immigration system and to hopefully facilitate the process for other Brazilians looking to study or work here. She greatly appreciates help from professors in deepening her academic understanding through special review sessions that professors such as Civil Procedure teacher Professor Aaron-Andrew Bruhl hold for LL.M. students.
Watin Alzahrani majored in law in Saudi Arabia and came to the U.S. to work on her English and complete her Master’s in international and business law. A friend referred her to William & Mary and she has enjoyed the quiet and settled pace of life in Williamsburg. She loves taking Torts with Professor Fredric Lederer and learning about all of the differences between her home country and here. She hopes to stay on after she graduates in December to work for a year with her Optional Practical Training.
While here, students are able to take on other responsibilities outside of the classroom to deepen their experience in the program. Khetan works on campus and was a teaching assistant this past summer for the summer program. It keeps her busy, but she enjoys the additional responsibility and the experience it has offered her. Pontes Vaz loves representing the Law School on the International Student Advisory Board so she can help other LL.M. students and visiting scholars navigate their new academic and social culture.
Students also have strong programming support from professors and teaching assistants who help LL.M. students with the more nuanced aspects of an American legal education. Teaching assistants, like Benjamin Daily, a third-year J.D. student, help in areas such as Lawyering Skills which may be new or very different to students who have practiced in other countries. Daily’s favorite moments as a TA come when students are able to apply what they have learned in class to their Lawyering Skills simulations and demonstrate their grasp of the skills American lawyers use in their practice.
Of course, at the end of the day, students also get a chance to enjoy living in Williamsburg, an important site for the founding of this country. Many enjoy learning about American history in Colonial Williamsburg, as well as in nearby Jamestown and Yorktown. De Seta loves the good food at local restaurants and always enjoys a cup of coffee at Aromas cafe.
Others enjoy the natural beauty of the area and myriad places to explore, such as the Yorktown River or the many beaches. Pontes Vaz particularly likes the low amount of traffic compared to her former home in Rio de Janeiro and that she can bike around town and live so close to school.
The Law School’s proximity to Washington, D.C., is also a particular draw for students who want a taste of the big city.
All in all, the LL.M. program at William & Mary provides international students with the opportunity to gain insight into and education in the American legal system and use the knowledge gained here to enrich their practice or studies in the U.S. and their home country.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.