Why Study an LL.M. in California?
Southern California. Mere mention of it brings to mind thoughts of movie stars, beaches, and endless sunshine. However, this megapolitan region also lays claim to something else: extraordinary higher education institutions. While we could go on at length about the appeal of Southern California as an international study location, there’s no substitute for hearing it from students and graduates themselves. So let’s take a look at why you should study in the region -- and in particular at a leading law school in Southern California.
- Study Abroad
When looking for law programs in the United States, it’s not hard to believe California rises to the top of the list. Irvine near LA, in particular, has many advantages -- starting with its weather. “Southern California is famous for its mild and pleasant weather,” says Kijung Sung, an alumnus from Korea who received his LL.M. from The University of California (UCI), Irvine School of Law last year.
In fact, every student we talked to highlighted the weather. Irvine’s prime location, meanwhile, makes it easy to access everything Southern California’s vibrant geography has to offer. “Beautiful beaches, mountains, deserts, and lakes are all within about one hour's drive from Irvine. I was able to easily reach the spectacular national parks such as Joshua Tree or Yosemite,” adds Sung.
However, you don’t have to even step foot out of the city -- or even off the UCI campus -- to be surrounded by California’s iconic beauty. Sung insists, “Irvine is so clean and well-managed that the whole city looks like a big garden. It is also true when it comes to the UCI campus. It was a refreshing and restful time for me whenever I took a walk on the UCI campus or had a family picnic at the parks in Irvine.”
A safe and family-friendly environment
Safety was also a major selling point. “I really liked the idea that it is located in Orange County’s safest city,” says UCI Law alumna Morena Rosa de Albuquerque from Brazil, who received her LL.M. degree in 2020.
This was echoed by 2019 LL.M. graduate Xinnan Wu of China. Wu recalls studying late at night in the library and feeling comfortable walking home.
Sung adds, “Even at night, I felt safe while walking the streets alone or with my little children.”
Speaking of kids, Irvine is also exceptionally family-friendly. Sung raves about Irvine’s “great educational environment”. “That is why I strongly recommend UCI Law especially for those who have to live with their kids while in the LL.M. program,” Sung concludes.
An inclusive community and campus
For many students, choosing a diverse higher education environment is a top priority, and with good reason. Not only is it more comfortable to study in a place where you feel welcome and wanted, a diverse learning environment is linked with the development of richer perspectives. “Last but not least, California is also well-known for its liberal tradition which respects diversity. I did not experience any kind of unjust treatment that relates to my race as Asian while I was in Irvine,” says Sung.
The same vibe can be found on the UCI campus. Wu cites her favorite part of her UCI Law experience as “close and friendly relationship with other classmates, with professors and faculty members.”
Students also speak highly of UCI Law Assistant Dean Khary D. Hornsby. “He provided comprehensive support to international students. He had a wide understanding of cultures outside America so he could be a good friend with students who have different cultural backgrounds. His supports were not limited to academic ones. He provided students with information about local community events and supported students' networking,” says Sung.
This same ethos is interwoven into the UCI LL.M. and its programs. According to Disha Shenoy, a current UCI LL.M. student from India, “The pro bono culture at UCI Law provides a plethora of cases that you can take up, this is one of the best ways to diversify in different fields of law, network, provide legal assistance and learn! I am currently working with ILAW (International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network) researching on a global project on migrant wages and labor laws.”
A premier school and program
For many students, the appeal of studying in California and the UCI LL.M. program go hand-in-hand.
“I did some research of law schools in Southern California and I saw that UCI was among the top law schools in the country. I remember when I talked to Khary I felt more confident about pursuing my LL.M. at UCI because of its different approach in providing smaller classes, getting support from the Orange County community, and being a serious school not just being notorious as a “party school.” After all, I was 34/35 years old when I decided to get back to school. All these factors helped my decision,” reveals Rosa de Albuquerque.
Shenoy also raves about access to professors, support and career assistance -- especially for international students. “UCI law maintains a comparatively small class of LL.M.s that is particularly beneficial as LL.M.s get individualized attention. As a foreign lawyer studying in the US, I think the UCI team provides fantastic career support and guidance for all the LL.M.s who wish to navigate their way through the California and the US legal system,” she explains.
Indeed, if you’re looking for an LL.M. program that offers the “total package,” look no further than the UCI Law LL.M and its customizable curriculum. “The main factors that I took into account in deciding where to study were the total environment of the community and the reputation of the Law School. Irvine was well-known for not only its safety but also its great educational and natural environment. Moreover, the life cost was relatively cheap when compared to L.A.,” proposes Sung.
Irvine is also a law hub, playing host to prestigious international law firms, regional firms, and public interest groups. A booming business climate, meanwhile, plays host to everything from multinational companies to small startups. What’s more, in Irvine, California as a whole, and across the world, UCI Law has a very strong alumni network.
On that note, access to all of these entities -- as well as UCI’s commitment to experiential learning -- is accompanied by something else: unparalleled networking opportunities. Shenoy advises, “While you are in the law school it is easier to network with other LL.M.s, J.D. students or with professors and faculty. Try to set up informational interviews so that you can draw a road map to achieve your aspirations and goals!”
The benefits of the LL.M. are many for students looking to enrich their understanding of the US legal system. For those looking for an extraordinary international study destination and a first-rate academic program, the LL.M. at UC Irvine in Southern California is an outstanding option.
Article written in association with UCI Law.
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Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.