My law school career was very textbook: I attended a full-time program at Florida A&M University, College of Law, where I excelled in courses and was provided the opportunity to participate in prestigious organizations, such as FAMU Law Review and Moot Court. I furthered my law school training by participating in internships, such as with The Baez Law Firm, notably on the Casey Anthony capital murder case. It was not until after I completed a judicial clerkship with the New York Supreme Court and returned for my third year of law school that I questioned what would come next. I was aware of the incessant economic downfall, but equally important, I was having difficulty in deciding which type of law I wanted to practice and commit a life-long contribution to.
I remember our meeting vividly. I had contacted my law school mentor, Professor Barbara Bernier, explaining my mid-law school crisis. I was not enamored with criminal law or civil litigation, coming to those realizations after each internship. I clarified that I prized civil rights and constitutional law but I wanted to advocate for people on a much broader scale. At that moment, my mentor shifted my focus to the unknown: international human rights and humanitarian law. I immediately began exploring human rights, searching for a basic understanding of the emerging law. Unfortunately, human rights courses were just beginning to be offered at my law school; thus, educating myself was the best option. That’s when it occurred to me: if I was serious about protecting the human rights of others, on a larger scale, then I needed to seek a program that offered exactly that.
The law school search was much more difficult than the application process itself. For instance, after performing extensive research, attending international law seminars and discussing with established human rights professionals, it became apparent that as a U.S. law student, it was expected that I seek human rights courses at a foreign university. Doing so would not only provide the educational training that I was seeking but would also provide me with international exposure. First, I utilized websites, such as llm-guide.com, which is a school listing of all universities that provide master of law programs, worldwide. Next, I narrowed my search by the institutions that offered a degree in international human rights law. Upon forming that list, I continued to narrow my search on the same factors that you would use when choosing a college for any other degree: (1) program courses and degree requirements, (2) national ratings, (3) post-job placement, (4) tuition, and (5) location. I narrowed my search down to approximately five foreign universities.
The largest concern for most future master of law students is the question of finances: how am I going to pay for another year to two years of law school? Unlike most law students, I was very fortunate when it came to funding my LL.M. degree. Along with scholarships, my parents also footed the remainder of the bill. The good news: I was attending a European university, thus, the academic tuition for law students is not nearly as steep as attending law schools in the U.S. Nonetheless, in performing your search for an advanced law degree, if finances are a factor, narrow your search based on which foreign program accepts U.S. financial aid assistance. You can search the fafsa.ed.gov and enter the foreign university’s school name into the online database system. If the university accepts U.S. financial aid, the school’s university FAFSA code will be available. Thus, when you apply to such foreign programs, you can also apply for an updated FAFSA application and the process is the same: the U.S. government will send the tuition payment to your foreign university and you will receive the remainder “reimbursement.”