Courting success: Leading law schools for Asian students
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Courting success: Leading law schools for Asian students

LAW school is a daunting challenge for students around the world. There are long lectures on the law, seemingly endless books of cases and statutes, the pressing job market, and never enough time to study everything needed. In the end, of course, there is the reward of entering a respected profession and putting one’s skills to socially useful endeavors.

Both the challenges and rewards can be greater still for Asian students studying at Western law schools, where they encounter vastly different legal systems founded on the common law tradition, navigate different legal cultures and marketplaces, and deal with the inevitable issue of language barriers. After completing their studies they join an elite group of Asian lawyers who have mastered the legal systems of two countries and languages, and know how to serve clients in Asia and the West with the legal services they need.


Pic: Florida Coastal School of Law.

The rewards for Asian law students are magnified by the frequent dearth of service-oriented international business lawyers in their home countries. As globalization marches on, many Asian countries are waking up to the reality that their population of lawyers able to handle major international transactions is severely lacking. American, Australian, and European lawyers have the client service-oriented mindset, experience with complex cross-border transactions, and English fluency that their Asian counterparts often lack, and Asian law firms miss out on business as a result.

Although countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea are attempting to remedy this by overhauling their law school systems and inviting foreign law professors to train their students, it remains the case that the best way for an Asian law student to gain the skills that clients want is to go to a Western law school.

Taking the US as an example, Asian students may obtain three types of degrees at an American law school. Although they may seek the same JD as American students or seek the legal equivalent of a Ph.D, perhaps the most popular option is the LLM degree. This degree is appropriate for students who have completed a law program in their home countries, as well as practicing lawyers and professors.

The LLM degree is a one- to two-year program designed to give international students who have already studied the legal systems of their home countries a basic education in the local legal system. LLM students study the same basic courses as their overseas counterparts, have the freedom to take elective courses, and typically also write a thesis on an area of their specialty. Many make a valuable network of connections overseas.

Asian students often find major differences between LLM programs and the legal studies programs of their home countries. For one, class sizes are normally less than 100, and often less than 30, students. The professors typically eschew dry lectures and the memorization of statutes for the Socratic method, which requires students to think quickly and learn to analyze legal problems from a practical perspective.  The thesis requirement means that LLM students learn to produce a legal article that can be published in a Western law journal, a nice resume boost. Presentation skills are also emphasized, and the improvement in English language skills is almost too obvious to mention.


Pic: UNSW Law.

When they return home, Asian LLM students find many benefits from their new degrees. Many of their colleagues will be ill prepared to handle international matters in English, giving the LLM holders a significant leg-up on the competition. As Asian governments reform their legal systems, those with training in overseas legal systems are natural sources of expertise. Even for non-practitioners who teach in a law school, the LLM can be indispensible for learning new teaching methods and advancing their careers. Many will stall without it, unable to achieve tenure.

There are many considerations to take into account when choosing the right school for your LLM degree.  The most important consideration is the list of available courses. If you already have an area of specialty, be sure that the program you choose offers a strong selection of courses in that area. Examine the course list on the school’s website and inquire how often the courses you are interested in are offered.

Consider also the geographic location of each school. Is it near organizations where you could make connections and have worthwhile experiences?

Finally, consider all the possible experiences you could have in that school and how you can bring them back to your home country. The more such experiences that are available, the greater the positive impact they can have on your career and home country.

Below we have chosen 25 of the leading law schools around the world for Asian sudents…

The University of New South Wales Law Faculty was founded in the early 1970s and has gone on to become a leader in Australia and the Asia-Pacific community at large. It is heralded as one of the most competitive and reputable places to earn an international law degree in Asia. Students from all over the Asia-Pacific region are anxious to earn their credentials through UNSW Law. Degrees are available at every level, with offerings for those fresh out of high school as well as for seasoned lawyers looking to boost their career profile through higher-tier specialization. For ambitious students in Asia, it is hard to find a more accessible and prestigious place to study law. Read the full profile…


Pic: University of Houston Law Center.

University of Houston Law Center is a leader in the US, but it is also becoming a popular choice for Asian students. It offers unique transitional courses that equip international lawyers with US qualifications alongside a comprehensive spread of highly relevant specializations. The Law Center delivers one of the best value-for-money law degrees on the US market today. This, combined with its strong international network, makes UH Law Center a favorite for students from Asia looking to secure international legal credentials. Students study under exceptional faculty members with extensive international experience. Read the full profile…

Florida Coastal School of Law offers a one-of-a-kind law program targeting international lawyers. The school’s primary offering is an LLM degree, and the accompanying coursework prepares students to take the bar exam in several US states. Florida Coastal caters specifically to foreign degree holders, whether they are hoping to qualify to take the bar exam in the US or simply pick up a master’s-level credential in US law. Domestic degree holders are not permitted to enroll in this program, giving the curriculum designers more freedom in tailoring the coursework to suit international students. Read the full profile…

UTS:Law has set itself apart as a leader in Australian and international law. This is a pioneering institute with plenty of firsts on its resume. For starters, the UTS JD was the first law school of its kind in Sydney. It was also the first to introduce an intellectual law degree program that is hosted completely online. This is the only university with its campus in Sydney’s central business district. The university’s law program is particularly well regarded by the international community, thanks in part to projects funded by the Australian Agency for International Development. For Asian students with an eye for international opportunities, UTS:Law presents highly competitive opportunities. Read the full profile…

Hosting the internationally recognized Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property and ranked #4 for the study of intellectual property law by the US News & World Report 2012, the University of New Hampshire School of Law (UNH) is home to the award-winning website, the IP Mall, a leading source for intellectual property professionals. UNH Law prides itself for preparing its students for a successful career in intellectual property. This is why the Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property is globally recognized as home to faculty, students and programs synonymous with intellectual property. Read the full profile…


Pic: UNH School of Law.

Alabama’s only public law school, the University of Alabama School of Law has a reputation as a leading law school in the United States. A selective admissions process is observed to recruit only the brightest minds, and it offers surprisingly low tuition rates for both resident and non-resident students. The School of Law’s International L.M. is a one-year program for foreign lawyers who have completed a basic legal education in their home country. This is a popular choice for Asian students, along with LLM’s in Taxation and Business Transactions that can be completed online.

New Orleans’ Tulane University Law School is the 12th oldest law school in the United States and has been accredited by the American Bar Association since 1925. The School offers a vast selection of common law and federal subjects, including the maritime law program LLM in Admiralty, and LLM opportunities in Energy & Environment. The School also offers an LLM in International & Comparative Law for foreign lawyers, recognized for its focus on regional legal systems, national legal development, and differences between major legal cultures. The School is regarded as a world leader, especially in its maritime and environmental law programs.

The exclusive law school at Pepperdine University is located in California and boasts a rich and challenging environment for the select few who secure places here. It offers a range of exciting programs including an LLM in Dispute Resolution. This is a 28-unit program offered to those who already possess a law degree and covers topics such as Psychology of Conflict and Dispute Resolution and Religion. This is an interesting choice for Asian students who can bring this qualification home to a vast range of issues that Asia is currently facing.

The China-EU School of Law (CESL) is the only law school to be approved by the Ministry of Education in China under the ‘Sino-Foreign Schools Agreement’. This joint project between the government of PR China and the European Union is geared to educate the best of legal minds that practice within the framework of Sino-European relations. Part of China University Political Science & Law, CESL is a top School in Asia, bringing together influential faculty encompassing 13 different universities in Europe. True to its name, the School offers both Master of European and International Law in English, and Master of Chinese law taught in Chinese. This program is also taught in English for one semester.

Also known as UT Law, this American law school is ABA-certified is consistently ranked in the top 20 law schools in the country, with a string of high-profile alumni to its name. Degrees offered are Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD), Master of Laws (LL.M) for US and international students, and Dual and Combined programs. The School is famous for having the most selective admissions process in the nation, having an intake of 24% from the 5,815 applications in 2011. Living in Austin, students will receive the opportunity to engage in a liberal and diverse environment – an important aspect to the education of any lawyer.


UTS:Law. Pic: Anna Zhu.

Law at the University of Southern California is regularly featured on ‘America’s Best Graduate Schools’ by US News & World Report; consistently maintaining its position in the top 20. With an impressive faculty, the School offers a comprehensive and interdisciplinary academic program ranging from Intellectual Property, International Human Rights, Mediation, and Post-Conviction Justice. The Schools offers plenty of internship and work-placement opportunities to provide on-the-job training for its students and has a network of overseas offices in China, Hong Kong, India, Korea and Taiwan.

The Osgoode Hall School of Law is part of the Canadian University of York, located in Toronto. The prominent law school is associated with its major influences in areas of constitutional law, the Charter and human rights, and international law. The School prides itself on four key foundations: Openness-Opportunity-Flexibility; Commitment to public law; Integration of theory and practice, and; Transformative. An extensive academic curriculum includes Criminal Law, IP & Technology Law, and Poverty Law, the latter of particular interest to Asian students. The School hosts 54 full-time faculty and around 150 adjunct faculty. Small class sizes of approximately 70 students provide the personal guidance that is needed for this field – perfect for Asians considering studying law in Canada.

This law school at Yeshiva University in Manhattan is named after Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cordozo. Although a young School, the Benjamin N. Cordozo School of Law has been immensely successful, being featured in the US News & World Report. Programs on Intellectual Property and Dispute Resolution are popular among students, offering rigorous and exciting study for future lawyers. Other courses on offer especially for international students are: Introduction to US Law, Advanced Workshop on Legal Research and Writing, and Fundamentals of New York Law.

One of the UK’s most sought-after universities, the School of Law at the University of Reading is ranked 8th by The Times Good Universities Guide for study in law. Just a stone’s throw from London, this law school offers attractive postgraduate programs in Advanced Legal Studies, European Union Law, International Law and World Order, International Commercial Law, International Corporate Finance, and International Financial Regulation. The School is heavily involved in career development of its students and offers a strong international network for them to take advantage of.

This prestigious School at the University of London is internationally recognized for its path breaking teaching and research in comparative and international law. Experts in the field come together to form the faculty at this institute, thus maintaining close links within the industry. The School hosts the East Asian Law Centre; the Centre for Ethnic Minority Studies; and the Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law (CIMEL) among others. An interesting and varied choice of LLM taught degrees include: Banking Law, Chinese Law, Dispute and Conflict Resolution, Environmental Law, International Economic Law, Islamic Law, and South Asian Law.


Pic: UNSW Law.

One of the oldest professional faculties at this Canadian university, the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto is today regarded as a leading educator, providing a stimulating and diverse intellectual environment for its students. Comprising 500 undergraduate and graduate students, and 57 full-time faculty along with 25 short-term guest lecturers, this department hosts several legal clinics and public interest programs for its students to engage in. Offering one-year programs in Master of Laws (LLM), and Master in Studies in Law (MSL), and the three-year thesis-driven Doctor of Juridical Sciences (SJD), the Faculty also provides 12-month professional–style master of laws specializing in business law, culminating in the Global Professional Master of Laws (GPLLM) qualification.

The oldest law school in the northeast of England, the law school at Newcastle University leads the Sunday Times University Guide 2012 as number one law school in the country. The university prides itself on its international atmosphere, bringing in staff from 12 countries and students from across the world. It combines innovative teaching methods with cutting-edge research to continue to remain at the top of the league tables. The School has two new exciting LL.M programs – International Business Law and Environmental Regulation and Sustainable Development, along with the LL.M .in International Legal Studies that will now provide more specialized options for its students.

Part of Case Western Reserve University, one of the world’s foremost academic and research institutions, the School of Law is recognized as one of the oldest in the United States. One of the first schools to be accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), it has a history of hosting a diverse mix of students, races, nationalities and backgrounds, for a true international experience. There is a variety of tailored courses on offer including: Juris Doctor degree, Master of Laws in United States and Global Legal Studies, Master of Laws in International Business; Intellectual Property; and International Criminal Law. The School also provides nine dual-degrees and hosts several diversity initiatives such as the Law & Leadership Institute, Future Connection, and Summer Work Experience in Law.

The Faculty of Law at this prestigious university was the first law school in Hong Kong, established in 1969. Today it is recognized internationally as a leader in education and research. The Faculty hosts more than 1,500 students from 17 jurisdictions and 60 full-time academic staff. Its two departments are the Department of Law and the Department of Professional Legal Education. The Faculty offers a 4-year LLB program, 4 double-degree programs as well as a 2-year JD program. Five specialized LLM programs include: Chinese law, human rights law, corporate and financial law, information technology and intellectual property law, and arbitration and dispute resolution law.

The National University of Singapore, s a university that commands international recognition with students enrolling on its programs from across the world. Its Faculty of Law is thought by many to be Asia’s leading law school, fuelled by an outstanding faculty drawn from all corners of the world and a student body with the brightest minds. The School prides itself on a diverse variety of programs, including electives in Asian legal studies, banking and finance, biomedical law, commercial law, criminal law, public law, and transportation law, among others. Specializations for the LLM program include: Corporate & Financial Services, Intellectual Property & Technology, International & Comparative Law, Maritime Law, and Asian Legal Studies. Further, students also have the opportunity to tailor their LLM programs from a 100 courses on offer, to best suit their needs and interests.


Pic: UNH School of Law.

The largest faculty at La Trobe University in Australia, the School of Law provides a wide range of undergraduate, postgraduate and research qualifications for future lawyers. The School is well known for its achievements in the field and boasts of a friendly and comfortable atmosphere for students, international and national alike, to settle into. High quality scholarly research forms the foundation to the teaching imparted at this School, with a host of exciting subjects to study: Fraud Investigation, Global Business Law, Public Interest Law, and International Business Law.

This comprehensive research-led university, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is a top Chinese university providing internationally recognized academic training along with cutting-edge research. The Faculty of Law is Hong Kong’s newest and most dynamic law school. The School is committed to bringing the best of China to the world, and the best of the world to China. Almost a third of the postgraduate students at this School are non-local, following in the steps of the School’s vision to host an international community of research-led scholars in order to possess the intellectual skills and ethical values to become future leaders. Along with an LL.B. and a JD qualification, the School offers LLM degrees in Chinese Business Law, Common Law, and International Economic Law. A JD/MBA double-degree is also on offer to keep up with the needs of a global, integrated academic learning.

In the heart of vibrant legal and business communities, students at the University of Miami School of Law enjoy the benefits of access to their industry along with a sought-after location to enjoy their campus life. The School is especially recognized for its training in corporate, international, and intellectual property law. The School also offers a range of clinical programs, attracting about 1,500 students representing a variety of backgrounds and cultures. The LLM degrees offered at this prestigious law school include: International Law, Tax Law, Real Property Development (Real Estate), Estate Planning, and Ocean and Coastal Law.

This dynamic Australian law school promises a progressive learning atmosphere for the very best minds in the field. One of the largest and most prestigious law schools in the country, this law school was recently ranked 20 in the QS World University Rankings. Almost 3,000 students on their undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications each year, the Faculty of Law works endlessly to produce well-rounded graduates with a variety of skills to face the challenges of today’s dynamic legal industry.

This Welsh University offers degrees tailored to today’s changing legal landscape, ranging from business to politics, to prepare their students to excel in this industry. Recognized for its research in the UK for public procurement law conducted by its research centre – the Institute for Competition and Procurement Studies – this law school offers a diverse learning environment. Academic training blends with an environment of law, with activities like mooting, street law, guest lectures, the Innocence Project, and placements with leading law firms equipping students to hone their skills through textbooks and practical training. LLM degrees are offered in the following subjects: International Law, International Intellectual Property Law, Law and Banking, Public Procurement Law, and Law and Criminology.