We were very lucky to welcome on Tuesday, February 21th 2017, James B. Speta, professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of law in Chicago, and senior associate Dean for Academic Affairs and International Initiatives at Jean Monnet University. He presented legal education in the United States, more specifically in Northwestern University and the life in Chicago.
How is the Legal education in the United States?
At the very beginning of his presentation, before we had the time to ask any questions, James B. Speta answered the question we were all willing to ask: Why is education in the United States so expensive? He said that education was expensive in the United States because education was not regarded as a basic right, and their politics work differently than in France, where education is free.
He also told us there are 200 law schools accredited by the bar association right now in the United States.
Generally speaking, the number of JD student is going down, and the number of students doing the LLM is going up. Juris doctor, commonly abbreviated J.D., is the degree commonly conferred by law schools. It is required in most of the states to gain Admission to the Bar. The LLM is a master of Law.
But LLM programs are not regulated by the bar association. That’s why there are many differences between programs: which can be general or more specific, classes: mixed with JD students or not?
What about Northwestern University?
In Northwestern, classes can go up to 65 students but actually most classes have only 20 to 30 students. The university integrated multidisciplinary courses in order to make lawyers ready to practice at the time they graduate. Northwestern has a wide range of degree programs. For instance, they propose a wide selection of business courses. The university uses the great legal community of Chicago to have the best education for their students, in addition they work very closely with business school such as Kellogg School of Management. Law and MBA students share the same education. For example, they follow courses such as contract drafting and structuring transactions.
The University has LLM programs since 1932. They build up a dedicated team of professionals to ensure personalized accompaniment. LLM program costs around 60 to 63 thousand dollars. The university receives around 115 students per year. To be admitted into Northwestern, recruiters are concerned about where the student studied, if the student had great marks, if the student had a high IELTS score and they are also sensitive to students who have ambitions and have a professional experience. LLM and JD students are in class together. James B. Speta believes it is enriching for both. Northwestern tries to integrate students very quickly by making events, parties and other activities that allow students from all around the world to meet and discover new cultures. For example, they organise a big soccer game between Northwestern University and Chicago University. They have a campus which is shared between students from Northwestern and students from the medical school and the hospital. It is nice to know that they also propose a scholarship that can go up to a quarter of the annual tuition of the LLM program. Scholarship criteria are merit, need and geographic diversity.
Most of the students take the New York bar after their year passed in the LLM program, the overall pass rate is 35%, but for Northwestern the rate is about 65 to 70%. Graduating to the bar exam after a year in a LLM program actually depends on the degree of seriousness of the student about the bar and if he attends a bar review course and goes all the way through it. The challenge is often between choosing courses they need to learn for the bar exam and the courses they want to learn.
It is interesting to know that the University proposes a new summer program of 4 months, which allows people to validate a LLM in a shorter time, although it is mainly made for lawyers who can’t leave work during an all year but want to complete their formation with a LLM.
How is the life in Chicago?
The University is in the downtown of Chicago, it is close to law firms and libraries. Unlike New York, Chicago preserves some serenity there is a lake and a bike path near the University.
James B. Speta reassured us about the “violence reputed in Chicago”. He said that there are violence, like everywhere, but not around the law school. It is a safe environment. Universities must respect the “Clery act”: which requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses.
It is easy to find apartments if students don’t want to live in the campus.
In general, it is not a cheap city but it is cheaper than New York or Paris.
Chicago is reputed to be a great sports city: hockey, soccer and football are very popular.
Chicago is a great place to study law because it is a business centre, people easily get in contact with alumni who can help them out if they need it and create a great network.
Personally, I’m only in my first year at the “Grande Ecole du Droit”. But one of the main reason I chose this formation is the LLM. Indeed I studied in Canada and in New Zealand when I was younger and above the great improvement of my English, it was an incredible enriching experience that I’m willing to repeat! I have a little preference for the United States, so I was very happy and honoured to receive the professor James B. Speta in our University, in order to have a specialist presenting us more precisely what a LLM consisted in and it was the occasion to discover particularly the University of Northwestern. I was a little bit concerned about the annual cost of the study and the possibility to obtain a visa with the arrival of the new president of the United States, Donald Trump. However, I was particularly attracted by the fact that students could pass the New York bar exam after their LLM.
First year student at the “Grande Ecole du Droit”