Monday, July 16, 2012

Choosing an Advisor for your LLM Application

LLM program applicants have several options when it comes to choosing who to get advice from on their applications.  In this entry I'll investigate the pros and cons of three possible sources of advice: a lawyer, an admissions consultant, and an English teacher / essay editor.


Pros:  Depending on which lawyer you choose, he/she may have applied to and experienced an LLM themselves. In this case, they can give you valuable information about their experience in the program, such as what classes were interesting and the academic interests held by certain professors. A lawyer can also be of use when writing a particularly academic essay, such as the one required by Harvard Law School, in which you need to (for instance) offer a legal analysis to address a current issue in your area of expertise.  In such a situation they may be able to offer a commentary as to the legal validity or persuasiveness of your argument and/or solution.

Cons: Again, it depends on who you work with, but a lawyer may have little or no experience helping people get into an LLM program.  This is worth considering.  They may say (for instance) that your goals or the area of your background you have chosen to describe make sense - but do they know if they are persuasive from an admissions standpoint?  Experiencing an LLM in and of itself does not mean someone is qualified to tell you what you should or shouldn't be writing about.

Admissions consultants:

Pros: Your admissions consultant may have extensive experience helping people gain acceptance to their first choice LLM program.  If their experience with a particular school is strong, then they may be able to help you gain admittance to the same program. Also, if they have a lot of experience, they may be in a position to compare the relative strength of your application to those they have seen in the past.  

Cons: Depending on when you ask, a popular consultant may be busy, or may not have any time at all to spare for you. Admissions consulting is a seasonal job, obviously because admissions runs on a deadline basis, and a lot of schools tend to have similar deadlines.  Availability may be an issue and so you'll need to plan ahead if you intend to go this route.

English teachers or English essay editors:

Pros: If cost is an issue this option may be attractive because often English teachers offer a relatively low hourly rate for their time. Availability is probably also not an issue because English teaching or editing is not a seasonal field.

Cons: This is certainly going to be case-by-case, but most often the negative point here will be lack of experience with the LLM admissions process. As a result, your essays may read well and utilize nice grammar, but unfortunately from a strategic perspective they may be lacking - and this is a daunting risk to take as an applicant.  


Working with an admissions consultant is likely the best option, however there is one caveat: it is always best to work with not just any counselor. but instead a counselor who has extensive experience guiding former clients into your top-choice program. So if you elect to use an admissions counselor, choose yours carefully, and ensure the other factors listed above (availability, etc.) meet your criteria. At the end of the day, this decision must be made by each individual.  So choose the option that is best for you, given your own unique circumstances.

John Couke