Foreign attorneys come to provide broader perspective

Photo courtesy of Paige, Creative Commons

Camila Fernandez/Asst. News Director

With the opening of a new Master of Laws program, international foreign attorneys are looking to broaden their horizons on the U.S. legal system.

Offered by the University’s College of Law, the program is a postgraduate course in law for lawyers who have completed their first law degree in another country.

Through courses of their choice of interest, students are offered a year of exposure to U.S. culture and its system of common law.

However, many of these students are not familiar with the different teaching methods used by U.S. law professors.

Coming from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Axel Lema said that law professors from his country do not allow students to participate in class lectures.

“Professors [in Argentina] like to make long speeches in classes,” said Lema, a LL.M. student. “It’s very unusual to see students participate in class.”

Lema had been working as a lawyer in Buenos Aires for ten years.

“I love Miami,” said Lema. “It’s receiving a lot of money from Latin America and from all over the world.”

Matthew Mirow, associate dean of International and Graduate Studies, said many of these students come unfamiliarized with the “socratic method” used in the study of U.S. law.

Through the use of the socratic method, law students are expected to answer questions in a back-and-forth dialogue with their professors.

It pushes the limits of a particular legal rule, helping the student to understand the proper application of that rule, said Mirow.

“That’s all very different for many of these students who are used to sitting in class and just taking notes, and then waiting for the exam,” he said.

Cyra Choudhury, an associate law professor, said LL.M. students tend to approach legal questions more broadly. As a comparativist, she enjoys having people in her classes who are trained in different legal systems because of their unique perspectives.

“If they come from abroad, they bring insights from their home countries, which helps clarify issues we deal with in the U.S.,” said Choudhury. “They are able to provide examples and perspectives that we would otherwise not get.”

By taking required preparation courses, LL.M. students also have the option to sit for the New York bar exam.

Students are not eligible to take the Florida bar exam, but they can take the New York bar exam and practice law in New York.

To take the Florida bar exam, they must have a Juris Doctorate degree.

Lema plans to sit for the New York bar exam. He thinks FIU is a very prestigious and fast-growing University.

“I will study hard every day and I will try to learn every aspect of the subjects that I’m going to study at the LL.M.,” said Lema.

Besides receiving students from Latin America, many have also come from European countries.

Deividas Kursevicius, a Lithuanian, said he and his family began to travel to the U.S. three years ago to look for the possibilities of moving away from Lithuania, a very cold country.

“[Lithuania] is beautiful,” said Kursevicius. “It has good weather for one month, or a month and a half. Children [are] always ill.”

Since 2009, Kursevicius has managed a law firm in his country, but he said he needs to build his background in law and bring to use his 12 years of legal work experience to the U.S.

He plans to either take the bar exam or get a Juris Doctorate degree.

Also, he said attending FIU’s LL.M. program was a better choice over University of Miami’s program.

FIU’s annual tuition for the masters degree is $19,734 while UM’s stands at approximately $45,200.

“It’s basically a good alternative. I found out that this law school is even better. So having lower tuition is also very nice,” said Kursevicius.

“I knew about Florida law schools in Gainesville, in Tallahassee, but my priority was to fill in FIU and, luckily, I’m a student now,” he said.


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