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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

President Trump Threatens Law Schools' $350 Million Revenue From Foreign LL.M. Students

Trump LLMNational Law Journal, Will Law Schools’ LL.M Programs Suffer from Trump’s ‘America First’ Stance?:

Law school administrators say concerns are growing from foreign students about how the myriad immigration and travel policies emerging from Washington could impact their plans to obtain LL.M degrees in the United States.

The advanced law degree programs bring in about $350 million annually to the more than 100 U.S. law schools that offer them, with around 10,000 foreign students coming here each year to pursue an LL.M.

LL.M faculty are worried that those lucrative programs could lose their luster should the United States gain a reputation as unwelcoming to foreigners, and they say some LL.M applicants are grappling with whether they want to come to such a place.

For now, however, those concerns don’t yet seem to have resulted in decreased interest: LL.M applications are up this year at many schools. ...

If, because of more restrictive policies against foreigners trying to enter the United States, LL.M. students decide to attend competing programs in the United Kingdom or Australia, it could prove disastrous to many law schools here, which rely more heavily than ever on tuition revenue from foreign students enrolled in LL.M programs.

The thousands of foreign LL.M students coming each year to the United States adds $348 million annually to law school coffers, assuming those students pay the average law school tuition rate of $35,312. (Most foreign LL.M students pay full tuition and don’t have access to the generous scholarships available to domestic students, and many of the largest LL.M programs charge closer to $60,000 than the average).

“Up until now, the U.S. has been the diamond standard for education,” said William Byrnes, associate dean for special projects at Texas A&M University School of Law and the chair-elect of the Association of American Law School’s section of graduate programs for non-U.S. lawyers. “This is so important to us from an income point of view.” ...

[A]n LL.M from a U.S. law school is viewed internationally as a sterling credential that can boost the career prospects of foreign lawyers in their home countries, while a handful of jurisdictions allow LL.M graduates to sit for their bar exams.

The good news for legal educators is that the number of individuals applying to LL.M programs in the United States was either steady or up from a year ago at nearly a dozen law schools queried last week. At the same time, however, LL.M faculty said they are watching closely to see if a higher-than-normal percentage of admitted foreign students decide not to attend this fall after all in light of uncertainty and concern over shifting travel and immigration policies in the United States. ...

An estimated 12,709 foreign students came to study law in 2016, up 8.3 percent from the previous year, according to the Open Doors Report. The American Bar Association puts the number of LL.M students in 2016 at 9,866. That includes some U.S. students, though most are foreign. The discrepancy between the ABA and Open Doors numbers is likely due to Open Doors also counting foreign students in J.D. or undergraduate law programs.

Relatively few LL.M students come from the seven Muslim-majority nations named in Trump’s initial travel ban in January. Countries supplying the most LL.M students are China, Brazil, Japan, France, Italy, India, Canada and Saudi Arabia. The largest LL.M programs typically have 10 or fewer students from the countries named in the ban, and many schools reported again receiving a small number of applications from those places this year.

The Saudi Arabian government is already discussing tightening restrictions to its multibillion-dollar King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which sends hundreds of thousands of Saudi students to colleges and universities abroad annually, noted Byrnes, at Texas A&M.

Although Saudi Arabia was not on Trump’s banned list, curtailing those scholarships would certainly hurt U.S. law schools.

“Anything that’s done at the national level that makes the United States seem less welcoming is not positive for U.S. educational institutions,” said Martin Camp, assistant dean for graduate and international programs at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, which saw LL.M applications increase 20 percent this year. “All of us are very much hoping that the tone from our government will continue to be welcoming to foreigners who want to come here to study.”

For now, schools are doing what they can to counteract any negative perceptions of the United States and reassure LL.M applicants with more robust outreach. ...

It is possible that any impact on U.S. LL.M programs would not materialize until the fall of 2018. Most elite law schools had application deadlines in December and early January, before Trump even took office. Plenty of applicants had already made firm plans to complete an LL.M here before Trump signed the travel ban executive order.

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At least they are open about these programs being a income stream and nothing else. I thought we would see more "diversity shield" garbage.

Anyone that has gone to law school in the last decade can tell you about these Ilm programs. The students rarely speak English, arent capable of doing work at a graduate level and get passed through for revenue purposes. My unnamed school, which was almost half llm by the end, then used the money from these kids to game the ratings via scholarships. Its great to get a revenue source without the rankings hit

Posted by: Bobby | Apr 19, 2017 12:40:11 PM

Why do foreign students value an American LLM degree when it has little practical value in the United States? Have law schools ever considered creating advanced degrees (other than in the tax area) that are actually substantial and would add greatly to the value or marketability of mid-career lawyers? The fact they they haven't can't be explained by the assumption that a J.D. teaches all there is to know about the law, or teaches much of anything about the practice of law. This is money they are leaving on the table, probably far more money than they get from foreign students who may have an inflated view of the value of the standard LLM degree. What other professional school waves a permanent good-bye to the graduates of its initial program? The law schools need to provide substantial services to practicing lawyers that is more structured and complete than fragmentary and disjointed CLE programs, a good percentage of which are dreadful but mandatory.

Posted by: Tiny Montgomery | Apr 19, 2017 6:14:32 PM

This sounds like another perfect weapon with which Trump can strike at his enemies in academia.

Posted by: Jim W | Apr 19, 2017 8:28:26 PM

Foreign students should be charged a 200% to 300% surplus for all U.S. education.

Posted by: Chris Cha | Apr 19, 2017 9:32:12 PM

Most students seeking an Ll.M will be admitted if thry hop to on their visa applications. Concern is warranted but not terror.

Posted by: 30yearProf | Apr 19, 2017 10:29:08 PM

I am willing to forgo the extra money to make the country safer. In fact, not allowing people from terrorist source countries to enter the country will save money in the long run. How many semesters of LLM tuition did 9/11 cost?

Posted by: Dave Mc | Apr 20, 2017 1:43:54 AM

Tiny Montgomery, I suspect Law Schools do not see established lawyers as a revenue stream. Except for taxation, as you noted, further certification/degrees are not seen as a career builder. Other professions such as engineering have this problem as well. For a mid-career engineer, an after hours MBA is seen as much more valuable than an MS in Engineering.

Foreign LLM students clearly are, and have the benefit that most will NOT be licensed in the US and compete with US lawyers.

Cynical me also notes that if you're working as a lawyer, you don't have time to pursue long term training; if you're not, you don't have the money!

Posted by: Criticas | Apr 20, 2017 7:25:15 AM

Law schools let 1,400 chickens---- loose to smear Sessions, without anticipating they'll come home to roost? Gimme a break.

Posted by: Ron | Apr 20, 2017 9:09:23 AM

The article didn’t really take into account the impact of foreign currencies in relation to the US dollar. It got much more expensive to get an LLM in recent years purely based on the strong dollar.
“Why do foreign students value an American LLM degree when it has little practical value in the United States?“ A: Because a civil law educated attorney may 1). Want to work in the US and earn more than they can in their home country; or 2). Be planning to return home post-LLM, but are expected to study the common law in an English speaking environment and take the NY bar exam. The first is harder to pull off unless you go to a good LLM program, can take and pass the bar exam based on your LLM, and it helps if you already are at a firm in your home country that a US firm wants a relationship with.
As to the second, the UK, Australia, Singapore, etc. are much cheaper for an LLM, but are less immersive for learning English. Some countries base their laws (securities law, for example) off the US model, and may find value in studying our system for that reason. Some return home and use the NY bar as a way of marketing to US clients. They need the LLM for the NY bar, but not the CA bar. Others see US laws in some areas as being extraterritorial enough to impact clients in their home jurisdictions.

Posted by: zzzzz | Apr 20, 2017 10:18:52 AM

"As to the second, the UK, Australia, Singapore, etc. are much cheaper for an LLM, but are less immersive for learning English."


Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 21, 2017 4:59:13 AM

RE: Unemployed Northeastern—While classes in both the UK and the US are typically conducted in English, the UK is (for the moment) still part of the EU, and is not an immersive English language environment. It is much easy to get by with a partial command of the language over there, and too easy to go home for the weekend to your native country. Some partners who pay for their associates to get an LLM want to see an immersive sink-or-swim English language environment, which you mostly get in the USA. (setting aside spanish) For those partners who value the language skills over the substantive US law learned, they might even prefer a program in the heartland over the more metropolitan areas, which tend to have more expats. They might also push their associates to request placement with a roommate from another continent so that they don’t only hang out with people who speak their native language.

Posted by: zzzzz | Apr 21, 2017 7:34:51 AM

Incidentally there are about as many non-English speakers in the US as the entire population of the United Kingdom. Percentage of native English speakers? 92% UK, 80% US. But no one goes to the UK to become immersed in English because reasons...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 21, 2017 8:25:57 AM

I had an LLM work for me a few years ago in a non-lawyer capacity. It was my first manager gig, and it was a hire I inherited from the outgoing manager.

She literally had trouble communicating in the English language. Also, she was from a wealthy family in her home country, had never worked a day, and didn't understand workplace basics like attendance.

I can't believe Duke or wherever took her money.

Posted by: terry malloy | Apr 21, 2017 1:30:38 PM