Develop a sense of U.S. professionalism to succeed in your LL.M.


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Law schools in the United States are professional schools, which means that they prepare students for a profession. As such, it is expected that students behave like professionals in all respects. 

Reading and Responding to Emails 

You will undoubtedly receive many, many emails during your LL.M. studies—from friends, classmates, law school professors and administrators, prospective employers, and networking partners. Culturally, there may be differences in the norm for responding to emails from country to country and from region to region. In the U.S., there is a strong cultural tradition of responding to emails quickly–normally within one business day. The faster you reply to messages, the better the impression you will make.

Being on Time 

Again, the sense and relevance of time varies from country to country and region to region. In the United States, timeliness is an important factor in both professional and personal settings. Classes and events typically begin at the time announced, and you are expected to be on time for all meetings, classes, and events. I cannot stress this enough: professors and others will expect you to be on time for class and all meetings and events; arriving even a few minutes late will make a negative impression and is unacceptable. There is never an excuse for being late. 

Meeting Deadlines 

You will face many deadlines during your LL.M. studies and beyond. Again, as a cultural matter, it is expected that deadlines will be met. It is also expected that you will read all relevant emails, newsletters, etc., so that you keep informed; make a record of important dates and meet all relevant deadlines. 

Reading Available Materials and Ask Questions Later 

U.S. law schools generally have strong infrastructures and administrators devoted specifically to working with LL.M. students. These offices generally post a great deal of information on the program webpage and may distribute other materials, for instance, through online newsletters or other mechanisms. Although U.S. administrators are generally considered to be widely accessible, it is important that students (and prospective students) first review available materials and then ask questions that are not addressed in the materials. This is a good rule of thumb for all your dealings in the U.S.: use available information to learn as much as possible and use questions to clarify matters not fully answered by available information. 

Desiree Jaeger-Fine is a writer and author of Pursuing Happiness: One Lawyer’s Journey (Carolina Academic Press), A Short & Happy Guide to Networking (West), and A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired (West).