Online Master of Laws (LL.M.)



Master of Laws and Business Law Certificate “Program Discovery” webinar


In this program discovery, our panelists will give you an overview of USC, USC Gould School of Law, and the online LL.M. program.


  • Anne Marlenga, Director of Student Affairs
  • Nicholas Kajimoto, Student Programs Advisor
  • Uni Arceo, Enrollment Advisor


Uni Arceo: Hello, and welcome. Thank you for joining us today for the University of Southern California online Master of Laws LLM webinar. We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedules to find out more about _____. This session will be in audio only, through your computer speakers. We have reserved time at the close of this presentation to answer all of your questions. During the webinar, please feel free to type your question into Q&A box, as you think of them, throughout the presentation. We hope you find this session informative and helpful. Here is our agenda for today: Why USC, Program Learning Objectives, Summer Law & English, Alumni Spotlight, Programs of Study, Admissions, and Q&A.

Now I am pleased to introduce our panelists. Our first speaker today is Anne Marlenga. She is our director of student affairs, graduate and international programs. Our second speaker today is Nick Kajimoto. He is the student programs advisor for the online master of laws and online business law certificate, and Uni Arceo. I’ll be your enrollment advisor and happy to answer any questions that you have through the Q&A. I’d like to pass along to our first speaker.

Anne Marlenga: Hi, everyone. As Uni mentioned, my name is Anne Marlenga, and I am our director of student affairs for graduate and international programs here at the here at the USC Gould School of Law. Nick and I are gonna talk a little bit about our program before Uni follows up with some admissions information, so we’ll start a little bit broadly. On the slide that you can see on your screen, we’ve listed some important facts about the University of Southern California. Our university was established in 1880. We’re located in Los Angeles. We’re just south of downtown Los Angeles, so we’re located within 10 to 15 miles of the beach, of Hollywood, of downtown, of a lot of exciting things in Los Angeles.

We are one of the world’s leading private research institutions, so we are privately funded, not through the state. Our university has seven graduate and professional schools, including the law school. In the university, in general, there are over 340 master’s certificate, doctoral and professional degree programs. When you join USC as an online Master of Laws or online Business Law certificate student, you’re joining many, many, many students and alumni at USC. The USC Gould School of Law was established more than 100 years ago. We consistently rank in the top 20 of law schools nationwide in the United States. We are proud of interdisciplinary curriculum.

We have various subjects, such as business law, entertainment law, and a variety of other resources on which we draw from other professional schools on campus. We’ll talk a little bit more later about our Trojan family. Basically, we’re famous for our alumni connections. To dive a little bit more specifically into our program, the online Master of Laws and online Business Law certificate program, you can see on your screen the learning objectives that we have for students in these programs. We hope that our LLM students will learn more about the U.S. legal system, in particular. We hope that they’ll become fluent in legal terminology, both speaking and legal writing skills.

We hope that they will be able to perform legal research and analysis at a high level, that they’ll understand concepts of legal professionalism and ethics, and that they’ll have lots of practical knowledge of the legal profession. Our business law certificate students will develop a specialized knowledge in American business law. The certificate program requires fewer units, so it won’t have as comprehensive a curriculum in the U.S. legal system, but those students will take lots of courses in business law specifically. For students who are interested, they can take courses in order to complete the LLM requirements to sit for the California Bar exam.

For those students, we hope that they will also have a greater knowledge of the California law, specifically. We’ll talk a little bit more about the bar exam later, as well. I’m gonna pass it over to Nick to talk a little bit more about some program specifics.

Nick Kajimoto: For the online program here at USC Law, we do not have an on-campus requirement for our students to attend. But on the other hand, we offer our Summer Law & English program. This is optional. So if you did want to have some kind of on-campus experience, you are more than welcome to apply for this program. For the Summer Law & English program, you’ll build a foundation of basic U.S. law, so each day you’ll learn a different law topic here in the United States, and then you’ll learn specialized legal English, improve your English speaking fluency, and even practice some legal writing briefs and memos. All of this will help all of our students prepare for an LLM program if they are enrolling in the following academic year.

A lot of our students find our Summer Law & English programs to be valuable, particularly since it allows them to build their network with other legal and business professionals around the world. Since you’re on campus, you’ll not only spend your summer here in sunny Los Angeles, but you also will gain full access to USC campus facilities, so you’ll be able to have access to the gym, the different parks on campus, and just basically have a really fun month with us.

Anne Marlenga: I’m gonna talk a little bit more about the Trojan family, which I mentioned a little earlier. In the United States, USC is a famous school for a few reasons, one being our football team, another being our alumni connection, which we call our Trojan family. We have approximately 240,000 living USC alumni all over the globe. We have a very international university, so you’ll find alumni on every part of every continent across the globe. We have, within the law school, over 9,000 alumni, including over 1,200 who are exclusively LLM alumni. When you come to our program, you’ll find that your courses will be quite small, and you’ll have only a few other students who you’re communicating with, and you have lots of one-on-one interaction.

But the family that you’re joining, of our alumni and those international connections you make, is far reaching across the globe. Our LLM alumni have come from 65 countries around the world, and many of them are working in prominent law firms, over 50 of whom are now partners, nearly 100 of them work for ministries and government organizations, and the remainder have gone on to work for private companies, for non-profit organizations, for a variety of other employers. You can see on the screen here that there are many, many career options for LLM alumni, as well as our business law certificate alumni, and many go on to be leaders in the legal field.

Nick Kajimoto: When you _____ enroll in the online program with us, you’ll have an opportunity to study various programs. Listed on this slide are some of the programs of study that we offer. As your student advisor, I will assist you in selecting the best course plan for you. A lot of our students do decide to do the LLM with the California Bar, while others will decide to do the LLM with the business law certificate, and a few of them actually select both certificates – both the California Bar and the business law certificate. Then for just the business law certificate students, I work with you on making sure you take all of our business law courses. Particularly for the online Master of Laws LLM program, you could earn this degree with a graduate certificate in business law.

You’ll be able to complete it in as few as 12 months. You’ll graduate from a top-ranked law school in the United States. As mentioned, we work in – our law school is ranked in the top 20. You’ll share a USC connection that is both worldwide and lifelong, with over 10,000 law school alumni, so you’ll be part of that Trojan family that Anne was just speaking of, and then you also receive dedicated student services and support from myself and my colleagues in the online program. For the LLM curriculum, you’ll take – you’ll have the opportunity to take a wide selection of courses. Listed on this slide is some of the courses that our online program offers.

All of our students will take introduction to U.S. legal system and legal research, and depending on what program of study that you select, you’ll have an opportunity to take the other courses, such as constitutional law, legal profession, business organization, business for lawyers, mergers and acquisitions, contract drafting and strategy, and securities regulation. Really, it depends, but as your student advisor, I will work with you on selecting your coursework. For the business law certificate, you will take these five courses. By enrolling in all these courses, you’ll earn the business law certificate, which can increase your marketability with top multinational organizations, law firms, and government.

The other important thing to know – and we always get questions about this – is that if you enroll in our LLM program, you’ll earn the business law certificate if you click that track. It’s no additional cost. It can all be embedded within the one program.

Anne Marlenga: Also included in the LLM program, some students will choose to complete the study requirements necessary to sit for the California Bar exam. It’s important to note that in order to sit for the California Bar exam, you need to be eligible on two fronts. First, your undergraduate credentials need to match the requirements for the California Bar exam, so that usually involves an undergraduate degree in law that is similar to the U.S. JD degree. The California Bar exam can help you figure out if your credentials match that requirement. The second requirement for international students is that you complete necessary legal study requirements within an LLM program in the United States.

Our online program is one of the few that provides the requirements for students who are seeking California Bar exam credentials. As Nick mentioned, he guides students who want to sit for the California Bar exam in taking the necessary required courses. These courses not only will deem you eligible to sit for the bar exam, but will also prepare you to pass the bar exam. I think we’re passing it back to Uni now to talk a little bit more about admissions.

Uni Arceo: The admission requirements and the process, this is ideally for international students. The first requirement is to hold an LLD or a first law degree or equivalent outside of the United States. What you’re going to need to do is complete your application to the law school admission counsel. This is where you’re going to send in your official transcripts from all universities attended. You’re going to write a personal statement, ideally three pages or under. Two letters of recommendation, which can be professional or academic, a TOEFL or IELTS score is required if the medium was not taught in English. Ideally, the TOEFL score would be 100. A resume, or CV.

The LSAT is not required. For U.S. students, they are only able to do the business law certificate. They are not eligible for the LLM. A JD degree or equivalent is required. Official transcripts from all universities attended. Personal statement, two letters of recommendation, resume, and the LSAT is also not required. The next steps in order to proceed with the application is to update your resume. If you will email me with your resume, plus two times and dates most convenient for a conversation, I’d like to chat with you and go over more details and start building an outline for your statement of purpose. There are two enrollment advisors, myself, Uni Arceo, with the extension 4182, and Kendall Hammond, who is also the other enrollment advisor.

You can reach either of us, and we’d be more than happy to assist you with the online LLM and business law certificate. Our toll free number is 866-803-3572. We do have a question that come up. We just answer that. Is the LLM only for international students? The short answer is yes. You do need to have the LLB, as described in the previous slide. Just to clarify, the program length is 12 months full time for the LLM, and it’s nine months for the business law certificate by itself, but we do allow students to do it part time. For the LLM, it’s three years, and the business law certificate would be a year and a half. If there’s any other questions, just make sure you type it in the Q&A box.

Another question that came up is – I understand it’s a loose question, and it’s okay. I expect – let’s see here. How stringent is the admissions process? Good question. As I said earlier, all of the applicants must submit their applications through the law school admission council. They’re going to be the ones who evaluate your transcripts, send us your report, and then the admissions committee will be able to review your application.

Nick Kajimoto: The other thing important to note about the admissions process is that it is very competitive. The admissions committee is looking at your application file from a holistic perspective. So they take everything into consideration about what Uni was describing before. They really look at your personal statement to see if you’re a good fit for the online program, to your letter of recommendations to see how strong they are, and then we definitely look at your grades. We wanna make sure that you have very great grades, strong grades from your undergraduate studies.

Uni Arceo: Another good question is where do some of the students come from? As noted, it is an international program, so we do see a lot of students from Asia, Philippines, specifically. We do see many from Brazil, a handful from South America, and a lot of the students are also domestic, who are living here in the U.S., but have obtained their LLDs or first law degrees from outside the United States. Another good question. Will we be able to attend a graduation ceremony? Yes. The program online does mirror what’s taught in the residential program. As a result, your degree will actually be the same degree. There’s no difference. You will be able to attend the graduation ceremony.

We actually encourage and welcome you to participate in our graduation ceremony with the residential students. Another question came up. How many, on average, graduates do you have for the LLM per year? Nick or Anne, do you wanna take that one?

Anne Marlenga: Sure. Our online program is relatively new. It’s in its fourth semester, so we’ve only had a handful of graduates so far, but that’s because we’ve only completed three semesters of the program thus far. It’s hard to answer that question ‘cause it’s a small group, but everybody who has been eligible to graduate has graduated thus far. Our students have performed exceedingly well, and we’ve been very proud of them. Our online program is relatively new. However, our residential LLM program has graduated more than 1,200 LLM students. Our online program is waiting to catch up, and I think it will soon.

Uni Arceo: Here’s another good question. What are the benefits of passing the California Bar exam, despite the fact that you don’t reside in the State of California?

Anne Marlenga: I can take that one, too, Uni, if you want. Our graduates who pass a bar exam tell us that the benefits to their resume are great, even if they never reside in the state in which they pass the bar exam. Passing a U.S. bar exam signals to employers that you know enough about American law to work with various American clients and international clients because you have enough knowledge to have passed a difficult U.S. bar exam. In fact, California is the most difficult U.S. bar exam. Employers will likely hire you to work with American clients. American firms or international firms will certainly see your resume in a higher light because you’ve passed the U.S. bar exam.

Finally, it signals to employers that you are certainly fluent in English. A master’s degree itself should signal that, but the California bar exam and having passed that, at such a low pass rate, signals to employers that you are very, very fluent in English, especially legal English.

Uni Arceo: Thanks for that. A frequently asked question that I get all the time is what is the fee structure? In short, the breakdown is per credit, it’s $2,214.00 a credit. Depending on which track you choose will depend on what the cost of the tuition will be. For example, if you take the business law certificate track, there’s a total of 14 credits. If you do the LLM – there’s the LLM by itself, there’s the LLM with the California Bar, and there’s also the LLM with the business law certificated. All of those three tracks are 21 credits. Then you can also do the LLM with the business law certificate track and the California Bar track, as discussed earlier. So you’ll actually get two awards when you do the LLM and the business law certificate.

To calculate that, $2,214.00 a credit, again, for the business law certificate, that’s $30,996.00. Then for the other three tracks, the LLM, the LLM with the California Bar track, and the LLM with the business law certificate track would be $46,494.00, and then the LLM with the business law certificate track and the California Bar track would be 25 units, at a total of $55,350.00. That would be the fee structure for the different tracks. That does not include the cost of books. Again, the program does mirror what’s taught in the residential program, so again, your degree is the same degree. There’s no difference between doing it online or on campus.

Nick Kajimoto: The other thing, too, to mention about the tuition and payment procedure is that it’s not all due at once. It’s actually due throughout the course of your studies, at the beginning of each semester, too. You wouldn’t have to pay everything at once. We’ll work together on making sure your tuition and the procedure’s understandable throughout your studies.

Uni Arceo: Yes, exactly. Thanks, Nick, for adding on. Another great question. What is your quota for the LLM application for 2016 and beyond? Great question. As Nick had previously answered, we are looking for strong candidates with strong grades, strong applications. On average, we do see anywhere between 10 to 20 students in our cohort. There’s no exact quota, but we are looking for candidates who are looking for upward career trajectory and looking to advance their legal careers. Another good question. How much should I budget with books throughout the course? We estimate about $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 would be a good budget for course materials. That’s due throughout the course, throughout the program. Another question, what is the online learning platform like? Would Nick or Anne like to take that?

Nick Kajimoto: Sure. The online platform is a very interactive experience. We have a learning management system that will allow our students to log in. Depending on the course, it’ll be a different number of ways for them to interact with colleagues and instructors, everything from live sessions to discussion boards to using different tools to help enhance the experience, but we try to do everything we can to really make it the best for your online studies.

Uni Arceo: Thank you, Nick. Here’s another question that came up. Can you apply the LLM towards a JD program?

Anne Marlenga: I can take that one, Uni. As of yet, as we mentioned, our LLM program is relatively new online. As of yet, we have not had any online LLM students transfer to our JD program, so it’s a new question for us. I think that it is possible for an online student to apply for LLM to JD transfer program. There’s more information on our website about that program, the LLM to JD transfer program, but it should be, yes, an option for online students to do that. You would basically have to complete the LLM program, and then apply for the transfer program, which would be strictly residential as a JD program, which you would complete in two additional years after the LLM.

Uni Arceo: Thank you. Here’s another good question. What is the application deadline? With the online program, there’s three terms a year, spring, summer, and fall. With our upcoming summer term, classes would start on May 4, 2016, and the application deadline would be March 1, 2016. We would like to see all applicants register by that deadline. Then we also have a fall term, which would start in August. August 31st would be our fall term. Another good question. Can I come to the campus before I graduate? The answer is yes. If you’re in the L.A. area, you’re welcome to visit the campus and meet with Nick and Anne.

They would be more than happy to give you a tour and welcome you to the campus. I have a question. How often are the online classes presented? It looks like the question is more what are the weekly classes like. Do you wanna clarify this one, Nick?

Nick Kajimoto: Sure, Uni. So if I understand the question correctly, it’s what is required on a weekly basis? Each week, there will be a number of readings that you’ll be required to complete. There most likely will be a discussion board, where you will interact and answer a prompt from the instructor and discuss whatever the question of the week is with your colleagues and peers in the class. Every week, in most classes, there is a live session for you to attend, so that’s a great opportunity to see face-to-face with what your peers look like, and even have a real, live, real-time discussion with them. Some of our instructors use that time to provide a small lecture. There might be some quizzes one week, and other weeks there might just be an assignment for you to complete.

Uni Arceo: Thanks, Nick. Another question that came up as a follow up, do you keep the online classes in a library, so that you could revisit this after the class? I think you just answered that, Nick. Everything is archived and recorded, so you can watch it at your own time, when it’s convenient for you.

Nick Kajimoto: I guess the other thing to note is that the live sessions are only one component of our classes. The other component is the actual learning _____ system, itself, where you will log in, and then you actually will see your required readings or assignments, the discussion boards, too. But you will have access during class, and even once you’ve completed class, too.

Uni Arceo: Another good question. How is the engagement with the faculty and the students? Would any of you like to take that one?

Anne Marlenga: Sure. The faculty in our program are extremely engaged with students. Our faculty are experts in their field. Some of them have taught in residence here at USC, and some of them have taught at other famous U.S. law schools across the nation. They’re often very involved with students, so not only during the live session, but professors are available by email throughout each week, so when you have questions about your assignments or a particular reading or anything, professors are always available by email. Because each of our courses is actually quite small, the instructor to student ratio is great. So students get to know their professors very well.

We also have teaching assistants for every single class to ensure that if the professor can’t respond to an email within a few hours that a teaching assistant can. The teaching assistants are generally either current or recent graduates – current students or recent graduates of our residential programs that can give you a lot of insight and study tips and experiences on what it’s like to have been a student.

Uni Arceo: One more question. If you have any more questions, please type them in now. One other question that came up is could you give an estimate as far as how many hours per week you should give to participate? On average, I would say students should invest about 15 to 20 hours a week doing this full time. That’s, on average, six to eight units. The semesters are traditional semesters, so they are 15 weeks in length, and there are three semesters per year. Just to recap, if you do the LLM full time, you can do that in as little as 12 months, or three semesters. Again, we do allow up to three years to complete the course, so it is flexible, where you can do it at a part-time scale.

Another good question. Some law schools prefer LLM students to pursue a career in teaching law. We know at USC Gould, we have a wide variety of career options, but in your personal opinion, will obtaining an LLM at the USC Gould School of Law eventually pay for itself?

Anne Marlenga: I can tackle that one, Uni. I’m not familiar with schools that encourage LLM students to pursue careers in teaching law. I think it’s actually a pretty small field. The vast majority of our graduates, and I would guess of most U.S. LLM graduates, do not go on to teach law. In fact, they go on to be legal professionals, either in the U.S. or in their home countries and in a variety of fields. It’s hard to say whether we think the degree will end up paying for itself. It’s a tricky question because students really use the degree for a multitude of reasons. Some students use it to propel their careers forward. They personally feel that it does pay for itself.

Other students use it for enrichment in their personal lives. They just wanna learn a little bit more about the law, so it’s not that they’re necessarily seeking a higher salary or higher position. For every student, I think that means something different, but I would say that when we review our evaluations of students at the end of each semester and at the end of each program, as students graduate, we have an overwhelming majority of students who are very happy that they pursued the LLM program. They feel personally and professionally enriched at the end of it. I think we all hope that the answer is yes, that it has paid off, but I think that defining that means something a little bit different for each individual student.

Uni Arceo: One of the final questions is how many years of experience do typical students come with in this type of online LLM program? You wanna tackle that?

Nick Kajimoto: Sure. It’s actually quite funny. For the online program, we come to realize that a lot of our students actually have at least three to five years of professional work experience. The other important thing to note, too, is for the application, itself – the application process – work experience is not a requirement, but it’s just we’ve found that many of them actually have at least three to five years’ of work experience, though, but it’s not required.

Uni Arceo: If there are any other final questions, please type them in now, otherwise, this will conclude our webinar. Oh, here we go. How are the examinations administered? Are they oral, or with assignments?

Anne Marlenga: I’ll take that one, Uni. Exams are administered differently per each class and each instructor’s preference. In the U.S., it’s very uncommon to have oral exams, so I would be close to guaranteeing that you’ll have zero oral exams. In the online format, it’s a little bit more difficult to do an in-class written exam. Although some professors will do a very traditional written exam, we have software that helps us manage exams. So you may have a professor or two who want you to do, for example, a three-hour essay exam on your computer, so that’s one option.

Some other professors, in lieu of final exams, will require papers or projects or presentations via the online video conference software, so there’s kind of a variety of options available to professors. I think that you’ll find each one has a little bit different view about how they prefer to evaluate students at the end of the semester.

Uni Arceo: Well said. Okay, it looks like this should conclude our webinar, unless there are any last, final questions. Thank you, everyone, for participating. Please contact Uni Arceo or Kendall if you have any further questions. Thank you so much. Any last comments for Nick or Anne?

Anne Marlenga: Thank you for joining us today. We hope to see many of your applications soon.

Nick Kajimoto: It was great talking to you all.

[End of Audio]

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