NEW ORLEANS – Tulane Law School’s master’s program ranks among the best in the United States for foreign attorneys studying here, according to International Jurist magazine.
Tulane was cited in the magazine’s list of top LLM programs for academics and career opportunities. The schools listed were not ranked. Schools were also judged in the categories of law-school experience and top value. The magazine article says the study used information from the American Bar Association, law schools and other sources in making its selections.
The LLM program has 40 international students. Countries represented include India, Italy, Bolivia, Greece, Nigeria, Panama, Senegal, Albania, Australia, China and Germany. Tulane has a dual curriculum in civil and common law, as well as programs in maritime/admiralty law and comparative law.
Herbert Larson, executive director of international legal and graduate programs at Tulane and a senior professor of practice, told the Louisiana Record the number of international students has been consistent for the past four or five years.
Larson, who has been at Tulane in some capacity since 1992, said there are several ways in which the school attracts international students.
Tulane has the 12th oldest law school in the United States, according to the school’s website, with the law school’s establishment coming in 1847. That means many there is a number of people worldwide in universities and government positions who were trained at Tulane. As an example, Larson cited India, where senior partners at several firms earned advanced degrees from Tulane.
“The best recommendation for any school is for someone who went there who is your professor to say, you know, ‘I attended this school, I enjoyed it, I got an excellent education, I would recommend you consider it,’” Larson said. “That carries a great deal of weight, particularly in specialized fields like energy law, environmental law and maritime law.”
Tulane also has exchange programs with 23 schools, he said, which brings in students from across the globe. Tulane also has LLM or graduate-school fairs, flyers and brochures with the worldwide organizations Education USA and online guides to help draw international students.
Louisiana has a unique status in law, Larson said, describing the state as “an island of civil law in an ocean of common law in the United States.” At Tulane, he said, they’re comfortable going back and forth between common and civil law.
“I think that, in many instances, makes students from around the world comfortable coming to Tulane, because we understand what their background is and we also understand how to teach common law to people who come from a civil-law tradition,” Larson said.
For students transitioning from another country, Larson said Tulane’s LLM programs can start as early in June for students whose language skills need to meet minimum levels. Those students would be required to come to Louisiana early and have three weeks of intensive language courses and legal terminology in English. All international students have to participate in Tulane’s-three-and-a-half-week course that introduces them to United States law.
That allows the international students to become a cohesive group and gain an understand what it’s like to be in an American law school and get a taste of an American legal education, which Larson called “one of the most demanding in the world in terms of the demands of taking on a large amount of materials and being able to think critically.”
That’s especially true for many students who come from schools where rote memorization is a standard, he added.
“Rote memorization will not get you through law school in the U.S.," Larson said. "You have to learn to think critically. You have to learn to think analytically."
Larson said the school would like to expand its international reach “slightly and carefully.” He cited the school’s areas of strength in environmental law as being a draw for students in countries around the Caspian Sea, such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
After visiting Southeast Asia in December, Larson said he would like to see students coming to Tulane from countries there such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. Societies there are opening themselves up to notions of free markets, he said, which increases the need for people trained in international commercial activities. Also, that region has a huge population of people younger than 30.
“They don’t have very many students coming to the United States yet, and it would be nice to basically be … among the first group to have students come over to the U.S.,” Larson said.
International students have been a boon to other students at Tulane, the professor said.
“You can’t practice law without being exposed to international ideas and principles and systems,” Larson said. “The presence of these students is a reminder that these systems do exist and it’s way to sort of gain entree to them.”