Celebrating LL.M. Students at Georgetown Law

December 9, 2016

Elisabeth Resch (LL.M.’17), who hails from Austria, and Bianca McDonnell (LL.M.’17), who hails from Australia, discovered upon meeting at Georgetown Law that they were both in the International Legal Studies program, and that they had both worked for the United Nations: Resch at U.N. headquarters in New York, and McDonnell at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. They both share the exact same birthday — date and year — which is also the official date the United Nations came into existence in 1945. So for these two lawyers, founding a new United Nations Association at Georgetown Law seemed a logical thing to do.

“We put out a call for applications and so many students, J.D.s and LL.M.s from different backgrounds responded,” Resch says, noting that in a few short months, the group has enlisted approximately 40 active student members, the majority of whom are international with about 15 from the United States. The group has five committees focusing on different subjects; the Gender Equality Committee, for instance, recently participated in the United Nations’ “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” campaign. “We’ve talked to different professors and institutes around campus as well as practitioners in D.C. and New York…everyone is very supportive.”

From its first class in 1870, Georgetown Law has welcomed international students; among the first class of 25 students was Joseph I. Rodrigues, a resident of Cuba. In the fall of 2016, Georgetown Law welcomed 318 international LL.M. students from 70 different countries. When J.D. students are added, more than 73 countries are now represented on campus — the most ever.

“Georgetown Law has more students from outside the United States than any other American law school,” said Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor, who will be visiting Asia, Europe, and Latin America during Spring 2017 to recruit students and visit with Georgetown Law’s vibrant international alumni boards.

Back home at Georgetown, Treanor noted, new student organizations continue to form, reflecting the many interests of internationally trained lawyers. “One of the biggest changes in the past decade is the rise in the number of international students; in class after class, you have perspectives from different cultures and different legal systems,” Treanor said. “It’s really enriched our environment here.”

Enriching the cultural environment

Though they may only be present at Georgetown Law for a year, more if participating in the innovative two-year LL.M. with a Certificate in Legal English, international LL.M. students contribute much to life on campus. Fittingly, 2016 marked the 25th Anniversary of Foreign Lawyers at Georgetown (FLAG) — though this was not the first group to welcome international LL.M.s. During Reunion Weekend, current FLAG president Zeus P. Dhanbhoora (LL.M.’17) celebrated with past presidents, including founding president Thomas Esslinger (L’91).

Also in Fall 2016, Karim Kobaissy (LL.M.’17), who hails from Lebanon, founded a new Arab Lawyers Organization at Georgetown Law. Junqian Yao (LL.M.’17) from Shaoyang is serving as president of a new Chinese Law Students Association, the first student organization at the Law Center dedicated to discussing legal issues related to China. Kobaissy and Yao are adding to a fleet of more than 100 student organizations which include lawyers from around the globe.

“The community is open-minded, encompassing ideas from all over the world,” says Yao, an International Legal Studies LL.M. student who cites “academic atmosphere and student diversity” as the best parts of the Georgetown Law experience. Challenges include the language barrier and social networking — but here, too, she says, the school is stepping up to help. “[There is] a wonderful Language Center to help us improve both our writing and oral English,” she says. “And for social networking, we are blessed to be here in the heart of D.C., with Georgetown Law offering tons of social opportunities for us.”

The ideal choice

LL.M.s choose Georgetown Law for its academic strengths, for its role as a leader in fields from international law to tax, national security and global health. And yes, there’s that D.C. advantage.

“I believe Georgetown Law would not only provide me with the first-class international law education but also benefit my professional development,” says Yao, who plans to either work for an international organization or pursue an S.J.D. upon graduating. “It’s the ideal location in D.C., with international organizations nearby and huge groups of NGOs and law firms focusing on international law practice located here.”

Resch, who will be doing an externship at the World Bank during the Spring of 2017, wants to pursue a career in climate change mitigation and finance in the context of sustainable development — ideally, in Washington, D.C. “Before coming here, I always thought I’d go back to New York,” she says. “But now that I am here, I am so surprised by how much I like this city.”

For more information about Georgetown Law’s LL.M. programs, contact the Office of Graduate Admissions.