Brooklyn Law School’s new LL.M. program was recently ranked in The New York Law Journal Reader Rankings as the second best program in New York. Its small class size and personal approach, combined with a range of events designed to encourage learning through many avenues, has enabled students from across the globe to pursue a degree that will greatly benefit their career pursuits.
"It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by the legal community,” said Don Forchelli Professor of Law Lawrence Solan, who helped establish the program. “We have worked hard to develop a program that is designed to meet the educational and professional priorities of the students who choose to enroll in it. We are delighted to see our straightforward approach receive attention so quickly.”
“Our LL.M. students bring personal and professional experiences to our law school community that enrich the learning experience for everyone, from the faculty members who are teaching to the J.D. students who are learning alongside them in the classroom,” said Julie Sculli, Director of International Programs and Academic Services Coordinator. “Our current class is comprised of students from Argentina, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, England, Haiti, Panama, and South Africa. Some work either full-time or part-time in addition to taking classes. They are completely committed to succeeding, and we are doing everything we can to see that happen.”
Guillermo Valdeon ’12 said he was motivated to obtain an LL.M. because of his past experiences. “Having been born and raised in New York to an immigrant family definitely had an impact throughout my life. I was exposed at a very young age to the multicultural richness of New York City, but also to the legal system that many foreign households have come to know, where terms like ‘visa’ and ‘alien status’ are commonly used.”
Valdeon was born and raised in America until he moved to Argentina as a teenager. There, he finished secondary school, studied law, and then practiced as a lawyer after graduation. Valdeon received his law degree from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina. After graduating, he taught English and Spanish to foreigners, worked as a legal assistant, and as an international trade department representative. He eventually returned to America and began working full-time for the U.S. Social Security Administration, where he currently works, while studying part-time.
Valdeon said that obtaining an LL.M. will enable him to understand the U.S. legal system more comprehensively and be able to practice law in the United States and abroad. “I can practice law in the United States and transition from one legal system to another and the degree will distinguish me in Argentina when or if I choose to practice law there.” After graduation, Valdeon hopes to practice international business law so that he may apply his knowledge and experience to cross-border work.
Diana Chavez ’12, another LL.M. student, knew at a very young age that she would become an attorney. Her dream was realized after high school when she enrolled at Universidad Catolica Boliviana and obtained her law degree. After graduation, she began working at a law firm in La Paz until an opportunity arose in New York to work as a legal advisor for a boutique law firm with Bolivian business interests. “I was thrilled to work in the U.S. and experience the common law that I had only previously read about in books,” Chavez said.
New York introduced her to a new practice of law—and to her husband. As a result, she ended up staying in America longer than she anticipated. She later landed a job at another boutique firm downtown where she currently works full-time as a bankruptcy paralegal with an attorney who she says has been a wonderful mentor. Her desire to practice law in the United States led her apply to Brooklyn Law School’s LL.M. program.
Chavez hopes to expand her current knowledge of U.S. law and learn more about immigration law. “For me, Brooklyn Law School is the perfect place to study immigration law, primarily because New York attracts such a diverse immigrant population. I hope to give back to the country that has given me so much. I am honored to be in the first LL.M. class. It is a priceless experience to have such a personalized education due to the small size and attention given by the professors.”
In one sense, Chavez has already attained her goal to learn more about U.S. law. On January 21, 2011 she took the Oath of Allegiance and became a U.S. citizen. Of her citizenship and her desire to be a part of the U.S. legal community, she said, “I wanted to become a citizen of a country where justice, while imperfect, is never taken for granted.”