Podcast: Overview of LLM Admissions

This podcast is hosted by Dr. Peter Cramer, our LLM & International Admissions Consultant. Dr. Cramer has been working in legal education for over 25 years. He started his law school career at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and later went to Georgetown University Law Center where he served as the Associate Director of the Center for Global Legal English. For nine years prior to joining Spivey Consulting Group, Dr. Cramer worked as the Assistant Dean for Graduate and International Students at Washington University School of Law, where he focused primarily on admissions, course counseling, and instruction.

In this podcast, Dr. Cramer gives an overview of the elements of a successful LLM application, as well as common pitfalls to avoid. You can listen via the YouTube video below, or on SoundCloud or Apple Podcasts.


Hello, I'm Dr. Peter Cramer, and I am a senior consultant for the Spivey Consulting Group and their director of LLM consulting. Before I joined the Spivey Consulting Group, I worked in several major law schools such as Georgetown Law and Washington University in Saint Louis in teaching, administration, and in admissions.

Today, I’d like to talk about what matters most in LLM admissions. I have gone over almost 10,000 applications over the last 14 years, and I can point out what will increase your chances of admission and what you should avoid in the application process.

So let me tell you what matters most to admissions professionals. I will address communication with the law school in a different presentation.

Let’s start with your personal statement. It should exactly be what it says: personal. There is so much other outside information on you from your transcripts, your test scores, and so on, but we want to know who we are going to get as a student — what kind of a person you are — and what it is that makes you passionate about the law. Tell a story, and do not just give us a list of your achievements from your resume. Be genuine — that means be yourself. When you are done, read it out aloud. Ask friends about what they think. Do not worry too much about your English — after all, you are a non-native speaker, and we know this in admissions.

Let’s move on to the statement of purpose. LLM programs often just ask for a statement of purpose and make the personal statement optional. The statement of purpose asks you why you want to study at a specific institution and what it is that makes you the right candidate for this institution. So, do your homework, and find out what programs and courses you’d be interested in, and talk about these and how your previous experience or interest in a specific area of law relates to the program or course at a specific university. Do not write a general and nondescript one-statement-fits-all-schools statement.

How about your CV, your resume? It is an important document for a brief overview of your achievements. This may be one of the first documents the admissions officer reads. Quantify your achievements. Were you number 1 out of 300 in your cohort? What was your GPA?  Did you make 2nd place in the moot court competition? Also, admissions officers don’t always know about rankings of foreign law schools and have to look them up, so tell them about the ranking of your law school. Tell them that you interned at the largest law firm in your country. Also, don’t make your document too long. One to two pages maximum. Avoid listing every single achievement you are proud of such as maybe winning 1st place in a badminton contest.  

Alright, let's talk about the letter of recommendation. You can say a lot of impressive things about yourself in your statement of purpose, but the letter of recommendation talks about how others who you have worked with see you and how they assess your abilities and skills. It is a very important document, so think of it as early as possible, maybe even before you even finish law school or an internship. The longer away you are from an experience, the harder it will be to get a good letter of recommendation. Will your law professor from a law class four years ago remember what you did? The letter of recommendation should refer to whatever may be necessary to do well in law school. That could be grades, a reference to your outstanding analytical thinking, or a comparison to others in class. The better a recommender knows you, the better your chance for a genuine recommendation. If you can make suggestions to the recommender, don’t just give them your CV; give them a bullet list with some of your achievements. Your recommendation should complement the other documents and not just repeat your achievements.

Now here is some advice on your language proficiency score. Schools have certain requirements as to minimum TOEFL or IELTS. If you are below, still apply, and tell your story in your personal statement or in a letter. If you had an English-speaking class and you did well, ask your professor to write a letter of recommendation commenting on your English. If your TOEFL is low because you are a practicing lawyer who does not have enough time to practice for the test, have a partner or supervisor write a letter of recommendation that says that you are often working with English speaking clients — if you do, that is.

Also, remember that deadlines in LLM programs are often flexible. You may be able to take a new proficiency test very late into the process.

These are just a few tips on maximizing your impact, and I will go into greater detail in the future.

This is Dr. Peter Cramer from the Spivey Consulting Group. I will tell you more about what else you can do to improve your chances to get admitted at your target school in my next podcast. Good luck starting the application process!