As we all know, law schools are reporting misleading statistics (especially regarding employment) in order to convince students to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars obtaining a law degree. This leaves many students with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and no job or any other realistic way of paying off the loan. For those that do get a job, they can look forward to a lifetime of crushing debt - for example, if they owe $200K at an average interest rate of 8% (which is pretty realistic for a law school with a $40K/year tuition) then the first $16K/year that they pay goes to only pay interest - if they are in the 28% bracket, that means that the first $22K they earn goes to loans.
That's bad - but it could be even worse. Imagine that the promises were even higher - this misleading statistics even worse - and the debt even more insurmountable. That's the reality for most foreign LLM students.
Law schools seem to have become more aggressive in recruiting foreign LLM students these days. There is certainly an increase in the number of students. The law schools also routinely sell to the foreign students the idea that there will be jobs waiting in America as soon as they get the degree. Some law schools have become aggressive enough to start sending delegations to Asian countries to attempt to recruit students.
One big problem that many LLM students face is that they will be competing with US JD students and unless they can find a very specific job that allows them to leverage their specific skill (like an immigration lawyer serving immigrants from their country), then the LLM student is going to be at a great disadvantage. More specifically, I am not talking about LLM students from English-speaking countries like the UK, Canada, or Australia - they have some disadvantage, but not that much. I am more referring to the increasing number of LLM students from non-English speaking countries like China.
Even more frighteningly, I have begun to encounter more and more LLM students who have a very poor grasp of the English language. For some, they have difficulty even carrying on a conversation. For many, their writing does not make grammatical sense at all. However, these students seem to believe that they will be able to successfully compete with American JDs who are typically much, much better at spoken and written English. They seem to believe that someone will hire them as a lawyer even though they can barely speak or write English. I get the feeling that American law schools are lowering their requirements and seeking to increase their number of foreign LLM students as a profit center for the law school and have sold the foreign LLM students a very unrealistic vision.
Potential LLM students - don't believe them that all you need is to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and you will be fine. Instead, you will be at a great disadvantage to US JDs because clients want their lawyer to be able to speak and write clearly - and law firms only want lawyers who can speak and write English clearly. Seriously. Dump your ego. I know several LLM students who think their English skills are top notch, but they have difficulty speaking and writing. Here's the test - do you speak English as well as the lawyers on TV - ALL THE TIME? If not, then you will be at a disadvantage to US-born JDs who do speak and write that well.
The LLM students are really getting a bum deal because they are not familiar with the principles of "Caveat Emptor" when it comes to law schools - they have been trained to believe and not question statistics given to them by people in power. Consequently, they don't question, they drink the kool-aid, and the law schools get to exploit them.
Now here's the tough part. The overwhelming majority of foreign LLM students are not able to find a job in America and consequently they end up going back to their home country - I would say that the percentage that are unable to obtain a job as a US lawyer is greater than 90%. The down side is that salaries in China (for example) are nowhere near where they are in the US. For example, the average US salary is around $40K, but the average Chinese salary, even in the urban areas, is really only around $10K. Now consider the fact that the law students owe $100K on their loans. At 8%, if they only paid the interest it would pretty much wipe them out. (Most of them would not qualify for lower-cost federal student loans because they are foreign nationals.) It is unlikely that they will ever be able to pay off their loans working in China.
I would like to assert that it is disingenuous of the law schools to be going after foreign LLM students in today's market. It's disingenuous to go after regular JD students based on misleading job statistics, but it is even more disingenuous to go after foreign LLM students (using even more disingenuous statistics) who have an even worse chance of getting a US law firm job.
If you are a potential LLM student (especially one from a non-English speaking country like China) thinking that you might get a job in the US market - here's a word of advice: It's not going to happen. Instead there is a huge mismatch between the number of graduating JDs and the available jobs. Also - guess what - as a foreign LLM, you will get hired LAST by just about all law firms. Getting your LLM in the US at this time is NOT a winning scenario.