Choice of Law and LSAC story
If you were smart enough to choose law over business, computing or economics major, congratulations you’re on the right path. This statement is arguable, though close to truth. Graduating with an English law degree in a civil law country is something only ‘smart’ people do.
Of course, we all were perfectly aware that our employment chances after graduation was close to nil. The only worse option would be graduating with arts degree. And that’s what we did, we graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Law. If you’re a young lawyer with thin chances of employment or employed in a soul ripping job, you must have already come to a conclusion that you must cruise ship and look for a safe harbor for yourself.
For me, fortunately enough, the motivation behind moving further and taking some graduate degree course was connected with my job requirement. With the recent government action-plan towards privatizing most of the state-owned companies, there was urgent need for a corporate governance and securities lawyers in English law. Hence, my choice fell to English law countries. With my thick over-confidence, I was dumb enough to choose top 4 UK law schools and top 3 US law schools, together with Frankfurt based top law and finance LLM program.
On the last application date with the latest accepting law school my application list looked like this:
1) Stanford Law School — LLM in Corporate Governance and Practice
2) Harvard Law School — General LLM
3) Columbia Law School — General LLM
4) University of Oxford — Master of Sciences in Law and Finance
5) London School of Economics — General LLM
6) Queen Mary University London — LLM in Banking and Finance
7) Institute of Law and Finance — LLM in Finance Law (I still think this program is the best bang for the buck)
Additionally, after having received tons of application fee waivers from US law schools, I was fed up and applied to:
8) Washington University in Saint Louis — General LLM.
If you’re applying to US law schools, you have to go through Law School Admission Council procedure. This is a non-profit organization that collects your documents, reviews them and makes a report to the law school. And the report can be sent to all the law schools through their system. If you think about it, it’s smart idea not to make the student send their documents to every law school. On the other hand, it is costly.
So, the procedure is the following:
You visit the website: lsag.org and go to ‘login as’ part. If you’re an LLM applicant, go to LLM part, if you’re JD applicant, go to JD button. Once you’re there, you register your personal information and credentials, including you recommenders.
Some schools like Columbia accept all applications through LSAC, including all the credential confirmations. Harvard and Stanford, on the other hand, accepts only through their own system and Harvard sets aside option of providing previous law school transcript and letters of recommendation through LSAC (note that Harvard only accepts transcripts through LSAC, but not LORs). You can, however, choose to apply all materials through Harvard application system at: https://hls.harvard.edu/dept/graduate-program/apply/. And for Stanford, all materials MUST be submitted through LSAC. Confusing? Not so much. Once you’re there you’ll navigate your way around.
Generally, you have to provide the following to LSAC:
1) Applicant information (personal details and previous law school information)
2) First law degree transcript (sent through mail directly from your school)
3) Letters of Recommendation (LSAC sends e-mail to your recommenders, once you register them in the system).
Here comes the tricky part. Most US law schools (especially the HYS — Harvard, Yale and Stanford) require first degree in law. The definition of first degree in law is broad, but generally accepted test is that the degree should qualify you to sit in the Bar and practice law in the degree country. My problems started with Columbia early review application deadline. See, Columbia LLM application has two deadlines: Early Review Application Deadline — November 1, 2019 and Regular Review Application Deadline — December 17, 2019. Those who apply until the Early review deadline usually receive their admission decision till December 17 (and most did). This was my plan too.
Just when I was ready to apply to Columbia Law School my Credential Assembly Service (CAS) report came in as following:
If you pay attention to the key, it says that minimum degree requirement is not met even though it is the highest level of US postsecondary-equivalent. The problem with this report is that Columbia would just reject my application without even reading into my other application materials.
After long phone conversations with LSAC officers (overall overseas calls of around 18 hours, which costed approximately 78 USD), I have been told that they would analyze into it and in the meantime, I should go ahead and submit my application. And I did so after Early review deadline. And, guess what? They rejected me for not meeting their minimum degree requirements (i.e. my degree is not first degree in law).
During long phone calls with LSAC officers, I learned that International Transcript Evaluation and Authentication is carried out by a third-party service company, which might even be located in my country. The reason they reported Westminster International University in Tashkent commercial law degree might be that WIUT students do not graduate with Uzbek law degree, but British Commercial law degree.
After loosing all my hopes of getting admitted at least to the lowest ranked T14 US Law Schools due to approaching deadlines, I was motivated by the injustice that I had faced and aimed to correct the wrong for the sake of WIUT future alumni. Hey, the reputation of the university is my reputation also. Just when I thought I lost all hopes, I got a reply from my Harvard graduate friend, whose ITEAS report read as meeting the minimum first degree in law requirement, which she got back in 2016. The idea that both of our diplomas and transcripts came from WIUT, motivated me to take this question further.
As a lawyer with “some” experience I caught the LSAC officer stating that in order to be classified as “first degree in law” my degree should allow me to practice law in my home country, which in fact, was the case: I had been practicing law for almost 6 years, since I graduated. Hence, I embarked on a mission of evidence collection: I gathered and translated (+certified) all my employment records, pay slips, employment contracts, asked copies of my course mates’ advocacy licenses (translated and certified them too) and asked my university to get involved in the process of protecting the WIUT’s reputation for the sake of their future graduates. I wrote very touching letter to the rector of WIUT, cced all law department administration and even Deputy Rector Alan France. And, only Mr. Alan France actually did something to assist me with this question.
After almost 4 weeks of struggle, I got my report updated to this:
Now the key read as “First degree in law”.
You know the rest of the story if you have read “How I got into Stanford”.
Little wins count. And this is how persistent you should be, if you aim high.