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It’s no secret that layoffs, stagnant hiring and bleak prospects for unemployed attorneys abounded this year. What is less obvious is a designation that may separate the winners from the also-rans in today’s competitive job market or help to secure an existing position. A master of laws, known as an LL.M. (Latin for Legum Magister), is available to those already holding a J.D. and to law students who can earn their LL.M.s and J.D.s simultaneously. International law graduates also take advantage of the graduate programs. Larry Bendesky of Philadelphia’s Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky said that an LL.M. in trial advocacy would absolutely give an applicant a leg up at his firm. “It’s somebody that has spent a year doing exactly what we do,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer said. Bendesky, who completed Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law’s 2001/02 trial advocacy program, said he thinks the LL.M. is worthwhile for anyone who concentrates in litigation. The program allows participants to try cases and have their performance and skills evaluated by lawyers and judges. Bendesky said the program was beneficial because he learned to build strong cases, many of which settled. While he didn’t get as much trial experience as he wanted, he said the concentrated course was invaluable because of the feedback participants received. LL.M. candidates hear from potential jurors, respected trial lawyers and judges, he noted. In addition, everything participants did was videotaped, which allowed for another level of evaluation. Saltz Mongeluzzi has sent five attorneys to the trial advocacy program. “It can’t help but enhance your skills,” Bendesky said. Paul G. Nofer, co-chairman of the litigation department at Philadelphia-based Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers, graduated from Temple’s trial advocacy program in 1996. “Every year we send another talented business litigator to the LL.M. program to be transformed into a first-chair trial lawyer,” Nofer said. “The results for us of the program have been very tangible. We think it really translates immediately into more trial wins and better settlements.” Like Bendesky, Nofer indicated that the full year of trying cases and receiving critiques makes the program valuable. The attorney compared the LL.M. with real-world experience and remarked that unlike a live courtroom, which offers no critical evaluations, the trial advocacy program keeps lawyers from repeating their mistakes. And the program develops better litigators since understanding how to try a case translates into improved case-building skills. “By building a better case, it gives you better leverage for negotiating a settlement for [your] client,” he said. Finally, Nofer emphasized the energy that the program generates in its participants. “There’s just a certain energy that comes from enjoying trying cases and knowing you’re good at it,” he said. Temple Law Professor and Director of Trial Advocacy & Clinical Legal Education Edward Ohlbaum said part of Temple’s goal for its trial advocacy program is to provide participants with a substantial amount of experience in a relatively short amount of time at no expense to lawyers’ clients. “What we’ve been able to do in this part-time program is to take people who are working full time as trial lawyers and to give them, over the course of a year on weekends and on weeknight evenings, the kinds of hands-on experience that would take people upwards of five years to obtain,” Ohlbaum said. According to Ohlbaum, Temple’s program typically maintains an enrollment of about 26 lawyers. He noted that numbers tend to fluctuate in part due to the economy, but also because practicing lawyers are both the students and the instructors, which means work demands sometimes require absences or even that students leave the program. The trial advocacy LL.M. includes courses in the art of examination; persuasive and substantive use of the evidence rules; speechmaking; finding, using and cross-examining experts; technological innovations; jury selection; depositions; and pretrial strategy, Ohlbaum said. The professor indicated that some graduates have used the degree to move between sectors in the practitioner community — for example from assistant district attorney to U.S. Attorney — or from public into private practice. And, Ohlbaum said, participants have been recruited by adjunct instructors who were dazzled by their performances. John Drost, the trial advocacy program’s director, said people who obtain the LL.M. want to set themselves apart from other practitioners. He estimated that enrollment numbers are up this year, partly because of the economy and partly due to a perceived need for specialization. Drost said that almost half of the trial advocacy students commute into Philadelphia from outside the county. Currently, there are two students from Harrisburg and past years have seen participants from Northern New Jersey, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Alabama. He noted that Temple offers one of only a handful of trial advocacy programs. “Word of the program has gotten out,” Drost said, “and people that are able to pick up and move, move. And people that are able to commute, commute.” Participants also hail from Chester, Montgomery and Delaware, Pa., counties. “I don’t promise that taking the program is going to get you a better job, or it’s going to get you a different job, or it’s going to get you the job that you’ve always wanted,” Drost said. “What I do promise is that at the end of the program, you will be proficient in trying any kind of case. … While I don’t promise it’s going to make a difference in your career, it always does.” Temple has also offered an LL.M. in taxation for about 30 years, graduate tax program director Kathy Mandelbaum said. According to Mandelbaum, Temple has experienced an enormous enrollment increase in all of its LL.M. programs in recent years, and tax is no exception. Temple is not the only player in the LL.M. arena Villanova and Widener also offer post-degree programs for attorneys. Widener University School of Law has master’s programs for those interested in health law as well as corporate and finance law. The school’s administrative director of graduate programs, Edmund B. Luce, said the corporate law and finance, and health law programs are intended to be small and highly specialized. Luce estimated that between five and 10 new students enter the corporate and finance program each year, with anywhere from two to eight new participants signing up for the health law degree. The program director said corporate and finance LL.M. students fall into three basic categories. First, there are graduates of U.S. law schools who earn their LL.M.s to enhance their credentials. Luce speculated that participants might enroll to increase their job prospects — particularly the likelihood of being hired as corporate counsel — or simply to improve their practices by increasing their substantive knowledge. The second category consists of international lawyers who want to sit for a U.S. bar exam. And third are international attorneys who plan to return to their home countries, but want the LL.M. to bolster their resumes or to start a practice abroad. An American LL.M. is very prestigious in other countries and creates valuable opportunities for degree-holders, Luce said. According to Luce, one international corporate and finance graduate returned home to Tanzania and became a U.S. law lecturer. Another served as Albania’s minister of transportation, with a third returning to work for the insurance commissioner in Puerto Rico. Widener’s health law program, on the other hand, attracts primarily American students who want to enhance their practices or employment opportunities, Luce said. “[I]n both programs, we really try to take advantage of the vast resources available in this region,” Luce said referring to the fact that corporate and finance litigation students are exposed to Delaware’s state courts. Villanova University School of Law offers a demanding graduate tax program that caters to its students, coordinator Cindy Cozzens said. She pointed out that as in other master’s programs for lawyers, graduate tax participants are hard-working professionals. Consequently, Cozzens said, faculty and staff keep their offices open at night. According to Cozzens, enrollment in the program tends to increase when the economy is weak. She said that while accountants typically obtain a master’s of taxation, it’s attorneys who tend to pack the seats during economic downturns. She also noted that students who have already earned their LL.M.s often return to brush up since taxation is an ever-changing practice. Villanova’s LL.M. program tends to sell itself, Cozzens said. Particular strengths include coursework in corporate, estates and digital law, she said. Villanova and Temple also offer certificate programs. These require less time and are more specialized. Both schools award estate planning and employee benefits certificates through their graduate tax programs. Cozzens said a corporate certificate is likely be added at Villanova. The cost of an LL.M. program is not only time, but more than $10,000 in tuition. Temple’s graduate tax LL.M. will set practitioners back $450 per credit if they are Pennsylvania residents, or $620 per credit for non-residents. The trial advocacy program’s 2001/02 tuition was $15,750. Villanova’s tax LL.M. weighs in at $725 per credit hour, while each of Widener’s degrees are $745 per credit. All the schools’ programs, with the exception of trial advocacy, require completion of 24 credits or credit hours.

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