Columbia Law’s Executive LL.M. in Global Business Law Supercharges the Careers of International Practitioners
Now in its fifth year, the accelerated six-month degree program has educated scores of accomplished lawyers from around the world.
When lawyers commence Columbia Law School’s Executive LL.M. Program in Global Business Law, they soon discover that they may learn as much from their classmates—exceptional attorneys like themselves who have worked in firms, corporations, NGOs, academia, and courts—as from their professors.
“There is a lot of peer-to-peer learning because E.LL.M. students come from both common law and civil law systems, and we work across jurisdictions,” says Karan Joseph ’22 E.LL.M., a partner specializing in dispute resolution at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. in India. “And my classmates had considerable experience, which elevated the entire learning process.”
The five-year-old E.LL.M. program has so far educated nearly 100 mid-career lawyers who are citizens of 29 countries with an average of 12 years of professional experience, including partners at firms in China, Hong Kong, Mexico, and South Africa, advocates in India, and in-house counsel in Nigeria, the United States, and Colombia.
“The program has become an incredible space to flourish for accomplished, ambitious, lifelong learners,” says Julie Sculli, assistant dean, Office of Graduate Degree Programs. “The students are superstars and bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience that they have gained so far in life. They are excited to both share what they know with each other and continue to build on that.”
Over six months, E.LL.M. students take online courses from their home countries both before and after a required 12-week summer residency at the Law School. Their unique curriculum includes the Global Business Law Colloquium, a course offered only in connection with the E.LL.M. Taken during the on-campus residency, the class focuses on current issues facing lawyers practicing business law today as well as the development of leadership skills. Other key courses include those on regulation of the digital economy, corporate finance and valuation, international commercial arbitration, IP in the digital age, M&A practice, and more taught by Columbia’s world-class faculty.
The academically rigorous program attracts practitioners who cannot or prefer not to be away from their jobs or families to spend 10 months in New York like traditional LL.M. students, who complete their master of laws program fully in person. The E.LL.M. students are also drawn to the opportunity to take classes with a small cohort of seasoned lawyers. “This is one of the most essential parts of the program and has benefited me significantly,” says Mingming Wo ’22 E.LL.M., who lives in Shanghai and is senior legal counsel for Nio, the Chinese electric vehicle company. “Thanks to the class size and diversity, I was able to communicate meaningfully with my classmates during the program. They were very willing to share their experiences and perspectives with me. These interactions deeply influenced my worldview.”
Luis Ramón Garcés Díaz ’23 E.LL.M., a professor, arbitrator, practitioner, and former associate judge in the civil chamber of the Supreme Court of Colombia with 30 years of professional experience, found the program highly relevant. “Despite the number of years you have been practicing law, the E.LL.M. program offers a comprehensive ‘state-of-the-art’ view of global business law, and constitutes an extremely useful tool to strengthen your knowledge and skills and to acquire new ones,” says Garcés Díaz. “The professors are incredibly experienced and always willing to promote deep analysis of the subjects.”
Graduates of the program say they appreciate not only that their professors are leading experts in their fields but also the American style of participatory pedagogy—including cold calls. “It was very different from my Indian legal education,” says Joseph. “I was blown away by the quality of teachers that we had. I mean, they were all absolute rock stars.”
The professors, in turn, appreciate that E.LL.M. students know the particulars of real-world lawyering and the vicissitudes of representing clients. “The students come to the classroom very motivated, always prepared to share their own professional experiences in ways that make the classroom experience rich, exciting, and different every day,” says Anu Bradford, Henry L. Moses Professor of Law and International Organization, who teaches Regulation of the Digital Economy to E.LL.M. students. “They are used to handling complex legal issues and remain unfazed when confronting legal questions without obvious answers. They also ask very perceptive questions, and the classroom dynamic is very interactive and conversational. It often feels like a roundtable discussion among peers rather than a traditional classroom.”
The intimacy of the program fosters camaraderie and lifelong friendships. These personal connections are the foundation for ongoing professional relationships among the program’s alumni.
Joanna Fuglewicz ’22 E.LL.M. says she and her classmates stay in touch through their “E.LL.M. Family” group on WhatsApp. “We contact each other asking for professional advice, sharing some news from personal life, professional achievements, and so on,” says Fuglewicz, who works in Warsaw as an in-house lawyer at G2A.com, which bills itself as the world's largest marketplace for digital entertainment. “Because we all work internationally, if any of us are looking for a lawyer in a specific jurisdiction, we always contact our E.LL.M. Family group to ask about some recommendations.”
Garcés Díaz says the program more than met his expectations. “I certainly recommend the E.LL.M. program,” he says. “Its innovative design in terms of content, duration, and methodology offers a unique opportunity in the never-ending path of professional development, and it takes place in an international environment of constructive learning, enjoyable interaction, and academic excellence.”
The credential itself is also valuable. Joseph says his degree has boosted his profile in the Indian legal community. “There is a certain heft to being an alumnus of Columbia,” he says.
The success of the program rests on how it transforms the personal and professional lives of its graduates. “The E.LL.M. is an investment in the future,” says Sculli. “It provides an opportunity to not just adapt to the changing world, but to lead it.”