20 March 2014

LL.M. in International Dispute Settlement (University of Geneva)

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Giuseppe-Matteo Vaccaro-Incisa

Current positions

  • Research fellow in  International Investment and Trade Law, Bocconi University (Feb. 2013);
  • Lecturer in International Law, Bocconi University (Sept. 2012);
  • Lecturer in Public International Law, Institute Catholique de Lille (Sept. 2010).

Education prior to the LL.M.

Combined Bachelor and Master of Science in Law (3 + 2), with focus on Comparative and International Law, Bocconi University (2002-2007).

LL.M.  you enrolled

MIDS – Advanced LL.M. in International Dispute Settlement, Université de Génève & IHEID (Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement), 2008-2009.

When and why did you decide to do this LL.M.?

I decided to enroll in a LL.M. program towards the end of my legal traineeship; before earning my degree, I would find my passion in the field of International Law, for Commercial Arbitration (which is how International Law most commonly appears in Law offices) and for the other main fields of it. I was thus admitted to the MIDS (acronym for Advanced LL.M. in International Dispute Settlement) in 2008, at the age of 25.

One of the reasons I think that doing a LL.M. without any previous professional experience may not be the most effective choice is that you are not sufficiently prepared for either what you are going to be required to do, or how to actually do it. In the beginning there was only one type of LL.M., a title created by the American and English Ivy League universities, consisting usually in a one-year highly intensive study course. Over the time, especially in Europe, the term LL.M. started  to be used more generically to indicate various one-year long programs with credits more or less equivalent to an intense year of a regular degree. Therefore, nowadays, in order to differentiate the two types, the original LL.M. is called Advanced LL.M., while the simple LL.M. indicates a program which can be joined by both students of the fourth and fifth year of the Combined Bachelor and Master of Science in Law and those who have already graduated. At least, this is what I see happening in France, Belgium and The Netherlands.

What do Advanced LL.M.s consist in?

Advanced LL.M.s usually require some previous professional experience, either because it is expressly requested or because, during the severe selection, only the best curricula are admitted. A LL.M. program would be very intense: besides studying and attending lectures, notes and critiques are to be produced and papers to be written during the whole academic year. Being among professionals (in my case there were 24 of us and everybody, but a young Russian girl, had even a minimum previous professional experience), the final exam by itself would lose its relevance. Once there, what usually happens is that you are given the material to study and you are to attend both basic courses, which last one semester, and some intensive ones.

The intensive courses would enable students to confront themselves to the ‘princes’ of International Law, discussing the material prepared by the professor (which needs to be previously read and studied) during three days. On this occasion, the professor could also be looking, through the dialogue with the students, for ideas for his or her own decision (of course, you may never know if it is actually so). This would teach you to be careful with opinions and judgments: mistakes are normal but, if spiced with arrogance or superficiality, it could be difficult to ‘remove the stains’ from the impression you may have given. On the other hand, in these circumstances silence may not be always ‘golden’: the ones who expose themselves usually have a better chance to be ‘remembered’.

It is because of this that doing a LL.M. as a student without a work experience, especially for the Italians, used to a more passive relationship with professors, might be less useful than doing it after having found and worked on your professional passion. Sometimes the amount of work can be overwhelming (I am just saying, I did not manage to go skiing until April, and I was in Geneva!) and, if you do not make a serious and passionate choice, all this studying could end up having a ‘boomerang’ effect on your results and on your general interest for the subject.

The main LL.M.s are organized by Anglo-Saxon universities and few others on the continent. The consequence of this is that, as it is tradition at these institutions, the program would entail great interaction. I would thus advise Italian students to be ready to study and work much, enjoying only little free time, to interact greatly, and to attend courses in English (and, in this case, in French as well).

Why did you choose the LL.M. at Université de Génève? What aspects did you consider in making your choice?

The choice was not easy. I applied to various LL.M.s that I considered to be prestigious, after consulting known professors and lawyers who I had the chance to meet. I thus applied both to the LL.M. in International Arbitration at Queen Mary of London, and to the MIDS in Geneva which was at its first edition. I was admitted to both and in the end, after another round of consultations, I preferred Geneva both for the program and for the opportunity it gave to have a less passive relationship with professors (the number of admitted students was far inferior: at Queen Mary LL.M.s there could have been even more than 100 students, in Geneva not more the 35 students).

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