International LLM Student Sees LLS Degree as Bridge to New York Law Practice

LLM Student Piyumi Jayarathne
Piyumi Jayarathne, LLM '19

Piyumi Jayarathne ’20 readily admits that when she decided to leave her home in Sri Lanka to attend LMU Loyola Law School to study for an LLM degree as an international student, she had no idea what the whole process involved. Once she contacted the law school’s office of admissions, however, she felt reassured.

“I bothered the administrators and staff a lot, asking plenty of questions, because I didn’t know anything,” Jayarathne said. “But I developed a nice impression of Loyola Law School because they were very professional and helped me a lot.”

That impression grew when she arrived on campus in January 2019. “When I came to Orientation, the LLM admissions staff and faculty knew all of us by name and gave us a very warm welcome.”

Jayarathne appreciated the help and support Loyola gives international students – so much so that she decided to join the effort during the fall semester. Her first job in the United States, Jayarathne worked for the graduate admissions office, helping her fellow LLM students from around the globe.

As part of her duties, Jayarathne helped students like her acclimate to LLS and life in Los Angeles. Once the new international students arrived, they had many more questions, and Jayarathne had answers. “They wanted me to show them the halls and classrooms, how to make appointments with professors and how to organize themselves.”

Although a native of Sri Lanka, where many of her relatives are prominent lawyers, Jayarathne obtained her law degree, an LLB, from the University of London. She returned home for a year’s further study, and then in 2016 accepted a position with a small business law firm. “I worked on a lot of agreements, contracts and business law matters,” she said.

In 2018, Jayarathne went to work for a litigator, providing her experience with real estate, divorce and other civil matters. The practice also included appellate cases before Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court, including cases involving fundamental rights. It was while working at the Supreme Court that Jayarathne decided to pursue an LLM degree in the United States.

She chose Loyola Law School in part because it allowed her to start in the spring semester. She was also drawn to the many names familiar to her among the LLS faculty through their widely known scholarship.

One professor was especially helpful when she arrived: Professor Aaron Ghirardelli, faculty director of LLS’ LLM/JSD programs. Ghirardelli helped her select her classes and understand the opportunities available under her U.S. visa.

Because Jayarathne intends to practice in New York, where she has family, Ghirardelli persuaded her to pursue the Bar Track LLM.

Professor Ghirardelli also organizes special events for international LLM students. Trips such as a visit to the Getty Museum and the headquarters of the dating app Tinder allow the law school’s LLM students to explore live legal issues while networking with Loyola Law School alumni.

Ghirardelli wasn’t the only friendly member of the faculty. “I was never afraid or nervous because the professors treated me so well. They understood that I’m an international student, and everything was strange to me,” she said. “Without their help, I wouldn’t have done so well in my first semester.”

Among her favorites were Professor Victor Gold, former LLS dean who teaches Contracts; and Professor Tom Riordan, who teaches Ethical Lawyering and American Legal Research for Foreign Lawyers. Recently, Jayarathne took a Constitutional Law course taught by Professor Allan Ides.

Jayarathne studied constitutional law during her time in England and Sri Lanka, and although both are common law countries, their constitutional systems are very different from the U.S. system.

Growing up in Sri Lanka, Jayarathne watched many U.S. television programs. “They are always talking about the U.S. Constitution. Now that I’m learning about this, it makes sense.”