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Posted April 23, 2018

Can You Study An LLM With Low Grades?

Low Grade LLMLife isn't all about your grades, but it can feel that way if you've not achieved the grades you were hoping for, especially if you want to go on to study an LLM program.

However, don't worry if your undergraduate degree results were a little less than stellar, as there are plenty of ways to get onto an LLM course without the best grades in the world. 

Work experience

In the immediate aftermath of getting your undergraduate results, you might think that there is not much you can do it. However, you will feel differently after a couple of years of working for a legal firm, as you'll have been exposed to the working edge of the law. This work experience will be invaluable when applying for an LLM course. Another way in could be to work in a company that specialises in your area of interest – even if it’s not in the legal field of that company. For example if Environmental Law is your thing, then working in that field of interest will almost certainly boost your appeal to the LLM addmissions team.

Specialist knowledge

Spend your free time reading up on cases and finding out all that you can about an area of the law you are interested in. If you've got your heart set on a certain area, then you should find a position working in this area. It almost doesn't matter what you are doing, you don't need to be in court, you just need exposure to the area of the law that inspires you. For example if you are interested in studying an LLM in Business Law you will definitely benefit from having some knowledge and experience of the business world.

Picking the right law school

Picking the right law school involves using a bit of judgement and speaking with people who have already completed an LLM program. Picking the right law school for you will make a big difference. Have you spent your time working in a legal practice specialising in Commercial Law? Well, you're going to have a greater chance of getting onto an LLM course with a law school that has a strong Commercial Law emphasis. Some institutions will value high grades but plenty of law schools don't and place a high value on experience. 

Excellent recommendations

Get yourself some glowing references from your superiors that will reflect well on you. These recommendations might really help to open doors for you, especially if the recommendations come from alumni of the law school you are applying to or if the academic staff are familiar with your referee's work. 

Try to get something published

Yes, we know it’s ambitious, but it is worth a shot! Try to get a piece of your legal research or analysis published on a reputable legal website or journal. This will look great on your CV and on any application form. 

Did you have mitigating circumstances?

When you were completing your undergraduate degree were there mitigating circumstances? If you were caring for others or struggling with illness, or have another good reason why you underperformed then you might find that law schools will be surprisingly understanding, and even admire the grades you did get all the more. Think carefully about what you wish to disclose, but remember that your information will stay confidential and if your situation has changed it might get you onto the course giving you the fresh start you need. 

Consider international study

All undergraduate degrees are not equal and low grades in one country can sometimes translate favourably into another country's system. There are plenty of law schools that will accept international students onto the course if the student can prove that they will be able to complete the coursework and have the necessary English language test scores.

What about a low English language test score?

International students who want to study on an LLM course are well aware that they need to achieve a certain score on an accredited English Language Test. Key examples of those tests include TOEFL and IELTS, plus there are other options. Law schools usually specify a language requirement on their application forms, and candidates who do not receive the required grade can be faced with rejection from the school of their choice. Nevertheless, if you have achieved a lower grade on your English test than you needed, do not despair, as there are options for you.

Retake the original test

If you don’t get the results you need in your first test it is possible to retake the IELTS or the TOEFL test. However, there is a time factor involved here as you will need to wait for the next test round, and then you will need to wait again to get your grades. This could take up to a year all in, meaning that your starting date at law school may be significantly delayed. If time is not of the essence this could be a good option for you. If you’ve secured a place at law school and all that you needed was the right grade on your English language test to make the application complete, it is important to get in touch with your law school admissions office and your academic advisor as soon as possible to ensure that they are happy with extending your study and can guarantee you a place as soon as you have met the language requirements. Make sure you take the time to explain your circumstances calmly and clearly and let them know that you would really appreciate their help in this matter. If you are planning to study in the US don’t forget to make sure you check on the US government visa website that you will still retain your visa for the extended time period.

Study English whilst at law school

Many law students find that they have not met the English language requirements stipulated by their course. The good news is that law schools are well aware of this, and often offer intensive English language courses that students can take alongside their legal studies. This may mean starting at the law school earlier than everyone else, so that you can begin some intensive language training. Although this is a great option, you need to be aware that it will mean that your initial workload will be higher than that of many of your fellow law students.

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