Before you start on your application for a Master of Laws program there are a few things you should consider.
By asking yourself a few key questions you can help ensure that you are making the right choice and undertaking the perfect LLM course at the right time for you.
Can you afford it?
Studying full time for a year – as some LLM courses do not have a part-time option – will mean you will not be able to earn much money while you are learning. And even if you opt for a part-time or online LLM program you will still need to be able to cover the costs of your LLM tuition fees and course textbooks. There are financing options available if you've not got the savings, but you've got to consider the impact of taking a year out of your career to further it. Applying for a private loan to cover the costs of your studies through a company like Prodigy Finance could be a good option if you need help funding your LLM program. They offer tailor-made loans for postgraduate students with competitive repayment rates and other student benefits. Make sure you thoroughly consider all of your financing options and have a chat with someone you consider a mentor or who has completed an LLM already to get the real picture of the costs involved.
Are your grades high enough?
If you’re not sure that you have high enough grades to meet the LLM entrance requirements, don’t panic. Enquire with the law school, as in many cases relevant work experience is deemed just as valuable as an excellent undergraduate law grade. Otherwise, you might find that your law school offers a pre-LLM course that, with successful completion, will give you the grades necessary to get into the course. Pre-LLM courses are offered by a number of different law schools such as University of Southampton and the University of Groningen.
Do you have relevant work experience?
There are some LLMs – particularly those that are oversubscribed and competitive – that require relevant work experience in addition to excellent grades to gain a place. Those courses, often specialising in subjects such as Finance Law, Business Law and Tax Law, are often ones that need work experience along with other popular subjects such as Human Rights Law.
Do you want to study a taught or research LLM?
A research LLM is a great option for those students who have been working in the law for some time and want an LLM to tie their legal knowledge together. Undertaking an LLM by Research is not an easy option and can be a lonely existence, but it can also lead to an academic career and a PhD, which is the ideal path for some. A taught LLM is perfect for those students who want to extend their knowledge and become certified experts in a certain field of the law. You might have a little less control over what you study with a taught LLM, but some taught LLM programs are designed for students to enter an academic career in the law as well, such as the Harvard LLM program.
How do you want to study?
Many LLM programs only have a full-time option, especially those in the US that are aimed at foreign-trained lawyers wishing to work in the States. Otherwise, many LLM programs can be completed in two years with part-time study. Combining part-time study with working is a difficult way to study, but can also be rewarding and more affordable. Most online or distance learning courses are designed to be done part time and require the student to have significant self-motivation to continue to study with no fellow students around them.
US law school graduation
Here is a table of the number of JD and non-JD (LLM) students graduating from US law schools between 2015 and 2018.