Posted Feb. 7, 2023
While the prospect of pursuing an LLM sounds attractive in theory, how do you know if an LLM is the right course for you and for your career or personal aspirations?
Should you pursue a masters degree in law even if you don’t intend to practice as a lawyer? In this blog article, we aim to help you navigate whether an LLM is the right qualification for you.
Why should you do an LLM?
An LLM is the right qualification for you if…
1. You’re sure that you want to practice as a lawyer
If working as a lawyer is the endgame for you, then a masters degree in law is certainly a good call. Pursuing an LLM demonstrates to potential employers that you have a keen interest in sharpening your legal acumen. Also, given that there are a wide range of LLMs available in a wide variety of specialism from Corporate Law, to Medical Law and Business Law – and much more – an LLM will help you gain specialist knowledge in the field you intend to practice in. This is surely an asset that will help you provide more rigorous legal analysis and impress both your bosses and your clients.
2. You want to become an in-house legal counsel
If your game plan involves working as an in-house counsel for a company, then an LLM is a sure-fire way to indicate to employers who may not be legally-trained that you have an in-depth understanding of the legal matters in the industry. For example, you could pursue an LLM with a specialisation in IP or FinTech legal issues if you intend to work in a finance or tech company. An LLM is one way to demonstrate that you are a legal specialist, which shows your dedication to your field. All in all, greater subject matter knowledge will surely aid your efforts to carve a career pathway as an in-house lawyer.
3. You’re interested in law but want to apply legal knowledge to other fields
If you loved studying law as an undergraduate or if you find that you enjoy debates about topics like ethics and justice and legal principles, then an LLM could be the right qualification for you, even if you don’t necessarily intend to pursue legal work straight away. The rigorous training in analytical, writing, speaking and argumentative skills are easily applicable to many areas of work including business, communications, teaching or even if you are an entrepreneur looking to create your own start-up, the skills you gain on an LLM course will certainly help you to have the skillset and the confidence to excel in whatever path you choose. If you’re unsure of what you want to do for your career, but you want to do a postgraduate course that provides you with several options, an LLM is a great option.
4. If you relate to the description below, an LLM might be for you
If you value discussions and debates, or if you’re the person who’s always “playing the devil’s advocate” when your friendship group has a discussion, or if you’re someone who enjoys analysing the outcomes of news stories on high-profile court cases, then you might just have a disposition that is suited for an LLM. If you’re the type of person who is meticulous and concerned with details, but also conscious that it’s important to consider the “big picture”, then you have a sense of perspective that will be valuable on an LLM course. If you’re able to keep track of multiple tasks and finish them on time, then you’ll be able to handle the expectations of any LLM course and achieve success.
Considerations before applying for your LLM
Before you start on your application for a Master of Laws program there are a few things you should consider helping ensure you’re making the right choice.
1. 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 any savings, but you've got to consider the impact of taking a year out of your career to further it. 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.
2. 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 the University of Groningen.
3. 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 are often ones specialising in subjects such as Finance Law, Business Law and Tax Law.
4. 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.
5. 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 it 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.
It can be hard to figure out what the best postgraduate degree option is for you, and there are so many factors to consider. While it's not a clear-cut answer, what’s important is that you do plenty of research on the particular LLM program you are interested in and check if it aligns with your career, academic and personal aspirations. It doesn’t matter whether you see yourself in private practice, or if you’re thinking of working in an entirely different field, the training an LLM provides is valuable, nonetheless. Still not sure if an LLM is the right course for you? Check out this quiz on whether an LLM is the right course for you, for more details on what makes for a thriving LLM student.
If you are satisfied with the above-mentioned reasons and find LLM the perfect fit for you. It would be best if you started searching for universities and student accommodation immediately because of the limited availability.
You can use the services of amber to search for quality and affordable amber student accommodation around the world. They ensure price transparency and a smooth booking process through their one-click platform.
Writer: Alisa Maya is a graduate student at the UCL Institute of Education.
She is passionate about improving learning experiences for all through EdTech.
Editor’s note: this blog post was originally published in June 2022.
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