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Posted March 11, 2016

The Importance Of Reading Outside Your LLM Subject

You may think that Dr Seuss has very little to offer in the way of advice to a postgraduate law student. You would, however, be doing Dr Seuss a grave injustice. According to the Cat In The Hat author: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” His view certainly chimes with those expressed by legal firms looking to recruit postgraduates. In a survey of 20 leading law firms in the UK by the The Times, a ‘strong academic background’ and a ‘global mindset’ came top of their most desirable competencies and skills.

Partners value candidates who can combine their wide-ranging knowledge and intellectual curiosity to take an analytical approach to problem solving and weighing up the pros and cons of an argument. To achieve both, students should look beyond the literature prescribed by their tutors on their LLM program.

Presented with an extensive reading list on day one of your course, you might think that you have more than enough information to contend with. However, taking the initiative to fully explore your chosen specialism and related jurisdictions, will score serious points with tutors and employers alike. It will also give you the confidence to talk and think about the subject with authority.

To achieve breadth and depth within your specialism, go through the footnotes and bibliographies of your textbooks. These will point out further legal reading in the area. Your library should stock academic journals. These peer-reviewed publications, including Harvard Business Law Review, Journal of Law & Gender and Human Rights Journal, will provide insight into both substantive areas of the law and legal developments. Your library will also stock postgraduate dissertations and theses, which could point you in the direction of further related reading. For matters of public policy, you can refer to local and national government publications. They will include policy statements and consultation documents.

SOURCES BEYOND BOOKS

Another essential avenue of reading is the business press. Read the business pages of the national newspapers as well as dedicated legal titles such as Legal Week and The Lawyer. They will keep you up-to-date on the context in which law firms operate. They will also help you hone that all-important commercial instinct.

The internet is another valuable resource. Many national newspapers have extensive online archives and an increasing number of academic journals are only published electronically.

It’s also well worth attending talks by guest speakers. As academics and practising lawyers in their field, they will offer essential information about current thinking. They may even suggest some other useful reading material.

An awareness of all these sources will demonstrate your familiarity with a body of knowledge and establishes the credibility of your own work. It will show that, as well as knowing the ins and outs of your own specialisation, you have looked into ways of working with lawyers from multiple jurisdictions and tried to solve problems with cross-jurisdictional legal, social, economic, political and cultural knowledge. No one, from your tutors to your potential employers, will ever quibble with that.

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