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Posted Dec. 14, 2015

Top Tips To Develop New Skills While You Study Your LLM Program

LLM study will enhance your future career prospects in the legal profession. Given that the legal market is quite competitive irrespective of the jurisdiction, you will also need to add to your skill-set to cope with the changes in the global market’s need as far as lawyers are concerned. Even if you planned to do further studies in the topic of your choice, you will still need to update your skills in other areas, for example in research or communication. So, if you thought only proficient multi-taskers could pursue and develop new skills while on an LLM program, then you should probably think again!

You are likely to pick up new skills while on your course since an LLM is meant to prepare you for the next stage of your legal career. This could be happen in several ways: your law school may hold skill sessions or workshops to assist you with the process, or you may come across events that can equip you with the right kind of competencies and techniques to develop your confidence for the future.

Here are some skills that we think are important for you to focus on while you are studying your LLM.

1. Professional skills

This may sound a bit general, but during LLM study law students can develop the knowledge gained from their modules by applying it to the area they wish to practice or research in. Students can benefit from talking to professors who in real life may be practitioners or arbitrators. This may well aid with their understanding of the nuances of legal professionalism as it actually takes places in law firms or courtrooms.

2. Research and analytical skills

Although these two attributes may seem to apply in different times of a law student’s careers, they are directly linked to each other. As you are no doubt aware, law involves research, which is applied to problem solving and communication of legal advice. As new LLM students you must take advantage of all the library and research skills sessions that your law school offers.

3. English language and development

If you are an international student, even though you may have scored well in English language tests to get into the LLM degree of your choice, some of you may wish to continue improving on the English language, especially if you are keen in developing a career in an English-speaking country. Check with your law school if they offer or could suggest relevant short-term courses in English language improvements or Legal English. The University of Edinburgh’s School of Law for example, offers an ‘English for the LLM’ course which it states, “The focus is on the development of skills and confidence in using English for active participation on an LLM degree program. Postgraduate legal study in the UK places particular demands on students' ability to read and comprehend a wide variety of academic and legal texts, including law reports, legislation, law journals and legal textbooks. The course will give students practice in these reading skills in addition to developing speaking and listening skills for seminar participation and writing skills for producing academic assignments. Invited guest speakers will speak on topics relevant to LLM students to develop lecture listening and seminar participation skills.”

4. Networking and communication skills

It is important for people in the legal profession not only to build new relationships, but to maintain them. This would also apply to academic areas of law. Networking is a term used in relation to establishing new connections, including developing interpersonal skills to forge client relationships or even attending an interview for a job.

5. Time management skills

As you have probably realised by now, studying for an LLM is much different from studying an undergraduate degree. It involves a short period of time within which you need to attend seminars/tutorials, research, study, write and submit assessments. Law schools may offer sessions on managing your time during your LLM. Take advantage of these sessions and use your time wisely! This could also prove useful in later years of your legal career.

6. Team work

Team work is a vital skill that lots of people think that they are really good at. Truth is, not everyone is cut out to be an amazing team player, but those skills, like many others, can be learnt. While working on group projects on your LLM you will have to learn to trust that other people will pull their weight when it comes to tasks. It's much easier to learn when the moment comes when you have to talk to a colleague about the work they haven't done. It's not easy the first time to realise that someone you are friends with isn't doing what they said they'd do. Let the first time be when there is time to change what you're doing and not on your first big case as a lawyer! 

7. Critical thinking 

Critical thinking is another vital skill when working in the law, and those analytical and critical thinking skills need to be constantly sharpened. Your independent learning and research for essays and your dissertation during your LLM studies will allow you to develop these skills. Most law schools and universities have Critical Thinking in the Law courses just like the one at Queen Mary University of London's law school does. 

To conclude, some may consider academic brilliance to be sufficient to demonstrate the right knowledge and capabilities to undertake a particular job, but in a highly competitive market it is important to have additional skills for better prospects in getting the job! Talk to academic staff and tutors on the specific skill sets that are best suited to your specialisation areas.

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