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Reasons to study an LLM (Master of Laws) abroad
Getting a Master of Laws is an academic option that is open to law graduates as well as eligible non-law graduates. The immediately apparent benefit of an LLM is the specialist knowledge it provides, however there is an added benefit of enhanced employability, because the specialist skills you gain are acquired in a legal context, and this is recognised as being of significant commercial value. Why? Well because we are living in a world where law, politics and business are increasingly intertwined, and a candidate who is familiar with the legal perspective on business practice, government policies or regulatory requirements will have a definite advantage in the workplace.
So once you’ve decided to study for an LLM – why not go further afield and study it abroad? Whether you are searching for a postgrad degree to build on your existing qualifications, looking to give your CV an international sheen, or just want to broaden your outlook by living abroad for a year or so, studying for your LLM abroad could be just the thing for you.Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM
Master of Laws: an opportunity to specialise
For graduates in law, an LLM is an opportunity for in-depth study and exploration of areas of law you may have found intriguing when doing your LLB. Pinpointing your focus in such a way may be helpful when the time comes to choose the right firm or chambers to apply to for a training contract or pupillage, as you can concentrate on the organisations that have strong practice areas in or around your LLM specialism or dissertation area .
While studying an LLM you will interact with academics that have years of experience not only lecturing but also, in some cases, advising policy makers in your chosen field. Many universities invite legal practitioners as guest lecturers and organise opportunities for students to attend industry events, this will enable you to gain exposure to the thinking and practices that contribute to shaping your area of specialism.
An LLM is a great route to specialisation. If for instance you have been working in Finance, perhaps consider an LLM in Banking and Finance Law or Tax Law – and if you are seriously considering doing an LLM in this subject area it could be a good idea to study it in one of the world’s financial capitals like London, Frankfurt or New York. If you’ve built a career in HR, then a Master of Laws in Labour Law could support your aspiration to become Human Resources Director or to run your own recruitment consultancy. A previous career in advertising or media could be enhanced by an LLM in Media or Intellectual Property Law. Human life is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of regulation and so law is relevant to every sphere of society. Even medical doctors have been known to study LLMs in Medical Law!
Build on your experience and develop your skills
A postgraduate law degree may not be the obvious choice if you aren’t actually planning a legal career, however it is a qualification that is respected by employers for the skills it imparts in negotiation, critical analysis, research, persuasive writing and speaking. With an LLM program comes an understanding of the link between business issues and public policy, as well as the ability to sift through masses of complex information to extract what is relevant.
You may not even plan to submit any job applications after your postgraduate studies; perhaps you’re entrepreneurially minded and can see yourself setting up a consultancy business. But even if you are your own boss, you are in fact still ‘employed’ by your clients who will consider your qualifications alongside your competence and professional achievements. So although you may have no intention of ever arguing a position in court or advocating on a client’s behalf, whether you seek a career in government, politics or as an entrepreneur, a law degree is widely recognised for the professional training it provides
Will I have difficulty studying an LLM in a different country?
At first glance there may be some problems in studying your Master of Laws in a different country as an international student. For example, your home country’s legal system may be different to the system in which you want to study your LLM – but in the most part the skills and knowledge that you have should be transferrable. Particularly if you have no plans to become a lawyer, you will find that your legal studies will bring an enhanced perspective to your day-to-day work.
Several universities in the UK will accept you onto their LLM programs even if you do not have a first degree in law, provided you have sufficient experience that is relevant to your chosen law specialism, the required academic capacity and proven English language skills.
Give your CV some global gloss
While we may all be a bit tired of the phrase ‘globalisation’, the reality is that the world is more joined up than ever before and people with an international education and understanding of how things work in global markets do have a professional advantage over those who do not have this perspective. If you earned your first degree in your own country, you would have enjoyed the benefits of a familiar operating system, and of having the support of family and friends. Well now that it’s time for a postgrad experience, it may be time to go further afield.
LLMs are available from reputable institutions around the world and having this on your CV demonstrates that you have engaged with scholars and academics that are world-renowned, interacted with a diverse international student body, and acquired a global way of thinking. With the internet embedded in our daily lives, gone are the days when business remained within national borders – and the same has to be said of education.
Live abroad, study abroad
Your LLM experience could be viewed as a grown up gap year where you get to live in a new country, meet new people and acquire new tastes and yet have more than just a suitcase of souvenirs and a memory card of photographs to show for it; at the end of it all you would be returning home with a tangible long term investment in your future: a Master of Laws.
In a nutshell, studying for an LLM abroad provides an opportunity for you to consolidate the career experience you may have gained in your country with a specialised qualification in a respected field. Add to this an international outlook and a year spent experiencing new things. How perfect is that!
Pros and cons to studying an LLM overseas
With all of this in mind, let's consider the pros and cons to studying an LLM s an international student.
Pros to studying an LLM overseas
First let's take a look at the reasons why studying an LLM overseas is a great idea...
Improve you credentials, marketability and employability
Having a second degree in law from a well-regarded institution no doubt appears more appealing to prospective employers as well as adds value to your credentials, and it also demonstrates your interest and commitment to the legal field. By considering overseas law schools you could study at an institution that is world-renowned for your area of interest.
Acqure a global perspective
An LLM provides an understanding of the legal system of another jurisdiction. With increased focus on globalisation including representation of foreign clients at home, as well as technological advances opening the door for cross-border transactions, law has gained an international dimension which did not exist before.
Study under world-renowned experts
Universities worldwide hire experts and eminent thinkers as faculty members and guest lecturers – by studying at an esteemed law school overseas you will get the opportunity to study under their supervision and interact with them. These institutions offer not only academic excellence but also high-quality infrastructure, extensive legal databases and impeccable reputations.
Pursue an interest in academia
Those who are interested in an academic career, pursuing research or working on policy issues require an advanced degree and for this purpose an LLM is a popular choice. Undertaking this LLM overseas will give you a strong networking advantage and make your academic CV shine.
Experience cultural diversity and live abroad
These universities attract students from across the globe, thus offering the opportunity to study with a vibrantly diverse student population and experience linguistic and cultural diversity. This will enable students to take home a distinctive perception; one that is tempered by the experience of having shared living space with people from all over the world. This is the perfect chance to build lifelong global networks Outside of your studies you will also be able to immerse yourself in the local culture and food.
Hone skills in another language
Studying as an international student will also help you improve your language skills. According to Keith W Brooks – Teaching English As A Second Language (TESOL) expert – it is easier to learn a new language when you live with people speaking that language. For example, an international student from a country where English is not the first language can improve their English speaking skills ten-fold by studying in an English speaking country.
Cons to studying an LLM overseas
But what are the reasons against becoming an international Master of Laws student?
An LLM is expensive and going overseas may mean further debt
Let’s face it, the LLM is a heavy investment and may significantly weigh on your pocket in the future, particularly if you will need a loan to finance study. Generally, the tuition fees are high but the amount ranges depending on the institution you attend and studying as an international student usually makes the tuition fees even higher. Along with the tuition fees you will need to ensure that you set aside a reasonable amount to cover your accommodation and living costs for the duration of your degree. To add further is what is often termed as the “opportunity cost” ie, the money foregone or loss of earnings which one would have earned while working for that duration.
Although an LLM degree may well increase the salary of an associate, but this is not always the case. The effect of an LLM on your salary depends on the focus of your LLM program, the institution where you received your LLM degree, and of course your employer. Therefore, the pay-back value of an LLM is often difficult to determine. We advise that at this point you may wish to consider how much you expect to invest in the LLM, how much you expect to earn after you have gained the qualification. Also check if there are any loans, bursaries or scholarships available, and whether part time employment is a viable option.
It will not guarantee automatic success in the legal job market
A stand-alone LLM does not necessarily guarantee employment. Your job prospects after the LLM are largely dependent on your experience prior to the LLM, your desired area of practice and your academic credentials, therefore an LLM alone cannot be relied upon. To maximise the worth of your degree, it is highly advisable for international students to seek some legal experience in an international law firm in the form of internships or placements prior to returning to your home country.
An LLM can be considered unnecessary
The majority of practicing lawyers and partners in law firms do not hold LLM degrees. Similarly, they may not offer an advantage within a law firm as it is seldom that clients make a hiring decision based on a lawyer having an LLM degree – other endorsements can sometimes seem more important to the clients.
As you can see the list of pros far outweighs the list of cons – you really just need to make sure you have the necessary funding in place.
International student case study
This Jamiacan student chose to study her Master of Laws program in the United States – a decicion that she is very glad she made!
"My LLM journey was for the most part beautifully chaotic. I had 10 months to adjust to a new city, make new friends, learn to drive on the right side of the road (in Jamaica we drive on the left side of the road) and last but by no means least, complete a Master of Laws degree steeped in American law.
Luckily for me, my first language is English which isn’t the case for many international students, and like the United States, most countries in the Commonwealth Caribbean have common law legal systems. Therefore, while the approach to legal writing and research had its nuances in the American legal system, I was familiar with basic legal concepts which helped me to hit the ground running immediately.
Although I had planned to do an LLM for over two years, and spent countless hours researching top tier law schools and the respective programs offered by these universities, in hindsight I should have spent more time mapping out my academic journey. Fortunately, most law schools offer a general LLM which allows students to craft their own “concentrations” and focus on courses that truly interest them. This is a good opportunity for students to research courses, consult with professors, read course reviews and talk to students who already took the course. Because most LLM programs are one academic year in duration, it is very important to be calculated.
There are many course options and limited time, as well as limited credit hours. For example if you intend to sit the New York bar, ensure that you take the required courses. It is also important to seek waivers for required courses that you don’t really have to do. For example, if you don’t intend to sit the New York bar you can seek a waiver for courses like Legal Profession.
In addition to ensuring that the courses you select are relevant for your purposes, ensure that you look into externships, clinics, workshops and seminars in advance. Places for these programs are limited and often go fast. This approach is also important for post completion. If you intend to make use of internship opportunities after your LLM, make sure to start applying early, preferably by mid- February. Make use of connections that you made during externships, through professors, networking events, student associations and your career development center. Linkedin, local bar associations and alumni associations are also useful resources for networking. With only one academic year, it is important to strike a balance between studies and getting involved in activities that may lead to possible employment opportunities.While your LLM program is a period of intense studies, it is also a time for personal development, new experiences, new places and making new friends. Make the best of it!"
Studying law at university – home or abroad?
Wherever you choose to study law, it is likely to be a rewarding experience, both intellectually and ultimately financially.
According to Law Society statistics, 2021/22 had a record year for the number of students applying for law courses in England and Wales, as well as a record number of legal graduates. This table shows the percentages law applications from Home and international students to study law at universities in England and Wales.
Number of law applications to university in the UK
Number of law students accepted to university in the UK
Percentage of successful applications