Postgraduate Law Options

Postgraduate Law OptionsThere are various postgraduate degree law options - and the option you choose depends, in part, on where in
the world you choose to study your postgraduate law degree.

The standard second degree in law is an LLM (Magister Legum in Latin). Years ago, a number of other degree titles, such as a Master’s in Taxation, were fairly common, but they have largely given way to the term “LLM.” This means for example, that the former Masters in Taxation is now likely to be called an LLM in Taxation.

Postgraduate law: the path to studying an LLM

In most countries, to be eligible for an LLM, the applicant is required to have completed a first degree in law, such as an LLB (Bachelor of Laws or Legum Baccalaureus in Latin) or, in the United States, a JD (Juris Doctor). However, in the UK and some other countries, a different qualification may be accepted in lieu of a first law degree.  For instance, someone with a degree in accounting who wishes to develop their knowledge of the legal aspects of international taxation would be considered by many LLM programs to have suitable qualifications.

Those wishing to get a more advanced degree than the LLM could opt for a PhD in Law or, especially in North America, an SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science). These two degrees — a PhD and a SJD — are roughly equivalent: they're the highest degrees in law generally on offer in their respective regions. Applicants for a PhD in Law may or may not be required to have an LLM or equivalent to apply; applicants for an SJD are almost always required to have one.

The progression of degrees for an English law professor might therefore be: LLB, LLM, and, finally, PhD in Law. Find out more about studying an LLM in the UK. The American equivalent would be: BA (in a subject other than law, typically, given that the first American law degree is open only to holders of other university degrees), JD, LLM, then SJD. Find out more about studying an LLM in the US.

Postgraduate law: other options

However, the degrees listed above are not the end of the story - variations on them are not uncommon. At the masters degree level, for example, a school might offer a Master of Comparative Law, or MCL. In general, however, in most countries the LLM is becoming the accepted generic term for a second degree in law, whatever the title given to a specific course or program.

The major exception is to be found in the UK. In England and Wales someone who completes a degree in a non-law subject can do a conversion course to become a lawyer. This is variously termed the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or Graduate Diploma of Law (GDL). Then, after completing either type of initial law degree, an LLB or CPE/GDL, further formal education is still necessary to qualify to become a solicitor or a barrister. Initially, one must complete the one-year full-time, two-year part-time, Legal Practice Course (LPC). After this, the would-be solicitor or barrister serves a two-year apprenticeship. Then, the would-be solicitor needs to complete a Professional Skills Course, whereas a would-be barrister needs to complete a Bar Professional Training Course (formerly termed a Bar Vocational Course). These various post-LLB courses are considered vocational adjuncts to the initial degree, and are not classed as LLMs.

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