A week in the life of an LLM (Master of Laws) student

LLM student diary
As an LLM student living in the heart of London in Bloomsbury, during the academic year each week I experience a unique mix of excitement,  pressure, stress, challenges, opportunities and a sense of achievement – and no two weeks are ever the same! As the teaching period is only eight months long for the degree in England, it often seems that it is over very soon after the academic year commences, hence careful planning is required to make the maximum use of the time. I would personally summarise my year into periods – the settling in and getting to know your university and courses period, the end of first term submission period, second term and end of term exam period and finally dissertation period. While it is difficult to talk about a typical week during the year as each week and the amount of work varies according to which period of the year it falls into, below I try to provide a glimpse of the highs and lows during a week in my life as an LLM student.

It may seem obvious, but is worth stating that it is crucial to opt for LLM modules you genuinely have a flair for. As a masters student, you are expected to be responsible and in charge of your own work and learning. Each lecture requires vast amounts of pre-reading and having an interest in the subject makes the job much easier. My week involves attending four lectures, one for each module and four tutorials which left me a day in the week free. While initially I was excited at the thought of having an extra day to myself, I soon realized that I would have to use that time in the library completing my readings and notes for the week. While attendance is never strictly monitored by the university, my passion for the modules I had opted for and the sense of responsibility I have attained as a masters student ensure my presence for each of my classes.

Monday

Throughout the year, I have considered myself quite lucky as my first lecture on Mondays starts at 6 o’clock in the evening, leaving me a bit of time to sleep in! However, this week isn’t a regular week as I am required to present my arguments for a moot arbitration in class as part of the practical section of one of my modules, international commercial arbitration. As I put on my suit, rehearsing my arguments in my head, I feel like a lawyer eager to make an appearance in front of the judges. I’m nervous, yet excited. I rush to the university to meet my group members with whom I had been working for the moot arbitration. The groups had been selected by the professors, resulting in a great blend of nationalities, my group members are from Germany, Jordan, UAE, Nigeria, United States and Pakistan. Being put into groups has allowed me to make new friends, giving me opportunity to learn something new from them in each of our meetings.

I discuss and rehearse my arguments with my group members and received their valuable feedback. After the session, I spend time in the library researching and making final touches to my arguments. Having to present like a lawyer in front of our professors who are leading practitioners in their field and receiving their feedback on my presentation enhances my confidence and advocacy skills and provides me insight into the practical aspects of the subject.

After our class I joined my classmates for drinks in a bar located close to our university campus. This allows us not only to de-stress from the work we had put into the presentations that day, but also to pump up our energy before we got down to submitting our coursework essays which are due later in the week that account towards 40% of our total marks for the module.

Tuesday

Studying for an LLM in London has many advantages as London always has a lot to offer, and this equally holds true whether it is for leisure activities or academics. There are various lectures and public events being hosted by institutions which can be attended – you just need to make sure you keep an eye out for them. On Tuesday after attending my lectures at the university I head to London School of Economics and Political Science to attend a lecture on Islamic Finance titled, “Islamic Finance and Shariah Compliance: Reality and Expectations” which was delivered by notable speakers, Dr. Frank E. Vogel from Harvard Law School and Tan Sri Dato’ Azman from Malaysia. The lecture ties in particularly well with my module Islamic Finance. At times like this I feel really fortunate for being able to study in the heart of London, where I’m able to interact with such impressive personalities.            

Wednesday

On Wednesday, after attending my lectures of Intellectual Property Rights and Development and Islamic Finance at my university, I attend a tutoring session at St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School as part of Team-Up Project I had opted for through my university. Team-up involves volunteering with a team of university students to mentor, tutor and inspire secondary school pupils to accelerate their academic progress. I have also been chosen as the liaison officer for Team-Up which involved liaising with volunteers from SOAS and St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School. This means I am responsible for arranging tutoring sessions, reporting and dealing with absentees, attending committee training, timetabling pupils, ensuring successful CRB checking, maintaining online register for each week, keeping records of sessions and academic progress of pupils, and acting as the primary point of contact for pupils’ parents. I always look forward to my tutoring sessions as I particularly enjoy spending time with my pupils and have developed a good rapport with my pupils in a short time. Working as the liaison officer helps in enhancing my teamwork and leadership skills, as well as to build my resume.

Thursday

Student diary LLMOn Thursday, I begin my day with a meeting scheduled with my professor to discuss the research material I have collected for an upcoming class presentation on constitutional law in India. Having discussed the subject and my research materials I head to the library to follow up on the additional reading material he has recommended. As I have the day off from lectures, I decide to use my time completing my notes for the presentation. With the library being well stocked it’s easy to locate all the recommended material. While the reading is extensive it is vital to sort through the material in order of importance given the short time available. As an LLM student managing large amounts of reading becomes an everyday task. This day is a long one with hours of work; however at the end of the day having completed the goals I had set myself I have a sweet sense of accomplishment.

Friday

On Friday after attending my last tutorial sessions for the week, I meet my Ukulele society members for a practice session. While the LLM program is academically challenging, most students I know live by the motto that it is essential to take out time for other enjoyable activities. With the number of societies and clubs ranging from yoga, dance, sports, languages, politics present at the university it was easy to find something to suit my interests and this has also provided a convenient way of meeting new people outside of the friends I have from my classes. Needless, to say I had made some great friends at the Ukulele sessions as we struggle through the sessions initially trying to grasp the basics for playing the instruments. For me learning to play the instrument had provided a welcome break from the stress that workload and deadlines can bring with it and as an LLM student I highly advice everyone planning to take an LLM to ensure they don’t miss out on the fun that being an LLM student can also bring with it!

Shafaq Asmat studied her LLM program at SOAS University of London.

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