What Is An LLM Degree? A Definition

An LLM is a common term used to describe a postgraduate Masters of Law degree. If you've just completed
your first law degree and qualified to practice as a lawyer, then you might be one of the many students who undertake an LLM each year.

Alternatively, you may have been practising as a lawyer for several years and want to improve your knowledge or change your speciality.

LLMs are an important feature of legal education around the world, and typically take one year (full time) or two years (part time). There are many different types of LLM program, and you can choose from general or specialised, on campus or online, by coursework or research paper.

Here's our guide to what an LLM actually is and how much it should cost you to attain.

 How much does it cost? 

LLM tuition fees vary around the world and between law schools. It depends greatly on the prestige of the law school and whether it's a public or private university. In the UK most students can expect an LLM to cost around £15,384, such as the LLM program at the London School of Economics, but in the US an LLM can cost $63,800, such as the one at Harvard Law School, for the year long course. But, these price differences reflect the varying ways universities are funded, and don't let the cost put you off as there are a huge array of funding options available, and studying an LLM in an investment in your future. 

Costs of undertaking an LLM around the world

 How does long it take? 

The length of time it will take you to study an LLM program will depend on your mode of study. Most full-time on-campus courses take one academic year to complete, and this is a busy intensive year of study so students need to factor in the cost of not working while they study. Other students may complete their LLM program on a part-time basis over two years or increasingly courses are available online. These courses are aimed at those students already working and usually take between two and five years to complete. 

 Why should you study an LLM? 

LLM students will all have different reasons for completing a Master of Laws, and for some it will be to further their existing career or to refocus their career in another direction. For other students, they will undertake an LLM right at the start of their careers to gain the knowledge and the contacts to get their plans off to a flying start. Then there are other students who are planning to enter the academic world of the study of the law and so are undertaking LLM courses with a strong emphasis on research

 What specialisms are available? 

There is a huge range of specialisms, but some of the most prestigious law schools only offer general LLM courses that students tailor to their own interests. This means that before applying you must be certain about the specialities of the law professors and the modules that will be offered. If you wish to specialise in a specific area of the law, then you can also undertake a research-based LLM that many of the most prestigious law schools offer, such as the one at the University of Edinburgh. Other law schools offer taught LLM courses in specialised areas. These can vary from Tax and Finance Law to Family Law, Maritime Law, Energy and Natural Resource Law, and Space Law. 

 What qualifications do you need? 

So what are the standard admissions requirements for LLM studies? In most cases, you need at least an undergraduate degree in law. However, there are a number of LLM courses – such as those in Health Care Law – that don't necessarily require students to have a law degree. In many cases, these courses are aimed both at lawyers and those working in the field, not as lawyers, but in a capacity that requires an understanding of the law. In either case, most LLM courses also need some substantial work experience in the area that you are considering specialising in. 

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