LLM Overview: Studying a Master of Laws degree

The definition of a Master of Laws (LLM) degree is that it is an advanced law degree that is open to those who already have a first law degree, and sometimes those with equivalent qualifications – there are very good reasons for taking one. LLMs are an increasingly common and important feature of legal education around the world, they typically take one year (full time) or two years (part time). There are many different types: general or specialised, on site or through distance or online learning, by coursework or research paper. 

Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM

LLM OverviewIn the 1970s, the 50 or so schools in the US and UK offering LLM degrees constituted over half of the worldwide total. The situation has changed dramatically since then. LLMs are now offered in over 40 countries by over 300 schools. In fact, it is very difficult to get an exact count of the number of programmes or even the number of schools offering LLMs because new ones are constantly being created.

What sort of people study an LLM degree?

 Once upon a time, the only people who pursued an LLM did so to become familiar with another legal system (generally that of the US or the UK) or as a stepping stone to a career teaching law, but those days are now ancient history. The increasing complexity of modern legal systems has pushed ever more lawyers to seek additional training. In most developed countries, for instance, lawyers routinely take continuing legal education courses in a way that would not have been recognisable even 20 years ago.

 Similarly, more and more lawyers – probably several tens of thousands – are currently pursuing LLMs. And it is not just lawyers wrestling with the increased complexity of legal practice who now pursue LLMs. Some seek simply to strengthen their core skills – writing and research, for instance – to be better at traditional lawyering.

Is an LLM degree for you?

The articles on this site discuss the many compelling reasons for doing an LLM. Before rushing into one, though, consider carefully whether the expenditure of time and money will pay off for you. After all, a year of full-time study will take you away from your current (or prospective) employer, when you could be earning money and, at least potentially, learning by doing. Part-time study offers the chance to earn and learn simultaneously, of course, but it too involves trade-offs (discussed in more detail in the following article).

Once upon a time, the only people who pursued an LLM did so to become familiar with another legal system (generally that of the US or the UK) or as a stepping stone to a career teaching law. Those days are now ancient history. The increasing complexity of modern legal systems has pushed ever more lawyers to seek additional training.

In most developed countries, for instance, lawyers routinely take continuing legal education courses in a way that would not have been recognisable even 20 years ago. Similarly, more and more lawyers – probably several tens of thousands – are currently pursuing LLMs. And it is not just lawyers wrestling with the increased complexity of legal practice who now pursue LLMs. Some seek simply to strengthen their core skills – writing and research, for instance – to be better at traditional lawyering.

Consider your alternatives carefully, whether they include pursuing another degree, such as an MBA (which takes about the same amount of time as an LLM), or furthering your career by continuing to work.

When is the best time to study an llm degree?

There is no set time to do an LLM. Some people do so immediately after completing their first law degree, whereas others wait until they have been in practice for several or many years.

In general, those who should look to pursue an LLM very early in their careers, perhaps right after their first degree, should know where they are headed in terms of:

They should also be clear that an LLM will be of value to their employers or potential employers, as well as to their development of relevant skills. And, of course, their finances should permit pursuing the degree now.

If these factors are not present, consider delaying your degree until you can get the most from the experience.

Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM

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