Types of LLM (Master of Laws): traditional LLMs and specialised LLMs

LLM (Master of Laws) programs are an extremely flexible qualification in terms of subjects you can study. As many students have already discovered, you should be able to find something that’s right for you - either a traditional LLM or a more specialised LLM.

Different types of LLMs

Traditional LLMs

Traditional LLM programs involved nine to twelve months of full-time study, made up of either two or three terms. During each term, students took three to five courses, except in the last term, when they might substitute an intensive writing effort (thesis) for several courses. Most such programs were designed for foreign students to learn a new legal system. Students took a generalist curriculum that was meant to provide a watered-down view of the host country’s way of doing things.

Many such traditional LLM programs are still in existence. In fact, two of the major providers of LLM programs, Germany and the US, continue to offer dozens of LLM programmes in this vein. But the LLM market has exploded to the point where these traditional programs represent no more than a small proportion of what is on offer. Thus, in the US, there are now many dozens of specialities on offer, ranging from environmental law to international taxation, just as there are in Europe. Yet, it is not just the opportunity to specialise that has changed: there are now multiple modes of study on offer.

Specialised LLMs

LLM programmes offer the opportunity to study ever more specialised subjects. Thus, it is no longer necessary to take a year-long introduction to European Union law if you want to study just EU competition law and policy. Similarly, you can still take a generalist introduction to American law if you wish, but you can also earn a degree in oil and gas law if you prefer.

The dramatic increase in specialist programmes is to be seen in all of the leading providers of LLM programs – from Germany to the UK, from the US to Australia – as well as many of the lesser providers. It is true that more specialised degrees are offered on a full-time rather than a part-time basis, but both study modes have seen dramatic increases in the range of programs on offer. 

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