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LLM (Master of Laws) in Criminal Law

When most people consider law as a career, it is criminal law that probably springs first to mind. The classic image of a lawyer, seen in countless TV dramas over the years, is of an assertive individual, standing up in court to defend the rights of an accused criminal.

While there are many more areas of law than this, a career in criminal law can be highly rewarding and interesting. Studying an LLM in Criminal Law is therefore a pathway into one of the law's key specialisations.

Criminal law covers a huge range of issues, from assault on a person to international fraud, from housebreaking to trans-national bank robbery and organised crime. Work in criminal law is often of a highly contentious nature.

A lawyer in private practice can work as defender for those accused of crimes, while an individual in public practice can act for the Crown Prosecution Service or the Public Defender Service

Find LLM programs in Criminal Law

Number crunching the LLM in Criminal Law

Criminal Law1 year of full-time study to qualify

15,000 word dissertation required on most courses

2 to 4 hours of teaching received by students per week (typically)

LLM in Criminal Law – who's it for?

So what are the reasons for studying an LLM in Criminal Law? This type of course is aimed at students who wish to work at a high level in public service, or the private or voluntary sector, and require a specialist understanding of criminology and criminal law. Graduates can also go on to complete a PhD or further work in academia, following their completion of the course.

Where can you study an LLM in Criminal Law?

There is a selection of Criminal Law postgraduate programs available in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States and worldwide, and all of them study Criminal Law from a global perspective. Many LLM programs in Criminal Law offer it as an option in combination with Criminal Justice, for example Birkbeck University of London’s LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice or as part of a broader LLM program. The University of Strathclyde has an LLM in Criminal Justice & Penal Change in conjunction with the work of the Centre for Law, Crime and Justice. Other options in the UK include London South Bank University, the University of Leeds and the University of Edinburgh.

What qualifications do you need to study an LLM in Criminal Law

To study for an LLM it is usually essential to have an undergraduate honours degree in law, or a degree with a considerable legal component to it. Most institutions also require that prospective candidates have attained at least a 2:1 degree classification. Due to the amount of technical and specialist language used on legal courses, it is also essential that any students coming to the UK to study have a high level of competency in English. Those graduates whose first language is not English are required to have high IELTS (or equivalent) score of at least seven.

An LLM in Criminal Law advances careers in...

Police officers
Probation officers
Social workers
NGO/Charity workers

5 fascinating facts about Criminal Law

1. A crime can be defined as the commission of an act in contravention of a law prohibiting it.

2. Criminal law is concerned with the conviction and punishment of individuals by the community.

3. Civil law, in contrast, is where two individuals have recourse to law to resolve a dispute about their rights.

4. A criminal case always begins with an arrest.

5. Law enforcement agencies are usually tasked with investigating crimes.

Recommended reading

Police Power and Individual Freedom: The Quest for Balance. Chicago by Aldine

Modern Criminal Procedure by Roy Moreland

Studies in Criminal Law by Norval Morris and Colin Howard

International Criminal Law by Roger O’Keefe 

International Law by Vaughan Lowe


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