Study a Master of Laws Degree

There are  many positive reasons for choosing to study law. Postgraduate students have a number of options open to them if they decide to focus on law as a potential career so here is a guide to study a Master of Laws Degree.

What is an LLM?

The Master of Laws (LLM) is a postgraduate qualification in law. Students who complete an LLM can be looking to build a legal career by working for a Law firm or within a legal department of a company. They can also be existing law graduates who are looking for more advanced qualifications in a specific area of the law.

An LLM is a full postgraduate degree in law and many law firms look for graduates to hire who have the degree. However, the course is not a requirement to practice law. There are specific law qualifications that are required if you want to train to become a Solicitor or a Barrister such as the  LPC or GDL or CILEx qualification.

Universities that offer the LLM also include versions that focus on particular areas of the law, such as Company Law, Finance, International Business, European, Medical and Ethics, Intellectual Property, Human Rights etc.

The introduction of the SQE

A new qualification called the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is available to students who plan to become Solicitors. This new qualification will gradually replace the other training qualifications such as the LPC the Legal Practice Course.

People who work in the legal profession can train for a number of different roles, and not all of these require practicing law in a law firm. If you want to train to become a Solicitor then changes have been introduced in 2021 to the steps you need to take to qualify. We have a detailed article on the SQE you can read here.

What are the entry requirements for an LLM?

Universities expect the student has completed an undergraduate degree in law for admission to most LLM degrees. The GDL and the CPE are recognized as well. With the introduction of the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQL) the admissions criteria are likely to change. It’s always best to check the individual admissions requirements for the LLM you want to study at.

Some LLM degrees are already including the SQL as part of the course. If you have studied a different subject before such as business, then Masters Conversion courses offer a route into a career in law.

Who should study an LLM?

To study a Master of Laws Degree would seem to be the obvious choice for any student who has set their heart on working in a law firm and practicing in the legal field. However, a masters in law offers many more career pathways than a a high street solicitor or legal department in a corporate business.

When you study a master of laws degree it includes the study of legal theory at advanced level. This type of applied academic thinking is intellectually demanding, and it will shape the way to approach challenging tasks in the future. This is common within senior leadership decision-making roles, so prospective students should think ahead to the type of career they are looking to achieve.

An LLM as an entry into a worthwhile legal career

  • Having legal or business role models in mind is a useful guide when you are thinking about whether to study a Master of Laws (LLM) Degree. The LLM will equip you with the understanding and academic discipline needed to take on the challenges of a career in the legal profession.
  • The pathway to a fulfilling career in law is clearly mapped out. With the successful completion of the additional professional qualifications that are available, the student can accumulate the necessary exams and experience to become a solicitor or a barrister.
  • Taking on the challenge of an LLM after you have completed a period working in the legal sector is another positive step. The advantage of doing this is that the financial and academic challenges required to stay on the course and complete it successfully will be understood.
  • Switching legal careers is another option open to students who take on an LLM. In addition, there are a wide number of business sectors that require candidates with legal expertise, such as charities, sport, entertainment, hospitality etc,. These offer new experiences that the student could consider if their circumstances change.
  • A career as an academic should not be ignored. Many former law firm staff make lifestyle change when they have reached a point in their careers. In addition, an LLM includes academic research as part of the dissertation module, and this can lead to other rewarding areas of interest such as Roman Law, Ethics and Philosophy.

Where to Study a Master of Laws Degree

UK Universities offer many different pathways to a career in law, and the LLM is an important qualification that is available. Some universities have departments dedicated to teaching and research in law, others offer law modules within their general business masters degree portfolios. The LLM can be studied online, and this method can be an ideal choice. People who are already committed to a career need the flexibility to study at times and locations that suit their lifestyle and family responsibilities.

For UK students the Masters Loan is available for students wishing to cover the tuition fees required for the degree. Some masters law degrees include the additional legal qualifications (SQE, LPC and GDL) within the modules of the LLM. This offers the student a real advantage because stand-alone legal qualifications are NOT eligible for financial support from the Postgraduate Loan, but if they are included in the full masters course then they are covered. The student will experience the benefits of academic study to complete the LLM plus the extra-legal qualification.

What’s it like to study an LLM?

A full time LLM is typically one year commencing in late September or early October and concluding in the following summer. A part time LLM is usually two years. Individual modules, a PG Certificate or PG Diploma in a law subject usually comprise of three months or six months, depending on the course.

The structure of an LLM is very similar to most taught postgraduate degrees. This would comprise of two terms of tuition and coursework around ten weeks each term. In the third term the focus will be on examinations and the completion of your dissertation/research essay, which will be handed in around July. Unlike an Undergraduate year, students will be working on their course for most of the year without the traditional summer break, apart from reading weeks.

Modules will comprise of a number of core compulsory modules. These focus on the primary content of the course, and then additional optional modules cover a wide range of subjects that are available. This allows the student to channel their interest in certain aspects of the law.

Students will be directed towards the modules that will help you compete your studies but also allow you to experience a number of different fields. If you choose to study your LLM within a specialist Law Department then you are more likely to be able to experience a wide range of subjects related to your interest. The credits that you earn for successful completion of a module accumulate in order to reach the overall score of 180. This is required for the award of an LLM.

If a dissertation is included in the LLM then this will be your opportunity to undertake a piece of original research. Depending upon the structure of your LLM you will have had the chance to explore many different areas of legal specialisation, This will offer you lots of scope for further study. Another consequence of your dissertation will be the option to look into completing a PhD.