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Law Degree Graduate Careers

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Career opportunities for those with a graduate law degree are both prestigious and diverse – and certainly not limited to the courtroom or solicitor's office.

Comedian John Cleese studied for a Cambridge University law degree before creating Monty Python, while US president Barack Obama is now using his Harvard law degree to negotiate international policy.

"To become a lawyer is to take part in shaping the life of a nation and its people," says Wendy Margolis, Director of Communications for the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC).

The role of a lawyer is varied from shaping a nation's future to the slightly more mundane, according to Margolis. "Lawyers may deal with major courtroom cases or minor traffic disputes, complex corporate mergers or straightforward real estate transactions.

"Lawyers work for giant industries, small businesses, government agencies, international organizations, public interest and public policy groups, legal aid offices, and universities - or they work for themselves. They represent the impoverished and the wealthy, the helpless and the powerful."

Graduate study increasingly important

Justin Swinsick, Director of the LLM in International Legal Practice at IE Law School in Madrid, explains the difference between undergraduate and graduate study of law.

"Studying law at a graduate level has become an important step for future attorneys, especially given current market conditions. When most students leave their law faculties with a first degree in law, they leave with only a theoretical understanding. The application and practice of the law are two facets of the profession which are not focused on during the initial study."

Swinsick says that at the graduate level students begin to put statutes, judicial sentences, and code into context. Not only that but they also begin to envisage how the law works at a professional level, rather than just a theoretical one.

"Upon graduation students are much more prepared to enter the practice of law. As such, the learning curve of a young attorney is reduced, thus making him or her much more marketable."

Hands-on approach

IE's LLM in International Legal Practice requires students to take a wide variety of core courses to increase their knowledge of international legal and business concepts as well as their ability to apply this knowledge in solving real-life problems.

Within this program, students can choose between two tracks: English or bilingual (English-Spanish).

The English track combines European law with an MBA module, provides hands-on experience through an internship at a law firm or company legal department and adds the challenge of writing a 30-page LLM thesis under faculty supervision. The bilingual track gives students a more extensive study of Spanish business law.

"We believe in a hands-on approach to legal problems, through a clinical method of active learning," says Swinsick. "At IE, real-life situations and decision-making opportunities are replicated in an academic environment in every class, enabling students to learn from their own experience."

More than 500 practical cases are covered during the program, requiring students to solve a broad range of legal issues and situations, both individually and as part of a team.

Preparing for an international career

Almost 70% of IE's International Legal Practice students come from abroad, representing countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Salvador, Singapore, Slovakia, United States and Venezuela.

Alejandro Botero from Colombia, studied at IE and is now an Associate Attorney for Sullivan & Cromwell in New York. "While regular LLM degrees are exclusively oriented towards academics, IE's LLM is aimed at training students for their future as practicing corporate lawyers.

"As a securities and corporate associate in a top New York firm, mostly involved in transactions with Latin American clients, the LLM from IE gave me a head start by giving me the necessary tools to understand how multi-cultural legal environments intertwine with business."

Careers in law are varied, but as Margolis says, the job opportunities of someone armed with a Masters in Law are also wide. "A law school education is a good, solid background for many professions. In fact, many teachers, business people, politicians, and writers obtained a legal education before pursuing their respective careers."

She says that in today's global environment, the postgraduate law degree enables lawyers to obtain an advanced degree that has global credibility, taking their careers to a new level.

"A graduate law degree is desirable for enhancing credentials after the first law degree; for enhancing one's skill set for a current employer; to assist in becoming a judge or government official; or to advance as a law professor. There are several states in the US that will allow graduates with advanced degrees to sit for the bar examination for that state."

Most of IE's students go on to be an attorney in a law firm according to Swinsick. "A very large percentage of students pursue this track, working in firms of many different sizes and specialities. Students join firms as associates and eventually work their way up to partner, which provides them not only with more economic benefits but also greater responsibility and challenges."

However, he agrees with Margolis that a graduate law degree opens many other doors as well.

ABA

The ABA, in cooperation with the Law School Admissions Council, publishes an annual volume called the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law schools in the US.

LSAC

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is a non-profit corporation whose goal is to provide the highest quality admission-related services for legal education institutions and their applicants worldwide.

More than 200 law schools in the United States, Canada, and Australia benefit from LSAC's services, which include the Law School Admission Test (LSAT); credential assembly services encompassing letters of recommendation, electronic applications, and domestic and international transcript processing for JD and graduate law degrees; the Candidate Referral Service (CRS); admission office systems and software; research and statistical reports; websites; testing and admission-related consultations with legal educators worldwide; and various publications, videos, and LSAT preparation tools for candidates.

Over 150,000 LSAT tests are administered each year. With the guidance and support of volunteers representing its member schools, LSAC provides a growing number of important services and programs for law schools and their applicants throughout the world. LSAC does not engage in assessing an applicant's chances for admission to any law school; all admission decisions are made by individual law schools.

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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