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Eight Career Benefits of a Master of Laws (LLM)

By Mathilde Frot

Updated March 11, 2021 Updated March 11, 2021

If you’re just finishing up law school or hunting down that much-desired training contract with Mahogany & Scotch or Cigar & Sass, you probably already have a very good idea of just how thin on the ground graduate opportunities in law can be.

Of course, many grads do manage to find permanent roles in law firms, and you could very well be one of them. If you’re dead serious about law and already have some legal working experience behind you, an LLM could be your golden ticket...  

1. Specialize!

While doing an LLM may not get you a training contract, the qualification could help you specialize in a particular field. Many lawyers focus on specific fields like criminal litigation, Islamic finance or maritime law. These very specific topics require specialized training – which is something undergraduate courses often fail to provide. Choosing the right course could help you pursue your interest even further, move into a new area of expertise and differentiate yourself from other applicants when the time for job applications comes.

2. Travel and pick up a new language

Some graduates opt to study an LLM abroad, gaining expertise in another legal system, alongside valuable international experience and language proficiency. If you don’t want to study your entire degree overseas, you could also opt for an LLM which incorporates an exchange program. For example, Edinburgh University offers a two-year program designed to impart students with ‘solid grounding in Chinese’ and experience at ‘a prestigious Chinese University’.

3. Upgrade your first degree

If you feel that your undergraduate degree leaves much to be desired –  in the event of a drab classification or a relatively unknown university – securing an LLM from a prestigious law school might help you bridge over the gap between your education and the entry requirements of leading law firms.

Of course, if you’ve achieved a disappointing grade classification at undergraduate level, it would probably be wise to dedicate some time to questioning your motivations, where you went wrong and whether a career in law is really the best path for you.

4. Change career track

If you’ve already started down one legal pathway and fancy a change, an LLM is a great way to switch specializations. LLMs are available in a huge variety of areas, including many high-demand areas, providing the opportunity to become highly specialized in a short space of time. Fancy moving into a growing field such as intellectual property law, international dispute resolution, tax or securities law? An LLM can help you get there.

5. Extend your network

What many LLM sceptics often fail to acknowledge is the incredible networking potential of having several universities to fall back on. Studying a legal degree at a second instutition will mean that you are able to reach out to not an additional set of professors, peers and alumni. While the possibility of networking shouldn’t be your sole motivation, you should take it into account when chalking up the pros and cons of doing an LLM. 

6. Grow accustomed to working in English

To improve your foreign language skills, there’s nothing quite like studying in the language. If you’re applying for jobs at an international law firm, graduating from an English-taught LLM will prove that you are familiar with both everyday and professional legal English.

7. Contribute to legal research

Some LLM programs are research-focused, and actively support and encourage students to explore new fields and contribute to publishable research. If this is what gets you really excited, then a research-focused LLM could be your gateway into a PhD and a future role in academia.

8. Boost your earning potential

Having an LLM from a prestigious university could help you boost your earning potential, as well as the likelihood of getting snapped up by a bigger law firm several years down the line. However, do remember that a whole mix of factors will contribute to your job prospects, including your years of professional legal experience, your law’s schools status, the type of LLM you complete, and how in-demand your specialization is.

A version of this article was originally published on 19 November 2008. It was updated in April 2016.

This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in March 2021

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I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.

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