Recent research has continued to support the widely held belief that a significant number of graduates experience difficulty securing appropriate employment after completing their first degrees, with a total of 55% employed in low-skilled industries or registered as unemployed. With more than 100,000 people applying to universities each year to study undergraduate law, the subject remains one of the most popular in the country and, faced with a potential shortage of graduate opportunities, third-year students may rightly ponder whether an LLM degree is a viable means of improving future career prospects.
LLM, or ‘Legum Magister’ in Latin, is a Masters-level qualification in law. Usually offered as a one-year full-time course, or two years part-time, the qualification is completed more rapidly than many comparable postgraduate degrees and is open to students who have obtained a good honours first law degree. Students from other disciplines may be admitted to LLM courses on successful completion of the Common Professional Examination (CPE).
For undergraduates who have a clear understanding of their intended career progression, an LLM offers several key benefits:
A focused degree structure
Having completed a general undergraduate degree in law it is likely that you have identified areas of the discipline which are of particular interest, and that may become the foundations for your future career. A one-year postgraduate degree that is combined with the opportunity to specialise in a limited number of modules means you can enjoy maximum flexibility in your postgraduate study without indefinitely postponing graduate employment.
While LLM courses are often structured around one particular division of law, such as commercial, criminal or humanitarian law, some institutions also offer a Masters in General Law which includes a diverse range of modules from international property law to restorative justice. As an LLM postgraduate student, you can be confident of shaping your studies and your future career by choosing the modules which are of specific interest, and which enable you to best advance your academic strengths.
A practice-based approach
Although LLM law course content used to be heavily weighted in theory, more recent postgraduate degrees in law have shifted towards a practice-based approach. In part this is because the LLM is increasingly popular with established lawyers who wish to return to study in order to specialise in a particular aspect of the law field. However, whatever your level of experience, these courses are designed to enable you to make significant contributions to your career development, which is arguably best achieved through combined practical and theoretical study.
In many professions, a postgraduate qualification often presents a more attractive candidate to prospective employers. Being able to specialise in a particular field not only places you above the competitors who have only qualified at undergraduate level but you could also be rewarded with a higher salary, and greater marketability in the longer term. A high-achieving postgraduate qualification from a leading university is likely to incentivise potential employers each time you seek to change jobs in future.
An extensive network
Having graduated with an LLM, it is probable that you will have an extensive network of colleagues and academics who work within the specialist fields of law of which you are expert. A high standing within these networks can be a powerful tool for advancing your career and establishing yourself on the road to becoming a leading authority in future.
Embarking upon an LLM is most valuable if it forms part of a long-term strategy for your career development. Therefore identifying your specific areas of interest and skill is crucial in order to tailor your postgraduate degree most effectively. This should also be an integral part of your forward-planning so that you select the university that will best nurture and grow your ambitions.