LLM: the basics

An LLM—that’s the Master of Laws or the Legum Magister (bless you)—is a postgraduate qualification in law. Here’s a quick Q&A to fill you in on the basics for this type of law degree…

  • Last updated Mar 4, 2019 3:45:30 PM
  • By Jos Weale, Managing Editor, AllAboutLaw

Why study an LLM?

LLM study allows you to gain specialist knowledge in a specific area of law. Those who opt for one of these have varying reasons for plunging back into academia. Generally, people may wish to take one if their interest for a particular subject in the law was ignited during undergraduate/GDL studies and they’d like to take it further. Others see it as an opportunity to ‘improve’ on undergraduate performance.

Some take an LLM as they aren’t sure what to do next and need the thinking space and extra time to decide on their futures, whilst others with time to spare before beginning their training contract or pupillage and have a year or two find it a useful pursuit, extending their knowledge ahead of beginning their working life in the legal sector.

What do I need to be eligible?

You’ll need to have an LLB (undergraduate law degree) or an equivalent approved by your course providers. If you’re a non-law graduate, you’ll have to have completed the GDL (law conversion course) before you take on an LLM.

Where can I study an LLM?

The majority of the top UK universities and law schools will offer a variety of LLM courses.

How long does the LLM last?

An LLM programme will last for one year if studied full time; two years as a part-time programme alongside work or other commitments. Some institutions may also offer a flexible study option which allows you to complete the course, part-time, over a longer period of time.

Which areas of law can I focus on?

LLMs are currently available in a wide variety of specialisms, and the selection differs according to each course provider. Students usually have the opportunity to tailor their degree to focus on their interests.

LLMs can follow a taught programme format, in which you will complete a number of taught modules and usually a dissertation, or a research degree programme. Research degree programmes are much more in the hands of the student, defining their own ‘titles’ and planning out their own research.

Here are some examples of the LLM courses out there:

  • LLM Intellectual Property
  • LLM International Criminal Law
  • LLM Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • LLM European Law
  • LLM Public Law
  • LLM Human Rights
  • LLM Competition Law
  • LLM International Business Law
  • LLM International Tax
  • LLM Maritime Law
  • LLM International Banking and Finance

The list goes on… it’s worth checking out your prospective providers to see exactly what they have on offer. Some institutions may not run certain courses every year.

How much do LLMs cost?

LLM fees vary between £8,580 - £16,500, depending on the provider. For overseas students, the range is slightly higher - think £12,000 - £29,220.

Can I get funding?

Yes! The government has just introduced postgraduate loans, allowing students to borrow up to £10,000 to pay for their tuition fees and support themselves. You'll be glad to hear the LLM is eligble, although sadly the LPC and GDL are not. Institutions and law schools all over will also offer a selection on postgraduate law scholarships for partial, and in some cases, full funding for the course fees. If you’d like more information on financial support in law study, check out our funding section. 

Is an LLM worth it?

Whether an LLM is worth it in the end is totally dependent on the individual. It’s NOT going to be the deciding factor in whether or not you secure a training contract. An LLM is generally not a prerequisite of firms in their trainee recruitment process.

Law firms will probably be more concerned that you have a strong academic record overall, plus relevant work experience. If your CV is lacking on the experience front, time might be better spent working on this rather than devoting more time to solid academic study.

That said, it is a good way of furthering your knowledge of a subject. If you have the time and funds to do it, an LLM may make specialising in a subject in your career easier later on, particularly if you already have a training contract or pupillage secured. An LLM and lots of relevant experience could be a powerful concoction.

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