LL.M: The Master of Laws - an International Guide
The LL.M. (Master of Laws) is an internationally recognised postgraduate law degree, and is increasingly becoming an important feature of legal education around the worldwide. It typically requires one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study, however distance learning courses are also available. It is the internationally recognised equivalent of the MBA for post-graduate students of law. Having the qualification does not necessarily guarantee a better job or more money, but it is a good place to start in order to impress potential employers.
Law students and professionals frequently pursue the LL.M. to gain expertise in a specialised field of law, for example in the area of tax law or international law. Employers often look to hire candidates with a Masters of Laws as it demonstrates specialisation in a certain field, or as is increasingly important, experience of a multi-national legal environment.
In most countries, lawyers are not required to hold an LL.M. degree. An LL.M. degree by itself generally does not qualify graduates to practice law. In most cases, LL.M. students must first obtain a professional degree in law, e.g. the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) in the United Kingdom or the Juris Doctor (J.D.) in the United States, and pass a bar exam or the equivalent exam in other countries, such as the Zweites Staatsexamen in Germany. While the general curriculum of the LL.B. and J.D. is designed to give students the basic skills and knowledge to become lawyers, law students wishing to specialise in a particular area can continue their studies with an LL.M. program. Some universities also consider students for their LL.M. program who hold degrees in other related areas, or have expertise in a specific area of law.
The international factor is a major bonus for employers and as well as training in the different disciplines of International Law, an LL.M will often include working and studying with people from all over the globe. The Institute for Law and Finance at Frankfurt University offers a unique one-year graduate program leading to a Master of Laws in Finance. The program is conducted entirely in English. Aimed at students with a good undergraduate degree in law, business or economics and who are interested in combining theoretical knowledge with practical training in law and international finance, the LL.M. Finance program also incorporates a special two-month internship with public and private institutions which support the ILF. The ILF, located in Frankfurt, Germany, the major financial centre in Europe, provides the ideal location to train young professionals to deal with future legal and financial challenges.
Looking around Europe, there is a trend towards student-focused programs which encourage students to immerse themselves in diverse, rewarding programs in order to pursue the Law qualification of their choice. Erasmus University Rotterdam offers a Research Master's in Justice, Safety & Security that focuses on one of the core themes that today's society faces: how to maintain standards of justice under circumstances in which increasingly demands are made to curtail human rights in order to maintain safety and security.
The master's program annually invites 25 excellent students to develop their knowledge and research skills in this area in order to meet the demand from legal practice and academia for analytical thinkers.
Courses on law and social sciences and on the methodological aspects of law and social sciences as well as four research projects ensure that graduates posses the necessary knowledge and skills to embark on a successful career.
In the UK, the International Bar Association (the world's leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies) and the College of Law of England and Wales (Europe's largest provider of legal vocational education) has steadily delivered international legal skills training to 1,550 lawyers from 97 jurisdictions since 2002.
In response to increasing demand, the IBA and the College of Law have launched a new type of Master of Laws (LLM) in International Legal Practice. The LLM will provide an internationally-recognised professional qualification designed to build corporate and cross-border legal knowledge and enhance the careers of law graduates and practitioners worldwide.
The LL.M in International Legal Practice can be studied at the practitioner's desk, or at home, using innovative on-line study materials with one-to-one tutor supervision and feedback. All the tutors will be qualified practitioners. The LLM can be studied at the student's own pace over up to five years. There are a wide range of specialist modules, allowing the student or lawyer to tailor the LL.M programme to suit his/her area of practice or interest.
Whatever you decide, there are many factors to make your choice. Reputation, expertise and facilities available are all important, and each school has different benefits. Ultimately, the LL.M. offers a wide array of options to further your career and there are a range of courses to suit everyone's individual needs.