An LLM or Legum Magister is recognised around the world for being a historic and well-established legal qualification. Whilst it is not necessary to obtain one to practice law, it has been argued that the experience and expertise a candidate can gain from an LLM will make them more attractive to law firms.
Why Might LLMs Might be Worth it for Some People
For some students, the level of insight offered by an LLB is unsatisfactory. If there is a particular legal area that they would like to research more, the LLM offers the opportunity to do so alongside gaining a well-regarded qualification
Other students may complete an LLM because they think this will make their CV stand out to graduate recruitment at law firms and in chambers
If a student believes their LLB classification does not reflect their academic abilities, they may choose to prove they can achieve better through an LLM
Some students may want to complete an LLM at a higher-ranking university than where they completed their LLB
Why Might LLMs Might not be Worth it for Others
If a candidate would like to complete an LLM purely to differentiate themselves from other applicants, it’s worth noting that many commercial law firms say that they do not place greater value on candidates who have completed the LLM over those who have only an undergraduate degree
If a candidate believes they can better prove their academic abilities through a high-class LLM, remember that an LLM cohort consists of more experienced students and as such, generally the academic standard rises from that of an LLB cohort, meaning it is harder to get a high grade
In order to complete an LLM at a high-ranking institution, a 2.1 is necessary but a first is more realistic to be accepted onto the programme. This is alongside other achievements such as scholarships and work experience. As such, an LLM application will take time and effort, which for some candidates, may be better invested into law firm or chambers applications.
It’s also good to consider that completing an LLM is expensive (£10,000-£20,000 in the UK; $10,000-$60,000 in the US) and typically takes 12 months to complete. Therefore, undertaking one is a big commitment. It may be more beneficial and cost-effective to do some work experience, either paid or voluntary, to strengthen a CV rather than take on the debt of an LLM.
Although there are more scholarships on offer for the LLM than the LLB, gaining this funding is competitive and is usually given to those who have shown an interest in pursuing a career in law academia, as opposed to those who would like to undertake further study to advance a career in a law firm.
Who is Most Likely to Benefit from Taking an LLM?
Someone who would like to pursue law study to begin an academic career
Someone who would like to work for an NGO or somewhere like the UN
A non-lawyer professional who needs a degree of legal knowledge eg. a senior personnel in HR may find an LLM in employment law useful
Prospective barristers may benefit more than prospective solicitors because they can show a high-level of academic ability which will strengthen their applications
Someone who is enjoying their legal studies and might not be ready yet to find professional employment
Therefore, the question ‘is the LLM worth it?’ is too broad to be answered simply. The value of an LLM depends on the motivations of a student for completing it.
Words: Holly Porter
Setting your sights on an LLM degree? Check out our LLM Courses page for a list of some of the UK institutions offering the graduate course.