The LL.M. degree is ostensibly made for lawyers, but what happens when a law school graduate decides they have had a change of heart? Luckily, the skills one learns through an LL.M. program are highly transferable to many different jobs, beyond just toiling long hours in a law firm.
Communication, analytical skills, problem solving, writing, research, assimilating large amounts of information quickly and attention to detail are some of the main skills that can be applied to a myriad of sectors, from finance and management consulting to academia and publishing.
Abi Gaston, Deputy Head of Careers and Enterprise at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) says: “As an LL.M. graduate will have gained many of these skills during their course, it makes their degree highly relevant to careers outside of law.”
In fact, more than 50 percent of UK employers don’t specify what degree they want candidates to have, she says. “Employers are often asking for particular transferable skills rather than a particular degree,” says Gaston.
Getting a job in finance or consulting after an LL.M.
Law graduates are renowned for their intellectual rigour, diplomacy, negotiation skills and stamina. These are all important to financial services careers like investment banking, which includes corporate finance, markets, client services, technology and operations.
“Just like JDs, LL.M.s can use their legal training in many different fields, such as government, policy, consulting and finance,” says Peter Landreth, co-director of LL.M. professional development at Berkeley Law in California.
Insurance broking and accountancy are also good options for analytical LL.M.s, since the law in these areas is constantly changing. What’s more, some LL.M. programs exempt you from some exams tax practitioners sit to be qualified, such as the ACA qualification. The Big Four accountancy giants—KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte—all recruit from the top law schools and are looking for evidence of problem solving, persuasion and client facing skills. All of which LL.M. grads have in abundance.
These so-called “soft skills” set graduates up well for management consulting jobs. The breadth of study on LL.M. programs bodes well for advisory firms, which deal with diverse and global clients. Consultants generally join the top firms, like Bain & Company or the Boston Consulting Group, as generalists, so they need to understand many functions including human resources, sales and marketing.
The technical abilities that LL.M. graduates have are also highly sought after. Consider engineering and construction companies like Arup and Atkins, which value law school graduates for jobs including designing buildings and landscapes.
Also open to LL.M. grads: careers in the public sector, NGOs, and academia
But you do not have to work in business at all. The public sector and even nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are career paths open to LL.M. graduates, not to mention international development organizations like UNICEF or the United Nations. “The public sector can be a great place for our graduates who have focused on comparative law and want to apply it in the regulatory context,” says Rachel Zuraw, also a Berkeley Law co-director of LL.M. professional development.
One of the more popular alternative career paths is academia. Most LL.M. students interested in this path go on to pursue a JSD or a relevant PhD, which can eventually lead to a professorship.
But Marko Milanovic, professor of public international law at the UK’s University of Nottingham School of Law, warns: “A doctoral program is a vastly different creature from a taught one, even the LL.M. It is all about researching and writing a genuinely original contribution to human knowledge, and doing so with the guidance of one’s supervisors, but fundamentally independently.”
For academically-oriented LL.M. grads, there may also be a high opportunity cost of not working, plus the extra tuition costs.
[Related Article: The Academic Path: Becoming a Law Professor]
Post-LL.M. careers in legal writing
Staying in the workforce means you can keep earning, and one of the more unusual career paths is legal writing and/or publishing. Plenty of niche legal publishers employ law graduates because of their attention to detail, research skills and ability to write succinctly, which are valuable in journalism. These include LexisNexis and Sweet & Maxwell. Some publishers run training schemes, for instance the BBC and The Guardian. But recruitment is often through informal applications, so internships or temporary work are a good route into the industry.
The challenge will be convincing employers that legal knowledge can be applied to the job. Students will need to clearly articulate these skills and use concise, concrete examples of where they have gained that skill, whether from their degree or elsewhere, says Gaston at Queen Mary.
“As law touches on all areas of life, graduates may be able to make links between their knowledge base and knowledge that would be valuable within the company.”
And as always, networking can be really helpful in the job application process in order to find out what the company really values and its culture, says Gaston, who concludes: “There are numerous alternative career paths open to LL.M.s.”