For LL.M. students, what you learn outside of the law school classroom, through international study trips, visits to meet renowned partners at top law firms and student law clinics, is just as important as the curriculum itself. In fact, far from a jolly escape from case studies, late nights spent in the library and swotting for exams, many of these extracurricular activities may even count as academic credit towards the LL.M. degree.
From startup incubators to mooting competitions and academic journals, participating in extra activities during your LL.M. degree is an important way for students to immerse themselves in their interest areas, develop critical personal and professional networks, and become active participants in the legal community. All of which enriches the learning experience and enhances your CV.
The only problem for many LL.M. students is choosing from the wide array of learning options outside the normal course of study.
“Our LL.M. students throw themselves wholeheartedly into extracurricular and co-curricular offerings; the most difficult part is choosing how to allocate their time among all of the things they want to participate in and accomplish during their year in the program,” says Rachel Zuraw, Director of LL.M. Professional Development at Berkeley Law School in California.
It’s difficult to say what is most popular because the LL.M. student population is so varied, but pro bono work is a significant part of the culture at Berkeley Law, she says. “Our students are very focused on giving back to the community through pro bono work, as well as fostering legal scholarship through their work on the school journals,” says Zuraw.
Berkeley Law has dozens of student associations, which are groups that concentrate on specific legal skills or areas of the law. They allow students to supplement their classroom education — whether that’s the Patent Law Society or the Healthcare and BioTech Law Society.
And just like there is a wide range of activities, those activities have a wide range of objectives. “Some groups are just about spending time with fellow students who have the same interests, hobbies, or aspirations,” Zuraw says. “And plenty of others are just about having fun.”
Law societies and other organizations help LL.M. students build strong bonds
LL.M. students at most top law schools have a wide variety of interests outside the classroom. With a large student body spread across multiple LL.M. specialisms, these activities provide a platform for the cohort to interact with each other. This helps students form a diverse and global network of friends, says Farhan Shafi, LL.M. candidate at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London.
“These activities help students explore topics beyond the course content or understand an area in-depth, and provide access to lawyers who often hold theories and opinions on legal issues which may contrast with the faculty,” says Shafi. “This encourages independent thought and analysis — a critical asset for any lawyer.”
There are multiple activities currently on offer at King’s, whether social, academic or vocational. Social events include drink receptions, informal hangouts, outdoor sports such as ice-skating events, and a games night. Academic activities include lectures and access to multiple recruitment events with lawyers across Europe. The vocational activities include workshops such as a masterclass in legal research, or in legal advocacy.
“The broad objective is to provide LL.M. students an opportunity to make friends, network, have a break from the rigorous academic routine, gain knowledge beyond course content, and help prepare them for their post-LLM career,” Shafi says.
Based on student feedback and prior experience, he says LL.M. candidates attach great importance to these extracurricular and co-curricular offerings.
At some law schools, the activities are focused on career advancement. The Law Alumni Mentor Program at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, for one, links LL.M. students with alumni, who can provide insights and career guidance.
“With opportunities for close contact with industry partners, our students are able to build a strategic network that supports their personal and professional growth,” says Associate Professor Arif Jamal, Vice Dean for Graduate Studies at NUS Law.
The faculty also regularly organizes social activities – such as trivia sessions and sporting competitions. “We also provide for student welfare programs such as pet therapy and art jamming,” he adds, citing a paint party where students can paint, listen to music, and grab their favorite drinks.