LL.M. Programs for Non-Law Graduates

A look at a handful of programs open to students without a first law degree

See also: Pursuing an LL.M. Without a Background in Law, published in 2016.

There are many reasons why non-law graduates would want to pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M). Perhaps he or she wants a new job that requires some legal knowledge, or perhaps it’s a way to specialize or change professional direction. This article provides a few examples of LL.M. programs that are open to students who do not have a first law degree.

The demand for interdisciplinary knowledge continues to get stronger on the job market, particularly in companies and organizations working on a European or international level. The growing number of international agreements, especially within the European Union, makes having some legal knowledge a real asset when applying for jobs. Therefore, many of the LL.M. programs that accept non-law graduates concentrate on international or European law.

The European Master in Law and Economics (EMLE) addresses precisely this connection between law and economics on an international level. Its purpose is to give a solid understanding of the economic effects of laws to prepare students for a career in public organizations and multinational law firms. Aside from focusing on the “Law and Economics” perspective, the program also gives students the chance to spend each of the course’s three terms at a different European university campus.

The program accepts graduates in both law and economics, as well as applicants with a degree in business administration or social science, as long as their previous studies included a substantial number of courses in law and/or economics. In other words, a certain legal background is necessary to apply. Similarly, the Bucerius/WHU Master of Law and Business in Hamburg, Germany also accepts students with a first degree in economics, but "some prior knowledge" of legal issues is needed. 

Another program in a totally different field is the Master in Advanced Studies (MAS) in International Humanitarian Law offered jointly by the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International Studies. It is the only Master program that focuses on the legal dimensions of armed conflicts and emergency situations. The University Center for International Humanitarian Law (UCIHL) is closely connected to the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organizations, and it prepares students for work in NGOs, international organizations, embassies, and law firms, as well as university research.

Courses are held in two parallel classes taught in English and French, which allows students from all over the world to participate, especially students from developing countries. While the student body is made up of mostly law graduates, other students who have “another academic qualification deemed to be equivalent by the Admission Committee” can also be admitted. Students with international relations or political science degrees, for example, could get in if they took a number of international law courses during their previous studies.

[Related Article: Juris Masters, MSLs and Beyond: Master of Laws Programs for Non-Law Graduates]

Also in the field of international law, the University of Nottingham in Britain offers LL.M. programs in nine different specializations ranging from Criminal Justice to International Commercial Law. Although they mostly accept law graduates, they also consider candidates with a degree in a related discipline, such as international relations. La Trobe University in Australia has also announced two new postgraduate law programs – a Master of Commercial Law and a Master of Global Business Law – especially for graduates of non-law disciplines.

Some distance learning courses, including the University of Edinburgh’s LL.M. in Innovation, Technology and the Law and the University of London External Program, also consider non-law graduates.

But even if these programs accept students from other backgrounds, a certain legal knowledge is expected. Particularly for international law programs, some knowledge of international law is necessary to be able to follow the generally fast pace of teaching. For this reason, some schools, such as the London School of Economics and University College London, will consider qualified non-law graduates, but prefer/require that applicants pass the Commmon Profession Examination (CPE) or an overseas equivalent.

Having myself been an LL.M. student without a law degree (in the Master of Law in International Humanitarian Law described above), I sometimes felt a bit behind when certain legal concepts were discussed, but this was never a big handicap, and was counterbalanced by the understanding of the international system that I acquired during my undergraduate studies.

Perhaps an even more important question concerns the job prospects for non-law graduates enrolled in these programs. First of all, if you want to become a lawyer, these programs are probably not the best place to start. They usually only concentrate on specific legal topics, which are typically international in scope. Therefore, it would be wiser to pursue a J.D./LL.B., a CPE/GDL, or another relevant course that actually prepares students to become lawyers.

But if you’re not looking to become a lawyer, these programs can give you a specialized knowledge of international and European law that will prepare you well for work in an international organization, international law firm, multinational company, or even in the government sector. And aside from career prospects, you will never forget the people from around the world – lawyers and otherwise – who you will meet during your LL.M. year.

Image: "Yale Law School Library Reading Room (L3)" by PENG Yanan (Neo-Jay) / Creative Commons (cropped and rotated)


fifi4    |    Sep 04, 2017 06:50
Without a law degree but primary degree in medicine/dentistry and an LLM in health/ethics, can one go unto law school and then become a lawyer?

Related Law Schools

Ghent, Belgium 78 Followers 52 Discussions
Geneva, Switzerland 179 Followers 88 Discussions
Rotterdam, Netherlands 12 Followers 30 Discussions
Vienna, Austria 74 Followers 50 Discussions
Melbourne, Australia 32 Followers 19 Discussions
Haifa, Israel 4 Followers 17 Discussions
Bologna, Italy 31 Followers 29 Discussions
Hamburg, Germany 98 Followers 52 Discussions
Edinburgh, United Kingdom 370 Followers 464 Discussions
Nottingham, United Kingdom 107 Followers 271 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 522 Followers 867 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 666 Followers 875 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 161 Followers 152 Discussions
Hamburg, Germany 78 Followers 44 Discussions

LLM News

Queen's University of Belfast Launches an LL.M. in Law and Technology

Jan 09, 2020

More LLM News

More LLM Articles

Inside out: How to Become a Legal Intrapreneur

Jan 22, 2020

Law firms no longer just care about who bills the most hours: they want people who can provide new lucrative opportunities for the firm

Post-LL.M. Careers in Big Law: Jones Day

Jan 14, 2020

Although an LL.M. is not required to work at Jones Day, one can come in handy. Here are some tips for how to leverage your LL.M. to land a job at the firm.

The Growing Importance of Geopolitics in LL.M.s

Dec 19, 2019

Law schools have responded to messy, global challenges like Brexit and the US-China trade war by giving geopolitics much more prominence on the syllabus

More Articles

Related Top 10 Lists

More Top 10 Lists