LL.M. Programs in Asia-Pacific: On the Rise

Pursuing an LL.M. degree in the region opens doors to a wide range of international career opportunities

In recent years, the Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a sought-after destination for individuals aspiring to pursue an LL.M. degree. Asia-Pacific is home to several renowned law schools that consistently rank among the top in the world. Institutions like the National University of Singapore, Tsinghua University in China, and the University of Melbourne in Australia have developed LL.M. programs that attract students from around the globe.

“With COVID and related travel restrictions, as well as higher costs in other parts of the world, you see an uptick in popularity of APAC LL.Ms.,” says Adam Nguyen, founder of Ivy Link, an admissions consulting firm.

One of the key advantages of pursuing an LL.M. in Asia-Pacific is that the region is experiencing rapid economic growth, leading to increased investment, cross-border transactions and legal complexities. By pursuing an LL.M. in this region, students position themselves at the forefront of these developments, opening doors to a wide range of international career opportunities.

“If you’re looking to understand local laws and work at local firms, an APAC LL.M. could be the right path for you. But keep in mind that many international firms give preference to applicants with US LL.M.s, and the pay at the international firms tends to be higher, as well,” Nguyen says.

Exposure to diverse legal systems 

Nevertheless, studying for an LL.M. in the Asia-Pacific region presents numerous advantages, including exposure to diverse legal systems.

Cole Agar, the Director of Graduate and International Programs at Peking University School of Transnational Law in Beijing, says: “China is one of the most rapidly developing countries in history. For most parts of the world China is now their number one or number two trade and investment partner. These forces and trends will shape much of the international landscape for the next century.”

And yet, he says most foreign lawyers do not understand China or its legal system very well, and relatively few have chosen to take the leap to study here. He believes they are missing a trick. “This makes studying in China not just fascinating, but also uniquely valuable. International lawyers studying or working in China have an opportunity akin to being an early employee at a booming tech startup that is about to become the next Google,” says Agar.

He adds that China is also a country that, not without controversy, is experimenting and grappling with many of today’s major legal and societal issues, like personal privacy and environmental protection. “The approach China takes to handling such issues will have a significant impact on much of the world’s population, both inside and outside of China, and will likely influence law and policy makers in many other countries. Who wouldn’t want to be on the ground to see that happen?”

Balancing the nuances of Western and Eastern legal principles

In addition to mainland China, Hong Kong has a highly regarded legal system. Under the "One Country, Two Systems" framework, Hong Kong enjoys a separate legal jurisdiction that combines elements of common law and Chinese legal traditions. Studying in Hong Kong provides students with a first-hand opportunity to understand and engage with this unique legal system, offering insights into the complexities and nuances of both Western and Eastern legal principles.

Rachel Li, the Faculty Development Officer for the Faculty of Law, at the University of Hong, says: “Hong Kong is part of China but the city retains its own way of life and systems including the common law legal system inherited from the United Kingdom. And that makes practising law unique here.”

It is not just in China where there are enticing opportunities to study law. Arif Jamal is an Associate Professor at National University of Singapore Faculty of Law. He says that Singapore is one of the most dynamic and open economies in the world, and the gateway for many multinational corporations to Asia.

“It has acquired the status of a legal hub in the region, especially in areas such as international arbitration and dispute resolution, corporate and financial services law, intellectual property and technology law and maritime law, thereby offering tremendous access to legal resources,” he says.

Bright career opportunities in dynamic Asian economies 

Conversely, Jamal says it is common for lawyers from around Asia and the rest of the world to pursue their LL.M. in Singapore. “Due to Singapore’s position as a legal hub in Asia, an LL.M. in Singapore will not only expose students to current issues under Singapore law, but also to perspectives from the Asian region more broadly,” he adds. “Some of the foreign LL.M. graduates from the Singapore Universities also stay on in Singapore and practise as foreign lawyers or take up positions as in-house legal counsel.”

Studying for an LL.M. in the Asia-Pacific region ultimately brings an array of benefits, including exposure to renowned academic institutions, economic growth, and a rich blend of legal traditions and practices.

As such, Nguyen expects to see the popularity of LL.M. programs in the region continue to rise. “As legal systems in APAC mature and differentiate from those in other parts of the world, demand for specialized knowledge of local law will increase, which should lead to an increase in demand for APAC LL.Ms.,” he adds.

Related Law Schools

Shenzhen, China 21 Followers 2 Discussions
Hong Kong, Hong Kong (PRC) 89 Followers 57 Discussions
Singapore 339 Followers 237 Discussions

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