LL.M. Programs in Corporate Law Retain Allure

The deals boom that powered employment in this practice area has ebbed, but graduates of these specialist degree programs are finding strong job opportunities

For corporate lawyers, 2021 was a frenzied year amid a global deal-making boom resulting from stimulus measures unveiled during the COVID pandemic. That led to record profits at law firms, which hired extensively to field soaring demand for their services. They also doled out record high salaries to attract lawyers into this practice area, making it a popular field of specialism at law schools.

However, the M&A boom has gone into a hard reverse, with global deal making suffering a record fall in the second half of last year. Consequently, lawyers are billing fewer hours, underscoring a drop in demand for corporate lawyers amid some job cuts in the sector.

Still, law schools say that graduates of their specialist LL.M. programs in corporate law and related fields such as international business are finding strong employment opportunities across the economy.

“The graduates of the International Corporate and Commercial Law program have acquired a strong theoretical foundation in law and gained insight into best practices in the field,” says Soterios Loizou, Associate Professor in Commercial Law at The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London.

“As a result, they can be found in top law firms all over the world, in leading companies working as in-house counsels, while some of them have pursued further postgraduate studies and assumed academic research and teaching roles.”

Loizou is the Director of the International Corporate and Commercial Law LL.M. as well as the International Financial and Commercial Law LL.M. at King’s, a top UK law school. Both of the programs are delivered online and offer lawyers the chance to learn theory and practice from professors and experienced practitioners together with classmates from around the world.

“A top corporate lawyer needs to have strong theoretical foundations in law and the ability to rigorously interpret and apply in practice all frameworks,” Loizou says. “Considering that the field changes rapidly, a top corporate lawyer must also be on top of developments in the area and have a holistic perspective of law and business,” he adds. 

“Importantly, they must also have strong communication skills and a global outlook so that they can work seamlessly with company owners and executives.”

An array of options for corporate law studies 

Admission to the two programs at King’s requires a strong academic record and keen interest in corporate and commercial law. Many other top law schools run LL.M. programs focused on corporate law and related fields, presenting an array of options for prospective students looking to get ahead in this field.

In California, Berkeley Law runs the LL.M. Business Law Certificate to prepare students for professional practice as legal advisors to businesses, NGOs and government entities. The participants will study courses in areas such as contracts, income tax and insurance law.

At Duke Law, in North Carolina, LL.M. students can take semester-long transaction and corporate law courses, including in fields such as Securities Regulation, Negotiations, Bankruptcy, Structuring Venture Capital and Private Equity Funds, Corporate Finance, as well as Business Strategy for Lawyers.

Working on cross-border transactions 

Geoff Krouse is the Assistant Dean for Alumni and Development and a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke Law School. He underlines the demand for lawyers who can work on cross-border transactions. Demand for such advice was a huge profit driver for law firms during the 2021 deals boom.

“Lawyers who are effective in cross-border deals tend to have sophisticated negotiation skills, an ability to think creatively, and a willingness to invest the time and energy needed to work through unique challenges with all parties in order to achieve a successful completed transaction,” he says.

Having a strong command of substantive law and meaningful knowledge of various elements of the deal process are also very important, Krouse says. Duke Law students have opportunities to develop these skills in the spring semester, when they can complete off-campus externships with the in-house departments of multinational corporations.

The students can also join one of the school’s 11 legal clinics, which range from International Human Rights to Start-Up Business Ventures. “These experiential opportunities allow students to work with real clients and supplement their substantive legal knowledge with many practical skills such as communicating with clients, meeting deadlines, and dealing with other real-world issues,” says Krouse.

A hands-on learning experience 

It is a similar story at Georgetown Law in Washington D.C., which runs the LL.M. degree in International Business and Economic Law. Students have the opportunity to take experiential classes that prepare them for the challenges of managing international transactions.

Furthermore, students can enroll in externships at different international organizations, law firms, and multilateral institutions that complement their legal education. 

“Students have additional opportunities outside of the classroom at our dozens of student organizations, Centers, and Institutes such as the Center on Transnational Business and the Law, and the Institute of International Economic Law,” says Andrea Rodriguez Escobedo, Director of the International LL.M. Programs at Georgetown Law.

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