Question: if you’re an aspiring lawyer interested in the intersection of finance and law, what’s a good European country to pursue an LL.M.?
Answer: Europe’s strongest economy, of course.
It’s no secret that Germany is a leading economic powerhouse of Europe, with a GDP that ranks in the top five worldwide. For that reason alone, many law students from all over the world come to Germany to obtain an LL.M. and learn about how the country uses law to help its economy.
“Germany is an interesting, economically successful country and the economic success has some legal roots,” says Heike Schweitzer, academic director of the Master of Business, Competition and Regulatory Law at Freie Universität in Berlin. “The program we are offering tries to teach something about the conceptual roots of economic success in a way to help understand what kind of legal structure can help the economic process.”
Freie Universität is just one of the universities in Germany that teaches students how law and economics intersect. The ILF Institute for Law and Finance at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main offers an LL.M. in law and finance. Bucerius Law School in Hamburg offers a Master of Law and Business Program. Saarland University in Saarbrucken’s LL.M.s in European law include courses in economic law, foreign investment and trade. The University of Cologne offers both an LL.M. in Business Law and an LL.M. in French/Germany Business law.
And that’s not to mention the European Master Programme in Law and Economics—or EMLE—program, which is offered in partnership between the University of Hamburg and other European universities.
Besides its strong tradition of merging law and economics, Germany is also attractive to economic law students because of places like Frankfurt, a financial center with a variety of law firms and banks, including the European Central Bank, where business is often conducted in English. Shen-Dee Kobbelt, head of programs and marketing at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main’s Institute for Law and Finance, says her program, which is taught entirely in English, caters towards business people who want to understand law and lawyers who want to understand how their field intersects with business.
“Part of the curriculum is to do a certain amount of finance and business courses. So they basically have the benefits of law education, but they also know how businesspeople and financial managers work. [They get the] perspective of managers and bankers,” Kobbelt says. “It’s a quarter business people and the rest lawyers. They can share perspectives and bounce ideas off each other.”
Kobbelt also points out that Frankfurt is currently positioned to compete against Europe’s most famous financial capital, London, which may soon become less accessible to non-British citizens following the “Brexit” referendum this month.
Although these programs are available to both domestic and international students, Schweitzer says that German students who want an LL.M. typically take the opportunity to study in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands or France, so that they can study abroad and get some experience outside of the country. This means that often, many LL.M. programs in Germany attract mainly foreign students. For example, FU, which has 35 places, accepted students from 32 different countries this year.
Post-LL.M. job prospects in Germany and beyond
Besides hosting a financial capital and the tradition of merging law and economics, Germany also has another big asset to offer: the opportunity to find a job post-graduation in Europe’s strongest economy.
Ehab Shamah, an LL.M. student at FU from Syria, says he thinks many of his classmates chose to come to Germany so they could work in a rich and economically robust country. In his case, he chose FU because his brother already lived in Germany and because of the low cost of living in Berlin. Studying in Germany also gave him the opportunity to learn German, an important skill for living and working in the country. For his part, Shamah is planning to stay on in the country after he graduates; he has a job interview lined up with a German-based international law firm.
Of course, becoming a certified lawyer in Germany is a lengthy and arduous process, with seven or more years of legal education and clerkships required for students to become official members of the legal profession.
On top of the tangible work benefits of studying in Germany, officials also point out that the country has plenty of extra incentives to offer. Schweitzer says that many students are drawn to Berlin, known by many as one of the coolest, most multicultural cities in Europe. And Kobbelt says that traveling from Frankfurt is easy and cheap, a major draw for non-European students.
“For non-Europeans, it's a positive thing to be in Europe, to travel around Europe,” she says. “For Europeans it's not a big deal, but for people from the States or from Asia, then it's something special to be in Europe and to get to travel around Europe.”