The LL.M. in Business Law / Commercial Law

Business lawyers want to know: Is an LL.M. worth the time and money?

[Update September 2018: Read LLM GUIDE's new article, LL.M.s in Business / Commercial Law: Helping Lawyers Manage Complexity]

Business Law touches on everything from contracts, transactions, bankruptcy, and taxation to banking, trade regulation, competition, finance, and intellectual property. Given the importance of these areas to national and international business, it's no wonder why so many lawyers study and work in the field.

But why do some lawyers opt to spend another year studying for an LL.M. in Business Law (also known as Commercial Law)? What do these programs offer?

For one, many business-related LL.M. programs focus on International Business Law, which is seldom taught extensively in primary law degrees. Many lawyers also pursue these programs to improve their legal English, learn more about comparative business law practices, develop marketable skills (like research and negotiation), and get exposure to foreign law and lawyers. All of this makes them more valuable when they return home.

"The LL.M. should go beyond the parameters of broad law school curricula that focus on passing the bar or other qualifying exam," says Spyros Maniatis, director of the Center for Commercial Law Studies at Queen Mary University London.

"It provides a chance to delve into the detail, but also appreciate the context of a specialist field from an international and comparative perspective," says Maniatis. "With a law degree students learn the language of the law; with a good LL.M. they can pick up its nuances."

A Business Law LL.M. can also deepen a lawyer's awareness about the links between business and other fields of law - even those that might seem unrelated at first.

"People come here wanting do one thing,” says Padideh Ala'i, a professor at American University, Washington College of Law (WCL). “But I keep telling my students, ‘that's not how the world functions; it is not so clear-cut.’"

"Environmental laws affect business. Human rights laws affect business," says Ala'i. "This distinction between business and non-business hasn't been good for the world."

WCL is one of several law schools offering an LL.M. program with a strong Business/Commercial Law focus; others include Harvard, NYU, Georgetown, Queen Mary, LSE, Edinburgh, Durham, Tilburg, and NUS, to name just a few. The PALLAS Consortium, as well as the universities of Leiden, Lund, Amsterdam, Lausanne, Manchester, and Vienna all offer European Business Law specializations, while the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Chinese Business Law program closely examines regional business laws.

Another unique program is the Master of Law and Business (MLB) program in Germany - a partnership between Bucerius Law School and the WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management.

According to MLB Dean Clifford Larsen, the program emerged partly from the realization that "clients of law firms are demanding lawyers that understand business concepts," just as business people were recognizing critical gaps in their legal knowledge.

"We are different from an LL.M. program in that we want to have both groups together in all of the courses," says Larsen. "They learn a lot more from each other that way."

"It's like having a medical student in the class with a patient, in the sense that lawyers are confronted with the ideas and perceptions of the business people in the law courses...It helps you understand how your clients think."

Return on investment?

But do law firms and other employers actually value these experiences and skills when it comes time to hire graduates of these programs.

Professor Ala'i at WCL says that many firms look at an LL.M. as a must when hiring someone to work in one of their foreign offices. Along with demonstrating language competence, the degree familiarizes foreign lawyers with how US firms operate and deal with business clients.

"An LL.M. is crucial because law firms know they'll have lawyers working in their own country, but (with an LL.M.), they now also have an understanding of what's here and how international transactions work," says Ala'i. "It's becoming increasingly marketable."

In terms of landing a job in the United States, however, a Business Law LL.M. is no silver bullet.

"Unfortunately, law firms continue to look at LL.M. students not as people, but as countries," says Ala'i. "There's almost a presumption that they look at you primarily as how useful are you going to be in the context of the country where you got your primary degree."

According to Spyros Maniatis at Queen Mary, doing an LL.M. can have other benefits.

"In my student days, an LL.M. was not necessarily a requirement; it was more of an eye-opening experience," he says. "I think today more people do it to build up a specialist area for themselves. This is partly how the LL.M. has changed: it is not only an educational experience; it is becoming a professional tool."

"When you go to a law firm, you have to go through all the departments and learn something about everything," says Maniatis. "At the end of the day, if you have a good LL.M. in a particular area, you will, hopefully, end up working in this field."


Photo: sonewfangled / Creative Commons

Comments


Related Law Schools

Davis, California 81 Followers 54 Discussions
Cambridge, Massachusetts 1124 Followers 875 Discussions
New York City, New York 305 Followers 235 Discussions
New York City, New York 2002 Followers 1565 Discussions
Portland, Oregon 26 Followers 19 Discussions
Singapore 272 Followers 223 Discussions
Toronto, Canada 166 Followers 76 Discussions
Rotterdam, Netherlands 174 Followers 78 Discussions
Utrecht, Netherlands 139 Followers 147 Discussions
Tilburg, Netherlands 230 Followers 175 Discussions
Lisboa, Portugal 50 Followers 25 Discussions
Shatin, Hong Kong (PRC) 51 Followers 29 Discussions
Hamburg, Germany 89 Followers 46 Discussions
Vienna, Austria 77 Followers 50 Discussions
Fribourg, Switzerland 50 Followers 11 Discussions
Glasgow, United Kingdom 158 Followers 126 Discussions
Washington, District of Columbia 1028 Followers 915 Discussions
Washington, District of Columbia 180 Followers 179 Discussions
Los Angeles, California 668 Followers 333 Discussions
San Diego, California 87 Followers 77 Discussions
Melbourne, Australia 198 Followers 104 Discussions
Sydney, Australia 160 Followers 109 Discussions
Durham, United Kingdom 54 Followers 177 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 726 Followers 904 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 725 Followers 902 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 865 Followers 844 Discussions
Manchester, United Kingdom 120 Followers 179 Discussions
Edinburgh, United Kingdom 400 Followers 475 Discussions
Amsterdam, Netherlands 326 Followers 169 Discussions
Leiden, Netherlands 571 Followers 488 Discussions
Colchester, United Kingdom 2 Followers 13 Discussions
Geneva, Switzerland 13 Followers 24 Discussions
Zürich, Switzerland 77 Followers 16 Discussions

LLM News

LL.M. Application Deadlines for Fall 2021 - Law Schools in the UK & Ireland

Nov 23, 2020

More LLM News

More LLM Articles

Pandemic Raises the Relevance of Legal Technology LL.M.s

Nov 18, 2020

The pandemic has proven that technology is not optional for lawyers; it’s a necessity

Landing a job in Big Law after a Tax LL.M.

Nov 10, 2020

There are diverse job opportunities on offer, but students need to be proactive and engaged from the start of their job search

How to Fund An LL.M. in America on a Budget

Oct 30, 2020

From scholarships to loans, there are a range of funding sources available. The benefits of doing an LL.M. in the US should far outweigh the cost

More Articles

Related Top 10 Lists

More Top 10 Lists