The LL.M. in Comparative Law

Why this field of law continues to appeal to legal academics and practitioners alike

Many prospective students look to the LL.M. degree to provide specialization and an entry point into a foreign jurisdiction after completing legal studies elsewhere. Unlike Tax or Commercial Law, Comparative Law - at first glance- does not seem to hold the same practical focus that attracts practice-oriented lawyers.

However, graduate studies in Comparative Law can open up a world of opportunity and a new worldview for many lawyers, whether the focus is academic or practical.

Vernon Palmer, professor at Tulane Law School, says a broadened perspective is essential for practitioners working in today’s world.

“We have a global economy in the 21st century, and we must use a global legal framework to manage that economy,” says Palmer. “It's inevitable today that any practitioner will deal with problems in multiple jurisdictions.”

For lawyers interested in academia, an LL.M. or Master's of Comparative Law (M.C.L.) can be a further step toward expanding one’s knowledge and methodological toolkit. The Comparative Legal Thought LL.M. program at Cardozo Law School in New York, for example, attracts a few students each year primarily interested in going into academia.

Several other law schools, including UPenn, Chicago, Michigan, San Diego, Florida, and NUS also have dedicated Comparative Law LL.M. programs or concentrations (See the more complete list below).

At the McGill Comparative Law Institute in Montreal, the LL.M. program includes students interested in pursuing further academic work, as well those looking to apply a comparative framework to legal practice and/or policy.



“Many students are interested in learning at a graduate level with a view to go home or to an international setting to build on what they’ve learned in a comparative framework,” says Angela Campbell, director of the McGill Comparative Law Institute. “Students are looking at different policies, procedures and rules in an international context.”

Practical matters

Victoria Gordan, assistant dean at the University of Michigan Law School, finds a similarly diverse set of career goals among her Comparative Law LL.M. students, including those wanting to move into academia, private international practice, or jobs as government officials in their own countries.

Indeed, not only are the student’s goals diverse; so are their backgrounds. Most LL.M. programs have students who come from a Civil Law background and seek to gain knowledge about Common Law. Most LL.M. programs are also a diverse mix of nationalities. Michigan’s LL.M. program, for example, is made up entirely of lawyers from non-US jurisdictions.

“The program is inherently comparative legal studies because students are studying at a US law school, yet come from other countries,” explains Gordan.

The spectrum of Comparative Law methodologies varies from program to program. While some focus on the diversity and experiences of the student body or the stark differences between cultures and legal systems, other programs have developed complex comparative law methodologies.

At McGill, the “trans-systemic” approach pervades teaching and research. According to Angela Campbell, this approach inculcates “openness to ideas and familiarity beyond the immediate and the local, openness to learning about systems and rules with a view to be able to think about how these systems have developed, how jurists come to certain conclusions about specific problems.”

Therefore, students working with a comparative approach should ideally “be comfortable moving within and across different systems and rules,” says Campbell.



Comparing programs



So, what should prospective students look for in a program? Given the varied focus of Comparative Law programs, prospective students need to really investigate different programs to see whether the program fits their goals.

Lawyers going into academia may have different requirements for an LL.M. program than those looking to develop a specialization and return to practice or policy work. Some programs, like Cardozo, offer unique opportunities to take seminars abroad to experience a foreign legal system first-hand, or to write an in-depth research thesis.

Prospective students should also see whether Comparative Law is part and parcel of the curriculum throughout a law school, not solely a separate field of study. Claire Dickerson, a professor at Tulane, advises prospective students to “look for a program where Comparative Law is integrated into the curriculum on a systematic basis.”

Most importantly, prospective students may want to evaluate what types of methodology are in line with their career goals. Some students may be content with simply looking at differences between legal rules and procedures, while other students may benefit more from a holistic or trans-systemic approach which evaluates legal systems and traditions.

Whichever program one chooses, most LL.M. programs are already a step towards Comparative Law studies.

“The beauty of an LL.M. program is that students already come ready for Comparative Law, doing that just by enrolling, coming from different countries,” says Amy Sugin at Cardozo.

"Students should retain that perspective and share it, feel comfortable raising their hands and sharing how they do things in their home country,” adds Sugin. “That’s a teachable moment and educationally rich for everyone involved, professors and students alike.”


Image: "Apples and Oranges" by MicroAssist / Flickr (cropped and rotated)

Comments


Related Law Schools

Turin, Italy 21 Followers 7 Discussions
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 858 Followers 486 Discussions
Durham, North Carolina 408 Followers 305 Discussions
White Plains, New York 28 Followers 31 Discussions
New York City, New York 132 Followers 122 Discussions
Ann Arbor, Michigan 293 Followers 202 Discussions
New Orleans, Louisiana 71 Followers 80 Discussions
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 17 Followers 13 Discussions
Indianapolis, Indiana 24 Followers 24 Discussions
Chicago, Illinois 18 Followers 42 Discussions
Chicago, Illinois 604 Followers 327 Discussions
Seattle, Washington 96 Followers 81 Discussions
Delhi, India 48 Followers 11 Discussions
Nagoya, Japan 14 Followers 4 Discussions
Santiago de Chile, Chile 6 Followers 3 Discussions
Uppsala, Sweden 43 Followers 19 Discussions
Cairo, Egypt 18 Followers 1 Discussion
Orange, California 47 Followers 22 Discussions
Melbourne, Australia 7 Followers 1 Discussion
San Antonio, Texas 12 Followers 1 Discussion
London, United Kingdom 10 Followers 16 Discussions
Singapore 296 Followers 227 Discussions
Fukuoka, Japan 52 Followers 32 Discussions
Gainesville, Florida 108 Followers 214 Discussions
Washington, District of Columbia 11 Followers 2 Discussions
Wollongong, Australia 12 Followers 1 Discussion
Melbourne, Australia 29 Followers 51 Discussions
Brisbane, Australia 32 Followers 31 Discussions
Adelaide, Australia 9 Followers 10 Discussions
Ghent, Belgium 98 Followers 55 Discussions
Santa Clara, California 24 Followers 27 Discussions
San Francisco, California 55 Followers 32 Discussions
San Diego, California 93 Followers 77 Discussions
San Diego, California 21 Followers 12 Discussions
Los Angeles, California 719 Followers 346 Discussions
Exeter, United Kingdom 20 Followers 40 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 33 Followers 32 Discussions
Washington, District of Columbia 361 Followers 324 Discussions
Washington, District of Columbia 8 Followers 3 Discussions
Full Profile
Maastricht, Netherlands 262 Followers 220 Discussions
Budapest, Hungary 55 Followers 31 Discussions
Mannheim, Germany 48 Followers 6 Discussions
Montréal, Canada 201 Followers 127 Discussions
Limerick, Ireland 14 Followers 6 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 573 Followers 895 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 85 Followers 175 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 882 Followers 868 Discussions
Birmingham, Alabama 5 Followers 0 Discussions

LLM News

Dec. 3 Conference Focuses on LL.M. Insights

Dec 01, 2021

More LLM News

More LLM Articles

Climate Change Boosts Demand for ESG Legal Expertise

Jan 27, 2022

The post-LL.M. job opportunities in ESG and sustainability are increasingly bright

Law Schools Blaze a Trail in Fintech

Jan 13, 2022

LL.M. courses can help students navigate the law’s grey areas

Big Law Ramps Up LL.M. Recruitment to Ride Deals Boom

Jan 07, 2022

In varied practice areas pay deals are climbing to record highs amid a fierce competition for law school talent

More Articles

Related Top 10 Lists

More Top 10 Lists