The LL.M. in Finance and Banking Law

With no bull market in sight, does a specialized finance LL.M. still make sense?

No doubt about it. It's been a tough year for lawyers in the world's financial centers. As big clients cut back - or topple - a day doesn't seem to go by without at least one Wall Street or City of London firm announcing layoffs by the dozen.

While it's not the first economic downturn the world's lawyers have faced, it's probably the most dramatic in generations. Whether modern capitalism is truly on the ropes - as some magazine covers might suggest - is yet to be seen. It is reasonably clear, however, that global finance has entered a period of change and, possibly, reform.

So what if you're a lawyer looking to do an LL.M. in Finance or Banking Law? On one hand, a dismal job market could be the perfect opportunity to get another qualification. On the other hand, if you have a job, why give it up to study a subject that is so much in flux?

"If I were a betting man, I would guess that the financial crisis will lead to more regulation," says Sean Griffith, professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York. "Whenever there is more regulation, there is more work for a lawyer."

"Perhaps the investment banker can't say the same thing, but I think we can be optimistic about the future."

Griffith teaches on Fordham's LL.M. in Banking, Corporate and Finance Law. It is one of several LL.M. programs worldwide where lawyers can take a year of courses related to specifically to financial law, like Mergers & Acquisitions, Securities Regulation, Banking Regulation, and Investment Banking.

Other strong finance-focused LL.M. programs include those at Georgetown, Boston University, Columbia, Stanford, Melbourne, National University Singapore, Warwick, Manchester, and few of the University of London schools (a longer list is below).

Along with their focus, another advantage of finance-oriented LL.M. programs is that they attract lawyers from all over the world. According to Griffith, this helps give students a taste of what is becoming an increasingly global field, due to the many sources of international capital and the emergence of different financial models.

"One question that a disinterested observer might ask is, does the US have the best financial regulation, or are there other models we ought to consider following? What center will emerge as the next center of finance and capital in the next century? Those questions are both open. Foreign law students have a unique perspective on both of those questions that can enrich all of us."

Managing change

International scope and dealing with change are also two aspects of the International Finance Concentration within Harvard Law School's LL.M. program.

"People in finance are being thrown changes from the regulatory system everyday," says Hal Scott, co-director of the International Finance Concentration at Harvard. "You're going to need lawyers to be on top of that; to tell you what it means and how it works. And, of course, you are going to try to influence the process."

Through a year-long seminar, an extensive research paper, and a series of high-profile guest speakers, students in the Harvard International Finance Concentration are exposed to the broad range of perspectives, regardless of whether they go to work for a law firm, corporation, auditor, or government finance or justice ministry.

"It gives both public and private perspectives on these issues," says Scott of the program. "It's not narrowly legal; it's finance and law, and concentrated to a great extent on policy issues, maybe more so than on legal practitioner issues."

Interesting times

As with other legal specializations, it is difficult to say just how much of an edge an LL.M. degree gives lawyers who are looking for a job. Obviously having a Harvard degree on your resume can never hurt, but what about a specialized LL.M. in finance?

"Employers are increasingly looking for people with specializations and distinctive profiles - the generalist is no longer sought after," says Raphaela Henze, managing director of the Institute for Law and Finance (ILF) at Goethe University in Frankfurt.

"Several things will be restructured, and to do all this properly, you need highly-educated legal and financial experts," says Henze. "If you picture yourself working in the financial sector either as a lawyer or consultant, in a bank or in an auditing firm, earning an LL.M. in finance would definitely be a good choice."

But even if long-term career prospects look good for specialist lawyers, Henze warns prospective students about a reality that corporate, finance, and banking lawyers already know too well - the long hours.

"You should also be aware right from the beginning that what awaits you is not a nine-to-five job," says Henze. "Jobs in this sector are extremely demanding and spare time can be rare."

But despite the notoriously long hours and the occasional economic crisis, the rewards - monetary and otherwise - of working in financial law continue make it one of the most common career paths for young lawyers.

Added to that, now there's the draw of working in a rapidly changing field of law and sector - an excitement that Sean Griffith detects in his classes at Fordham.

"If you are a corporate law or business law teacher, these are interesting times," says Griffith. "There's plenty of room for evolution and even revolution in this area. You just open up the newspaper, and there's something to talk about in class."


Photo: Antonio Morales García / Creative Commons

Comments


Related Law Schools

Stanford, California 671 Followers 380 Discussions
Singapore 233 Followers 215 Discussions
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 19 Followers 1 Discussion
Hong Kong, Hong Kong (PRC) 72 Followers 53 Discussions
Pretoria, South Africa 127 Followers 11 Discussions
New York City, New York 49 Followers 17 Discussions
New York City, New York 284 Followers 228 Discussions
Detroit, Michigan 7 Followers 3 Discussions
Cambridge, Massachusetts 990 Followers 848 Discussions
Toronto, Canada 143 Followers 69 Discussions
Poole, United Kingdom 9 Followers 17 Discussions
Glasgow, United Kingdom 154 Followers 119 Discussions
Turin, Italy 20 Followers 6 Discussions
Oxford, United Kingdom 28 Followers 40 Discussions
Tbilisi, Georgia 15 Followers 0 Discussions
New York City, New York 1207 Followers 971 Discussions
Perth, Australia 14 Followers 11 Discussions
Coventry, United Kingdom 62 Followers 115 Discussions
Boston, Massachusetts 311 Followers 335 Discussions
Chicago, Illinois 15 Followers 40 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 510 Followers 856 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 786 Followers 798 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 629 Followers 865 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 680 Followers 873 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 31 Followers 32 Discussions
Melbourne, Australia 175 Followers 97 Discussions
Melbourne, Australia 29 Followers 51 Discussions
Adelaide, Australia 8 Followers 10 Discussions
London, United Kingdom 52 Followers 69 Discussions
Manchester, United Kingdom 112 Followers 175 Discussions
Washington, District of Columbia 930 Followers 896 Discussions
Wilmington, Delaware 14 Followers 10 Discussions
Frankfurt am Main, Germany 161 Followers 98 Discussions
Kingston, Canada 58 Followers 15 Discussions
Pontypridd, United Kingdom 4 Followers 5 Discussions
Wolverhampton, United Kingdom 4 Followers 2 Discussions
Oxford, United Kingdom 20 Followers 10 Discussions
Amsterdam, Netherlands 17 Followers 9 Discussions

LLM News

American University Washington College of Law Announces New LL.M. Programs

Jul 16, 2019

More LLM News

More LLM Articles

Post-LLM Careers in Academia are Abundant

Jul 15, 2019

Whether through a PhD or J.S.D, there are well-trodden paths into academia for LL.M. graduates, but the competition for jobs is intense

Securing Post LL.M. Work Visas

May 27, 2019

An overseas LL.M. can provide the local knowledge and networks to land a local job. We’ve done the research on visa rules, so that you don’t have to

Post-LL.M. Careers: The World Could be your Oyster

Feb 28, 2019

After an LL.M. degree, grads have many career options, from Big Law firms to the public sector and even academia

More Articles

Related Top 10 Lists

More Top 10 Lists