"Why bother?" asks the Anonymous Lawyer.

By Banana Pie in The LLM experience from an Anonymous Lawyer on Feb 04, 2010

The second semester at UCL is in full throttle.  People are getting together study groups and study sessions for the exams in May/June.

However, this post is not about those people: the fair majority of people who do the LLM.  This post is about those people who make you go "Why bother?".  Since starting at UCL I have been told, been involved in discussions with, or overheard people talking about how LITTLE work they were doing in the LLM.  So, you ask me, why do you care?  Well, to be quiet honest, I don't.  But I feel sorry for those people who did not get a place at UCL and whose place was effectively taken by these people who...well, you really have to question why they are doing the LLM in the first place.  Now, also remember, I am older, worked for a number of years and left a well paying job at a top commercial law firm in my home country to do the LLM at UCL.  So the following post needs be read from that perspective.

*Today, a friend told me that a friend of hers was not going to any of the classes for a particular company/commercial law paper.  When asked by my friend why they had decided not to go to the classes, the person stated that it was easy as they had interned in a firm that had done work in that area of the law.  First, while I appreciate that the interning experience is very important, no amount of interning is really going to get you familiar with the theory and the law in detail.  Second, why would you waste your money doing an LLM if its so easy?  Why didn't you start working straight away (or get made partner)?  

*Apparently some people are doing courses they have already done at undergraduate level.  Company Law is one very obvious example.  When asked why they are doing company law when they had already done it at undergraduate level, they said "its easy" and "I will ace it".  I have a couple of problems with doing something you've already done at undergraduate level.  First off, why bother doing the LLM if you're not going to do something that challenges you intellectually?  Second, why bother spending money on subjects you've already done before?  If its to improve your marks from the first time round, I am not sure employers are going to be too impressed unless you score 200% in the exam.  Third, employers aren't dumb.  They have your academic transcript in front of you.  If they see you've done company law at undergrad and then done it at post grad, they are going to wonder why you've done the same thing twice. Are you not up to challenging yourself, they wonder? If you are planning on doing a course of study you've already done at undergrad you better start thinking of why; ... or have plans to ace the exam.

*I know a couple of people who don't go to class because they "can't be bothered".  Seriously.  I am attend all my classes and I will attend all the tutorials because that is what I paid for.  I saved up hard earned cash to do this LLM and I am attending ALL MY classes and tutorials.  Further, if I had borrowed money off my parents, relatives, bank I would be more motivated to go to classes and tutorials.  

*I have heard a lot of people complain about not being able to get through all the readings and the notes for the lectures.  When you ask them why they say its all too much.  Then, when you ask them what they got up to over the week and the weekend they say oh, "I went to this bar/club", "Hung out at this event", "Partied with these friends" etc etc. Part of the LLM experience is meeting new people, experiencing the city you live in (London IS really a fantastic city) and having fun.  Balance is important.  Don't forget why you are doing the LLM.  

*A lot of people complain about how long the lectures are.  In some classes, we don't even get a break because of the volume of material we have to get through.  Some people in the lectures ask for a break because they can't concentrate for "that long".  Lectures are only 2 hours long.  And a fair majority of people only have them four times a week.  If you can't handle a 2 hour lecture in one day, I am not sure whether you can handle taking notes and listening in an 8+ hour client meeting, commercial negotiations that go on all night or in court all day.

Like I said, my post relates to only a small proportion of people at UCL doing the LLM.  The majority of us at UCL are all hard working, intellectual and want to do well in exams.  I suppose the purpose of the post relates to my first post:  to make those people considering doing the LLM for the wrong reasons to consider whether an LLM is really a worthwhile spend.  If not, then you could give your place to someone who really wants it and who will make full use of it.

Comments

student.v, Feb 26, 2010 14:30

I'm also intrested in doing a llm. I'm from Austria. I just wanted to explain, why people maybe choose some lectures, which they did before.

First of all, the reason for doing an llm ist to learn legal english perfektly. Big law firms tell you that it doesn't matter which subject you study, as long as you are able to speak legal english fluently. Secondly in austria there is no undergraduate study. Every budy has a master (Magister), and is somehow finished with an education. The LLM is just your entery card for the big law firms (only because you show that legal english is not a proflem for you), and it is just important to know austrian law for the daily life in your law firm

Personale I see the LLM as "language institut" and also a chance to specilice myself in the subject, which I'm intrested. In Austrian law studys there is not much place for specilice in the subject. Because exams are very taff you should be finished in 4 years with your masters, and seat in classes with 300 other students. So you are somehow in need just to study for the exams.

I would love to study subjects with I'm intrested in, in my llm year (and not the easy ones which I have done). But the degree costs with living around ⬠20.000 (+ the money you won't earn in this year), so it ist somehow a big pressor to get the degree.

So I don't really know if also won't take the secure way, an study the subjects, which I was good in. Because the truth is I just need the degree, and speak legal english perfektly. At the other hand I think would be somehow stupid, just study secure things and don't gain from things you neve hear before.

stephan, Feb 07, 2010 17:10

I came across people like that as well (not just at UCL, but also from other London universities) and having left my job and paid a lot of money myself for the course, I share your feelings.

At least for students from continental Europe one explanation is that it is rather the LLM-title (for the business cards and door plates) that seem to count than the grades you achieve doing it.

Banana Pie, Feb 05, 2010 11:06

Hey Legalalien,

Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it. Congrats on getting into LSE!

I appreciate your comment re attending classes. I had friends at undergrad who attended NO lectures, crammed and did really well: and we all ended up at the same firms doing the same thing. But having talked to my personal tutor, my current professors, past students of the LLM at UCL and other institutions, they have all said that cramming MAY get you a pass mark but it won't get you a distinction. If all people want is to pass, go for it: cram and rote learn. But for me (and I am sure you're the same!), I'm not doing the LLM to "just pass".

No, your comment does not make you sound like an old bag! I agree with your comment 100% per cent. I think having worked for a number of years is an advantage to doing the LLM. First, you're a little more disciplined when it comes to getting the readings/essays done (I say a little because London is VERY distracting, and you need balance); Second, you've got context for the theory you're doing. You can analyse how the theory will work or not work in a practical context; or be better able to understand the theory by using a deal or a case etc you worked on. I believe this will give you the edge in exams. Those who have never worked will have have to study not only the theoretical framework but also how that fits into the practical framework. Third, you are better able to discern what is and is not important information to study/learn. Fourth, you can concentrate for much longer periods of time :).

I wish you the best of luck with LSE!

legalalien, Feb 04, 2010 14:25

Thanks bananapie - I've found both your blog posts helpful. Particularly interested in what you had to say about the "primer" nature of some of the courses. Although I'm going to LSE rather than UCL I'll definitely bear that in mind - as it happens, because I do have a lot of work experience, I have quite specific views on the courses I'd like to take and imagine some of them will be the less popular ones!

Not sure what I think about the relative merits of attending lectures or not. As an undergrad I was very much an "attend everything" person - my now husband (who didn't go to the same university) turned up to very few of his lectures and relied on last minute cramming. We both ended up in about the same place and with the same level of legal knowledge. I think some people just learn in different ways!

Completely agree with your views re merits of having an LLM or otherwise.

And as for the two hour concentration span - am I allowed to mutter about "youth of today" or does that make me a real old bag? Don't get me started on the preciousness of trainees in City firms in this day and age - I blame the HR teams who spend too much time telling them how wonderful they are......

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