Timing: What's a good time to do an LLM?


londonHK
I'm a Canadian currently doing a 4 year law degree/MBA program at a Canadian law school. I'll be 27 after I finish the program and 28 after I do the required articling year. I'd like to do an LLM at some point in my career but don't want to pursue one immediately after I finish the law degree/MBA program because (a) I'd like some experience practicing law before I pursue additional legal education and (b) I went from my 4 year undergraduate education directly into the law degree/MBA program with no break in between, and don't want to put off the work world any longer. I'm interested in doing an LLM at some point not because I'd like to be an academic but for personal interest and career advancement reasons. I've read through the threads pertaining to age, but I'm more concerned about what's a good time to take a year out of practicing/building a career to pursue an LLM. Any thoughts?
I'm a Canadian currently doing a 4 year law degree/MBA program at a Canadian law school. I'll be 27 after I finish the program and 28 after I do the required articling year. I'd like to do an LLM at some point in my career but don't want to pursue one immediately after I finish the law degree/MBA program because (a) I'd like some experience practicing law before I pursue additional legal education and (b) I went from my 4 year undergraduate education directly into the law degree/MBA program with no break in between, and don't want to put off the work world any longer. I'm interested in doing an LLM at some point not because I'd like to be an academic but for personal interest and career advancement reasons. I've read through the threads pertaining to age, but I'm more concerned about what's a good time to take a year out of practicing/building a career to pursue an LLM. Any thoughts?
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capa
Hello - most lawyers complete local LLM's while they work. If, however, you want to "take a year out" and complete your LLM abroad, i'd say the best time would be a year or two into working. No sooner and no later. Your first couple of years will probably be on contract so you will have the opportunity to take a year off. This may not be possible as you progress in your career, start having a family etc etc etc. You are right not to go into an LLM right from law school. Employers like experience and it is useless having all credentials with no experience. Experience will also help you figure out what area of law you would like to specialise in. That said, law school subjects are a poor indicator of whether you will like a particular area of law. Practice for a year or two, see what you like, and then specialise. Working will also help with a thesis etc.

So, best time is one or two years after working. No sooner. Maybe a little later but be careful about being "locked into" a career. If you are a young, fresh graduate with 2 years post admission experience, this will be perfect.

Best wishes
Hello - most lawyers complete local LLM's while they work. If, however, you want to "take a year out" and complete your LLM abroad, i'd say the best time would be a year or two into working. No sooner and no later. Your first couple of years will probably be on contract so you will have the opportunity to take a year off. This may not be possible as you progress in your career, start having a family etc etc etc. You are right not to go into an LLM right from law school. Employers like experience and it is useless having all credentials with no experience. Experience will also help you figure out what area of law you would like to specialise in. That said, law school subjects are a poor indicator of whether you will like a particular area of law. Practice for a year or two, see what you like, and then specialise. Working will also help with a thesis etc.

So, best time is one or two years after working. No sooner. Maybe a little later but be careful about being "locked into" a career. If you are a young, fresh graduate with 2 years post admission experience, this will be perfect.

Best wishes
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Generally, I would advise against doing an LLM right after your law degree. There are a few good reasons why this is conventional wisdom:

1. Having a few years in practice, teaching and/or in public service gives you experience and, more importantly, perspective. Instead of simply being an additional year in law school, your LLM will be an opportunity for you to specialise in subjects that you have a practical interest in. I know many friends who come right out of law school thinking they want to build their career in a certain area, but end up doing something entirely different. For example, you may not have taken any tax courses during your JD/LLB, but ended up practising tax and becoming genuinely interested in the subject. The LLM can give you a golden opportunity to take those tax courses you missed out on earlier.

2. Waiting a couple of years before pursing your LLM can give you valuable time to improve your CV, which will in turn improve your odds of getting into a better LLM program than if you had applied right out of law school. If you are serious about the LLM, it would be better in the long term to work for two years, and spend these years publishing, teaching part-time, and getting a bar membership or a clerkship. These will all improve your chances of admission. Building up your CV is extremely crucial if you are aiming for the likes of HLS, SLS or YLS as competition is extremely intense.

3. It gives you time to save. This may, of course, not be an issue for you if you secure a scholarship, successfully obtain financial aid, or have the financial means already.

4. It gives you time to think about whether you really want a LLM in the first place. Work does funny things to people. I have seen many of my schoolmates graduate with grand ambitions, only to leave the legal profession 3-4 years later disillusioned or simply because their talents are better used in other fields. Life is unpredictable, and circumstances may dictate that we take the path less trodden. If after a couple of years working, living and breathing the law you still feel a yearing to develop yourself in this area, at least you will know this is an informed decision and one that you are less likely to regret.

5. Taking a year off to do your LLM after working for X years will be a 'real' break. You can then say "I have worked hard for X years; now its time for me to take a year off, pursue my interests, reassess my options, and see what other doors open from here."

Having said that, the number of years you should wait before doing your LLM can vary from 2 to 4 years in my view. Anything less than 2 years will mean that you are less likely to reap the benefits I outlined above. More than 4 years, given your age, will mean that you have to make some personal sacrifices, such as putting off starting a family, or giving up a potentially viable practice. Again, there is no hard and fast rule.

All the best in whatever decision you eventually settle on.
Generally, I would advise against doing an LLM right after your law degree. There are a few good reasons why this is conventional wisdom:

1. Having a few years in practice, teaching and/or in public service gives you experience and, more importantly, perspective. Instead of simply being an additional year in law school, your LLM will be an opportunity for you to specialise in subjects that you have a practical interest in. I know many friends who come right out of law school thinking they want to build their career in a certain area, but end up doing something entirely different. For example, you may not have taken any tax courses during your JD/LLB, but ended up practising tax and becoming genuinely interested in the subject. The LLM can give you a golden opportunity to take those tax courses you missed out on earlier.

2. Waiting a couple of years before pursing your LLM can give you valuable time to improve your CV, which will in turn improve your odds of getting into a better LLM program than if you had applied right out of law school. If you are serious about the LLM, it would be better in the long term to work for two years, and spend these years publishing, teaching part-time, and getting a bar membership or a clerkship. These will all improve your chances of admission. Building up your CV is extremely crucial if you are aiming for the likes of HLS, SLS or YLS as competition is extremely intense.

3. It gives you time to save. This may, of course, not be an issue for you if you secure a scholarship, successfully obtain financial aid, or have the financial means already.

4. It gives you time to think about whether you really want a LLM in the first place. Work does funny things to people. I have seen many of my schoolmates graduate with grand ambitions, only to leave the legal profession 3-4 years later disillusioned or simply because their talents are better used in other fields. Life is unpredictable, and circumstances may dictate that we take the path less trodden. If after a couple of years working, living and breathing the law you still feel a yearing to develop yourself in this area, at least you will know this is an informed decision and one that you are less likely to regret.

5. Taking a year off to do your LLM after working for X years will be a 'real' break. You can then say "I have worked hard for X years; now its time for me to take a year off, pursue my interests, reassess my options, and see what other doors open from here."

Having said that, the number of years you should wait before doing your LLM can vary from 2 to 4 years in my view. Anything less than 2 years will mean that you are less likely to reap the benefits I outlined above. More than 4 years, given your age, will mean that you have to make some personal sacrifices, such as putting off starting a family, or giving up a potentially viable practice. Again, there is no hard and fast rule.

All the best in whatever decision you eventually settle on.
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londonHK
Thanks both of you for your very helpful and well thought-out answers. You both make good points. It's definitely something for me to think about, although I'm a few years away from that stage in my life.
Thanks both of you for your very helpful and well thought-out answers. You both make good points. It's definitely something for me to think about, although I'm a few years away from that stage in my life.
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