To specialize or not that is the question...


Maybe some of you are still wavering whether to do a specialized or a general LLM. The following could, perhaps, be helpful to you. Anyway, it'd also welcome your opinions and feedback.

Some time ago I had an interesting exchange with a recently retired legal recruiter who also spend a part of his life in academia. We talked about the merits of specialized and general LLMs. Basically, in his opinion a specialised LLM would be highly attractive for someone knowing exactly that he wants to spend the rest of his career in a particular area of law.
On the downside, however, a formal specialization would severely limit his career options outside of his area of law which, in today's fast changing world, is a point worth to consider.

An alternative to the specialised LLM he suggested would be using a general program and focusing on 2 preferred areas of law through the selection of appropriate subjects + choosing 1 or 2 unrelated subjects (Assuming that you can choose up to 8 half-year options in many LLM programs this would mean 3+3+2). This combination, in his opinion, would enable a graduate to claim (informal) concentrations in two different law areas, and, to boot, the degree would still be considered general, which means that it would not hamper a graduate to pursue a career outside of the specialised areas. Moreover, there is the option to specialize with the general LLM even after the completion of the program by doing some additional work in a preferred area of law (e.g. researching and publishing a law review article).
Maybe some of you are still wavering whether to do a specialized or a general LLM. The following could, perhaps, be helpful to you. Anyway, it'd also welcome your opinions and feedback.

Some time ago I had an interesting exchange with a recently retired legal recruiter who also spend a part of his life in academia. We talked about the merits of specialized and general LLMs. Basically, in his opinion a specialised LLM would be highly attractive for someone knowing exactly that he wants to spend the rest of his career in a particular area of law.
On the downside, however, a formal specialization would severely limit his career options outside of his area of law which, in today's fast changing world, is a point worth to consider.

An alternative to the specialised LLM he suggested would be using a general program and focusing on 2 preferred areas of law through the selection of appropriate subjects + choosing 1 or 2 unrelated subjects (Assuming that you can choose up to 8 half-year options in many LLM programs this would mean 3+3+2). This combination, in his opinion, would enable a graduate to claim (informal) concentrations in two different law areas, and, to boot, the degree would still be considered general, which means that it would not hamper a graduate to pursue a career outside of the specialised areas. Moreover, there is the option to specialize with the general LLM even after the completion of the program by doing some additional work in a preferred area of law (e.g. researching and publishing a law review article).
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Floris
I thought about this question a time ago, while i was looking for LL.M. programs in the U.K. I think, you did not mention a very important issue in your question.

Necessary is to think about the area you want to work later as a professional lawyer.

Believe it, or not - but in a lot of countries the LL.M., a general - or a specialized either - is nothing more than the proof of the ability to handle some studies in a foreign country and the proof of speaking legal english in an appropriate way.
So it doesn't really matter what subject you are going to study - as long as it is some legal stuff. (e.g. a lot of countries in continental europe).

But there are also some countries, where the LL.M. is used as a real specialization. For this reason, it depends on the country you want to work in after your LL.M. studies.
I thought about this question a time ago, while i was looking for LL.M. programs in the U.K. I think, you did not mention a very important issue in your question.

Necessary is to think about the area you want to work later as a professional lawyer.

Believe it, or not - but in a lot of countries the LL.M., a general - or a specialized either - is nothing more than the proof of the ability to handle some studies in a foreign country and the proof of speaking legal english in an appropriate way.
So it doesn't really matter what subject you are going to study - as long as it is some legal stuff. (e.g. a lot of countries in continental europe).

But there are also some countries, where the LL.M. is used as a real specialization. For this reason, it depends on the country you want to work in after your LL.M. studies.

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Hello Floris,

I'm myself from continental Europe and this is certainly a good point to consider. On the other hand, it should be noted that for students outside the English speaking world an LLM study in an English speaking country has always a twofold value (i.e. additional legal knowledge + English proficiency proof/International experience) as compared to students from English speaking countries. We should also consider that in non-English speaking countries there are 2 kinds of employers primarily interested in LLM graduates:
1. Those interested only in English skills and international experience.
2. Those interested in both, international legal knowledge and international experience
I've actually heard myself recruiters saying they would hire an Anglo-Saxon LLM even though their company doesn't have a matching job. However, this are usually employers that focus primarily on domestic law and they just need a lawyer proficient in English and having international experience so they can also handle English paperwork and, maybe, take care of international clients. If you, however, apply to firms that actually focuse on international law, things might look quite differently. For example, a French law firm specialising in international IP law will probably prefer a French lawyer with a British LLM in international IP over a French lawyer with a British LLM specialisation in human rights.

lawstudent2010
Hello Floris,

I'm myself from continental Europe and this is certainly a good point to consider. On the other hand, it should be noted that for students outside the English speaking world an LLM study in an English speaking country has always a twofold value (i.e. additional legal knowledge + English proficiency proof/International experience) as compared to students from English speaking countries. We should also consider that in non-English speaking countries there are 2 kinds of employers primarily interested in LLM graduates:
1. Those interested only in English skills and international experience.
2. Those interested in both, international legal knowledge and international experience
I've actually heard myself recruiters saying they would hire an Anglo-Saxon LLM even though their company doesn't have a matching job. However, this are usually employers that focus primarily on domestic law and they just need a lawyer proficient in English and having international experience so they can also handle English paperwork and, maybe, take care of international clients. If you, however, apply to firms that actually focuse on international law, things might look quite differently. For example, a French law firm specialising in international IP law will probably prefer a French lawyer with a British LLM in international IP over a French lawyer with a British LLM specialisation in human rights.

lawstudent2010
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