Taking the leap into an LL.M. program isn’t an easy decision: for one, it can be expensive, but it also means taking at least a year out of your career to hit the books.
You might be hemming and hawing over whether you can afford it, or whether you can put it off for a few years, to see whether you can nab that promotion without having to head back to school.
Here are some profiles of people who are in situations where knuckling down for an LL.M. can make all the difference to their careers.
The lawyer who’s ready to specialize
This is a classic reason for undertaking an LL.M., and a good one, too. While you will have gotten a taste of various legal fields during your undergrad, an LL.M. is where you can hone in on an area of law that took your fancy back then, or choose something relevant to the career you have now, enabling you to advance to the next point in your career.
Perhaps you are looking to branch out into a particular practice area or start your own firm – many lawyers sign up for an LL.M. in Tax Law for this reason.
See a list of all LL.M. concentrations here.
The international attorney who wants to boost their legal English skills
Your skill set and reputation at the law firm have been steadily improving, but you know that if you want to make partner, you’re going to need to ramp up your English skills – and some international connections wouldn’t hurt, either.
You’re not sure whether the boss would let you take a sabbatical right now, but if you angle it the right way, you should be able to sell him the benefits of a partner-in-the-making who’s had a stint in the US, perfected your legal English and interned at a bigger version of your own law firm, working in English with a number of international firms. Maybe he’ll even consider having the firm pay for this professional development.
If all goes well, you’ll return to work in a year or so with a host of tight international connections, ready to accept a higher salary, better work opportunities and with that ‘PARTNER’ office door sign looming somewhere in the near future.
And for those who need even more legal English training, there are a number of two-year LL.M.s that delve deep into language skills and other issues important to lawyers.
The non-law professional who wants to move into the field
You don’t come from a legal background yourself, but you find yourself attracted to work in the legal profession. Alternatively, you might know that there are better work opportunities ahead if you’re able to add a legal dimension to your skill-set.
LL.M.s are open to working professionals who are looking to enhance their career prospects by studying law. Healthcare workers can benefit from adding legal and ethical expertise to their profiles, as can MBAs, human rights activists, accountants and international businesspeople, among others.
If you’ve got your eyes set on leadership positions in these fields, adding an LL.M. can help you reach the next step in your career.
The new law grad who isn’t quite ready to leave school
You’ve just graduated from law school, but you haven’t quite figured out which area of law you want to work in – or you might not be ready to go to work at all!
Taking another year to study for an LL.M. might be a good option for you. You know that LL.M. students have typically got some work experience under their belts, so that’s a little daunting, but you figure it will be better than floating around – and you’re probably right.
LL.M.s allow you to specialize in a subject area: you know you really enjoyed the bit of environmental law covered in your undergraduate program, so maybe you just need one more year to find out whether that’s your thing.
Alternatively, you could take a general LL.M. which allows you to try out a range of different subjects and see what sticks.
Either way, you know that an LL.M. can only make you a more competitive option in the labor market. Hopefully it will lead you towards a better salary, thanks to the expertise you’ll gain on the LL.M., as well as that law clinic you plan on volunteering in for some work experience.
The student who wants to use the LL.M. to take the bar exam & begin practicing law in a new jurisdiction
Some LL.M.s include bar training preparation, which might be attractive if you’re looking to up-skill while also seeking employment in a new jurisdiction.
Perhaps you’re a non-native English speaker hoping to find work in the US or UK, or an American exploring job opportunities in a new state. Either way, you can combine taking the bar exam for this new jurisdiction with an LL.M. that allows you to hone in on a specialization and better prepare for the opportunities that lie ahead. For example, foreign students can use an LL.M. to gain bar eligibility in some US states.
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