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Thinking about studying for an LLM? Do you have any questions regarding applications, funding, choosing a course or choosing a school?

On Wednesday November 25, experts answered your questions on this page at:

www.ft.com/q&a/llm2009

On the panel were:

Professor Timothy Endicott, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford

Professor David E. Van Zandt, dean of Northwestern University School of Law


I am currently doing a Masters in Business Administration with additional courses in electrical engineering. I developed an interest in legal topics and I am thinking about doing an LLM. What programs do you recommend for business graduates? What possible career paths do you see for a person with knowledge in the fields of business, technology and law? Furthermore, I would like to ask about your opinions on Law and Economics as possible specialisations for an LLM? I would really appreciate if you could answer my questions. Thank you.
Michael Migendt, Germany

David Van Zandt: I assume that you do not already have a first degree in law or are not a practicing lawyer. While most LLM programs in the US require a first degree in law or some legal qualification, many will be open to you. Some may offer you an MSL instead. The program you choose should focus on business and corporate law. The program should also have a strong record of placing graduates in companies and law firms throughout the world with substantial transactional practices.

At Northwestern, we offer a Graduate Program in Law and Business (LLM/Kellogg program) in partnership with our business school, Kellogg School of Management. Graduates of this program are awarded an LLM degree and a certificate in business administration. Many of our LLM/Kellogg graduates are employed in major companies and transactional law firms throughout the world.

Timothy Endicott: Most general LLM programmes offer courses that will build on work that you have done in business studies. And there are specialist programmes in business law, or in financial law. As for career paths, the sky is the limit: a graduate degree in law could be useful to you in applying for jobs in law firms, in in-house counsel offices in corporations or financial institutions, or in management. A background in technology can of course be useful for advanced study of intellectual property law, or as a background to working in legal services in an industry that deals with a particular technology.


Which specialist LLM will be in demand in the future? E.g., Environmental law?

Timothy Endicott: The financial crisis has increased the need for graduate training in financial regulation and financial transactions. And there will always be a demand for some standard specialisations, such as criminology. But I would very much encourage you to consider generalist graduate programmes, even if you know the particular focus of the career that you would like to pursue. Specializing can have genuine advantages, but taking a range of subjects in graduate studies can also be good for your career, and interesting in itself.


What do you think about the proposition that the most innovative 2008 FT’s European lawyers (http://www.ft.com/pp/innovativelawyers2008), have to be invited to join the European Law Innovation Think Tank to draw new agenda for possible reforms of Law Schools at universities in European Union countries with the purpose to facilitate the introduction of innovative educational initiatives and practices in the LLM educational process?
Viktor O. Ledenyov, Ukraine

David Van Zandt: I think that is a great idea. Legal education has long lagged behind changes in the market place and needs to catch up. While law is certainly demanding intellectually, it is not solely an academic enterprise; it is a service business. Knowledge of the substance of the law is just about useless unless you can effectively help to solve your client’s problems. In fact, the most successful lawyers are not those who know a lot of law, but it is those who can bring their technical abilities and knowledge most effectively to bear on a problem, can work effectively with other non lawyers on teams, and who have a strong understanding or ability to understand their clients’ business.

We have based our programs at Northwestern on our understanding of the legal services industry and what it takes to be successful. I suggest you look at the following to understand our philosophy:

http://www.law.northwestern.edu/difference/NorthwesternLawPlan2008.pdf


What is your opinion on the necessity to create the new regulatory environment for an international financial system; and the possible roles for the new generation of lawyers, graduating from the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford and Northwestern University School of Law, in this process?
Viktor O. Ledenyov, Ukraine

David Van Zandt: In commercial practice involving businesses engaged in cross-border activity, the issue is not whether such changes are necessary, but when they will occur. The practice is far outpacing the regulatory structures that apply to it. There has emerged in the international practice of law and business a set of conventions with respect to conducting transactions and resolving disputes. Those conventions are based for better or worse on Anglo-American modes of practice. Thus, the type of work a lawyer does in London, Frankfurt, Hong Kong or Chicago varies little. Of course there are local regulatory differences, but the form of the contracts and the dispute resolution processes of arbitration are fairly standard throughout the world. Moreover, since English is the most prevalent language of business, it is also the language of law. One of the main reasons to take an LLM course is to be exposed to these conventions of global practice.

Unfortunately, our regulatory structures including the rules that determine who is qualified to practice law are nationally based (in the US, they are state-based). For years now, however, international businesses and law firms have deftly worked around those archaic rules. In some cases, those national rules are used to keep lawyers from other jurisdictions out as a means of protecting the local lawyers, but that type of misuse of regulation is becoming less prevalent. I am optimistic that the opening of the legal services markets will continue apace through efforts of organisations like the EU and the various free trade agreements that are emerging.

Timothy Endicott: Universities have two closely interrelated opportunities to contribute to the fall-out of the financial crisis: training effective lawyers for public service and private practice, and doing the research that will support wise regulation of financial institutions and investment vehicles in the future. You might say that the need is so great that these are not merely opportunities but obligations on law schools! And we hope to make a contribution to the worldwide financial system both in teaching and research. For Oxford’s way of pursuing these goals, see our brand-new Master’s in Law and Finance:

http://lawweb.nsms.ox.ac.uk/mlf/ebrochure/index.htm


With a background in finance and 7 years working in banking in the private sector before spending three years working in senior positions for an NGO in the development finance area, I am considering taking some time out to do an LLM. Do I need to have an undergrad in law? My undergrad is in finance followed by a masters in politics. Many thanks.
Mark Dempsey, Dublin

Timothy Endicott: We require a legal training for our general law degrees, although our Master’s programme in Criminology is also well suited to non-lawyers with a training in social science. There may be LLMs that do not require a legal training, and then you have to ask yourself this question: why am I pursuing graduate study in law, if I have not had a basic training in law? I suppose that there may be a good answer to that question in some specialised context. But we require a legal training because it is essential equipment for the advanced work in legal analysis and argument that we require in our graduate degrees.

David Van Zandt: Most US law schools require either a first degree in law or a period of time in practice as a lawyer in a law firm or company in your home jurisdiction. We and other schools do offer the same course with the student receiving an MSL (Master of Science of Law) degree rather than the LLM. I would urge you to look at our Accelerated JD, which allows you to obtain the full JD degree in just two calendar years. If you have a third year to spare, the best degree by far is the 3-year JD-MBA degree offered by Northwestern. You can find info about these at:

http://www.law.northwestern.edu/academics/jd.html


My question regards doing a postgraduate conversion from my current BSc studies in Mathematics with Economics at the University of York. It seems that a law career is very difficult to get into, especially if, like myself, I want to become a solicitor. Would you say that I made the wrong decision to pursue a subject different to law at undergraduate level? Will I be disadvantaged when it comes to applying for training contracts because of my late decision to change to law? Could you give me any other advice on what employers look for in the law industry and where I could possibly get work experience. Thank you in advance.
Mahammed Rahman, Leeds

Timothy Endicott: Employers in solicitors’ firms are generally very open-minded about students who have studied another undergraduate subject. A law degree gives a deep familiarity with the law, and a deep grounding in legal argument, which you cannot possibly get from a one-year conversion course. So you should consider doing a second BA in law rather than a one-year conversion course. But students who have done the one-year conversion course may have just as much raw talent, and firms will take you if they can identify talent. So, good results in your BSc will help in job applications. You should apply for a vacation placement in a solicitors’ firm, since that form of work experience has become a route into training contracts (both for students doing a law degree, and for students doing a conversion course).

David Van Zandt: While Dean Endicott may be in a better position to respond, you should know that the pathway that you are proposing to follow is the required pathway in the US. We only accept applicants who have a first degree in another subject, and at Northwestern we also require substantial, full-time, post-first degree work experience, usually two years or more. Your background is precisely what we are looking for in all of our degree programs (JD, JD-MBA, Accelerated JD, LLM, and LLM/Kellogg). Some of the countries in Asia have moved to this model, and there is a real debate over which is preferable.

Your degree in science will be very useful and much desired in the marketplace as law must deal more and more with intellectual property of various types. We look on candidates with science and engineering degrees very favorably.


Do any non-labyrinthine paths exist to get dual US/UK law qualifications as a post-graduate?
Nick

David Van Zandt: The traditional path is for a student to be qualified in one jurisdiction and then take an LLM or similar course in the other jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the only major US states that allow this are New York and California. I am not aware of any joint programs offering both a JD and a qualifying degree in the UK as part of the same program.

We are currently looking at developing such a program with a partner in London. Questions such as yours indicate there may be demand for such a program. Because we offer an Accelerated JD, which allows you to obtain the US JD in two years, we will be able to save some time on the course of study and probably be able to limit it to three years, two in the US and one in a conversion course in the UK. We are also looking at offering the JD in London, but there are still some significant regulatory hurdles to that.

Timothy Endicott: UK qualification requires either a Qualifying Law Degree (such as our BA in Jurisprudence: http://lawweb.nsms.ox.ac.uk/undergraduate/ ebrochure/index.htm) plus the professional stage of training, or the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/qltt.page) for lawyers who are already qualified overseas. As for the US, you need to ask the Bar admission authorities of the particular state, and it may or may not be straightforward depending on the state. We have had students go straight into practice in New York after completing the BA in Jurisprudence, and taking the New York Bar Exam (see http://www.nybarexam.org/Rules/Rules.htm#520.6). So it is possible to qualify in one country and be admitted to practice in the other as a qualified lawyer, but I can’t say that it is not labyrinthine!


When it comes to studying for an LLM, do you think that location is really important, e.g., studying in major cities such as London and New York due to job opportunities? Also, are there many US LLM degrees that allows LLM students to study alongside JD students?

Timothy Endicott: Location is becoming less and less important in itself, because it is increasingly easy for students taking a degree in America or England to apply for jobs in Singapore or Sydney or Toronto. This means the most important thing is choosing an outstanding programme. An outstanding programme (a) involves outstanding teachers and outstanding fellow students and (b) will make you work hard and give you an intensive response to your work from the professors. Try this: http://lawweb.nsms.ox.ac.uk/postgraduate/ebrochure/index.htm

Dean Van Zandt can tell you more than I can concerning US LLMs; I think you will find that they are generally closely connected (in varying ways) to the law school’s JD programme, whereas graduate programmes in Britain are quite independent of the law school’s BA programme. It’s a result of the structure of legal education: the basic lawyer’s training in Britain, as in the rest of Europe, is an undergraduate programme; in North America, the basic lawyer’s training is already a graduate degree. As a result, in Britain, master’s and doctoral programmes in law have developed as independent graduate programmes closely tied to the academics’ research work (as in other disciplines).

David Van Zandt: If you are doing a full-time LLM degree in residence in the US or the UK, I do think there is some advantage to being in a major business centre. We are in the heart of such a centre here in Chicago and thus the students can take advantage of the law firms and businesses here and we can involve excellent practitioners in teaching many of the specialized business courses. Our location also allows us to offer co-curricular activities for LLM students such as visits to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, and the Federal Reserve Bank among others. Finally, key cities usually are airline hubs which makes it much easier to travel and see other parts of the US.

In terms of seeking jobs (generally, 6 to 9 month internships in US law firms), there is less of a need to be in a city. Our students go all over for their jobs, and only a handful stay in Chicago. There are two job fairs that our students attend to interview with employers, one is in New York and one is in California. We also have a dedicated career advisor for LLM students in our Career Strategy Office. The job market for these internships is very competitive. Northwestern has had the policy of posting its employment figures for all our programs on our public web site. Unfortunately, none of our competitors are willing to do that. I advise that if you are considering another US LLM program, you should specifically request the data on employment from that program.

In most US programs, you did sit in courses with JD students, but you need to check that out carefully. There is great value to being in the same classroom with the JD students. The learning style here depends on students contributing and being involved in class room discussions; it is also a good way to make connections with your JD colleagues. You should also look at the number of students in each course. You will get much more out of the program if you are in classes small enough to permit more dialogue among the students and professor in the classroom. At Northwestern, we have no courses with more than 65 students, and many of our classes are in the 15 to 25 range.


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