Are you a law graduate interested in more advanced training? Or a legal professional looking to specialise in a specific branch of judicial theory? You may wish to consider a Master of Laws (LLM).
We’ve put together a simple overview of the LLM on this page. You can read about course content, application requirements and find out whether a Master of Laws is right for you.
for advice on other qualifications, check out our full guide to different Masters degree types.
The LLM is a Masters degree in Law. Most are taught degrees, but some can have research elements.
|Master of Laws (LLM)|
|Type||Taught / Research|
|Qualification Level||7 (NQF)|
|CreditCredits Value||180 CATS / 90-120 ECTS|
The term ‘LLM’ stands for Legum Magister, which is Latin for ‘Master of Laws’. The degree is a historic and well established legal qualification, recognised in higher education systems around the world.
An LLM isn a non-professional qualification. You don’t need an LLM to practice law, but the advanced training and expertise you’ll gain can make you more attractive to law firms.
Most programs are quite specialised, allowing you to study a specific branch of law in depth.
This can be useful if you wish to enter a specific area of legal practice – such as criminal law or family law.
Some LLM programs can also benefit careers in other fields. If you work in business or management, for example, you may benefit from a knowledge of relevant economic and corporate law.
Most candidates applying for an LLM will have an existing Law degree. This could be an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) or a postgraduate Law conversion course such as a CPE or GDL.
Some LLM programs are designed for applicants from non-Law backgrounds, looking to study aspects of the law as it relates to other fields. These courses will normally require you to have another relevant degree and / or professional experience.
Though you may be able to study a Master of Laws without an undergraduate Law degree, the LLM won’t qualify you professionally. If you wish to become a lawyer as a postgraduate, you should consider studying a conversion course such as a CPE or GDL.
The LLM is a common international degree, but programs differ slightly between countries.
Historically the LLM is associated with Anglophone (English-language) university systems such as the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In these countries the LLM is an academic Masters degree, as described on this page.
LLM degrees and their equivalents are also offered in other higher education systems, worldwide:
As an academic degree, the LLM is often highly transferrable. Whereas professional qualifications tend to relate to specific judicial systems, the legal theory studied on an LLM can be more widely relevant.
This makes the LLM an attractive option for postgraduate study abroad. Some programs take extra advantage of this by focussing on global topics such as international business, tax or human rights law.
The traditional LLM degree is an Anglo-American qualification. Other countries may award their own Masters degrees in Law and these may have slightly different titles. Generally, if a program awards an academic Masters rather than a professional qualification, it will be equivalent to an LLM.
Though you may assume that an LLM has limited use outside of Law, the academic focus of these programs can make them surprisingly flexible.
At its core a Master of Laws offers you the opportunity to acquire advanced understanding of legal theory – and to pursue highly specialised aspects of it.
This may be valuable if you are:
Individual LLM programs are often designed with particular candidates in mind. Some are intended for qualified practitioners, looking for advanced training. Others are research programs, focussing more on academic legal theory. Some extended LLM courses even include professional bar training as well as advanced academic work. You can use our course listings to browse and compare different LLM programs.
You’ll complete a series of individual modules on particular topics before proceeding to an extended research and dissertation task in the final part of your course.
Some programs will specify the modules you need to complete. This is likely if your course is more specialised. Others may allow you to choose from a range of options, according to your interests.
Teaching methods will include discussion-group seminars, lectures and practical workshops or case studies. As with other Masters degrees you’ll be expected to supplement course timetable with independent reading and analysis.
Assessment will normally be in the form of written coursework assignments. Examinations are unlikely for academic programs, but may be required if your LLM has a professional training component.
A full-time taught LLM normally requires 1 year of study. This will involve two teaching terms, followed by a period of time for your dissertation.
Part-time and distance learning LLMs will often be longer, with courses up to two years.
Some full-time courses can also last longer than a year. This can be due to additional course content. For example, if your course combines the LLM with another component (such as a professional Law or Bar Practice qualification) its course length will reflect this. Some research-based LLMs are also longer
LLMs are treated in the same way as other Masters degrees when it comes to credit weighting. This means that a full Master of Laws will normally be worth 180 CATS credits in the UK.
European LLM programs will use the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System and be worth up to 90 ECTS credits.
Your LLM dissertation will require you to research and write a thesis on a legal topic of your choosing.
This could involve solving issues involved in professional practice, comparing different judicial systems or using case studies and legal theory to reflect upon each other.
You’ll be assigned a supervisor to guide your research, but will be responsible for planning, managing and completing the task using your own initiative and expertise.
LLM dissertations are normally examined as written work, but some courses may include an oral defence of your findings and conclusions.
Ready to find your ideal LLM course? Why not start searching now?
Last updated - 23/02/2016