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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

What is an LLM degree?

The field of law contains a wide range of specialist areas, and an LLM degree gives you the perfect opportunity to explore them. We explain more about what to expect if you study one.

Cartoon of five people in a row holding various oversized study implements. Behind are a large certificate and some scales of justice with a green tick on one side.

If you’re an aspiring legal expert and have been researching your study options, you will have come across the LLM degree. However, given all of the abbreviations that law degrees come with, it would be understandable if you were unsure of exactly what one is. To make things simple, our guide will give you a straightforward overview, including what you can expect to study and where the degree can take you.


What are LLM degrees?


An LLM degree (also known as a Master of Laws) is a postgraduate qualification that allows you to gain a deeper understanding of law and specialise in one of its areas. It can be studied by people with a law degree, or graduates from a related field. Its aim is to enhance students’ academic and practical knowledge, and by extension their professional practice and research.


LLM degrees usually take one year to complete on a full-time basis and can also be studied part-time over two to three years. The degree is typically a taught course, with focused modules and a final research project. Most LLMs will assess you using a combination of coursework, examinations and written assignments.  


Take some time to research the postgraduate law qualifications at these UK universities:




What types of LLM degrees are there?


Which LLM you choose will depend on your aims and objectives. Many LLM degrees offer an overview of law specialisations, but some are specifically structured to focus on individual ones. These can include:


  • Criminal law
  • Human rights law
  • Environmental law
  • Maritime law 
  • Business law
  • Financial law
  • Contract law
  • Family law
  • Health law


If you decide to study an LLM, be prepared to get to grips with many theoretical aspects of law in a more thorough way than you have done previously. You’ll be asked to use these practically to solve complex legal issues. 


Explore these universities where you can study law in Canada:



What is the difference between LLB and LLM degrees?


For many, this can be confusing, but there are definite differences between LLB and LLM degrees. Unlike an LLM, an LLB is an undergraduate qualification that puts you on the path to become a practising lawyer.


To study for an LLM, you will usually need to have completed an undergraduate degree already. This could be an LLB, or a qualification from a related field. Alternatively, you could be admitted if you have extensive legal experience, regardless of your prior education.


What’s important to remember is that an LLM degree does not automatically qualify you to practise law. The requirements to do that vary by country, but in many cases, you will need either an LLB or a Juris Doctor.


Find out about the benefits of becoming a lawyer and the various law specialisations


What will you study on an LLM degree?


When you study an LLM you will often be asked to choose both a particular area of interest and related modules. Universities will have different ways of structuring their curriculum, but all will encourage you to plan your programme carefully before commencing. Don’t forget that the modules you choose must add up to the required credits for completion of the degree.


Some of the modules you may have the option to study on an LLM include:


  • Legal theory
  • Human rights
  • Principles of international law
  • Law of treaties
  • International trade law
  • International criminal law
  • Corporate finance law
  • Insurance law
  • Patent law
  • Privacy, data and surveillance law
  • Dispute resolution
  • Energy law


These are by no means the only areas of specialisation you can study, so it’s always a good idea to request a prospectus from the university you are keen on, or pay a visit to their website. You could also chat to the university’s international office or speak to an education counsellor for greater clarity.


We know you’re probably also wondering which universities have the top law schools. Well, we have the answer as to the best law schools in the USA and the top law schools in the UK.


What can you do with an LLM degree?


If you qualify with an LLM you will be equipped with specialist law knowledge and skills. Your career path, though, may depend on whether you had qualified as a lawyer beforehand. If you did, an LLM will open up professional doors and career opportunities in your area of interest. Some of the roles you may take up include:


  • Solicitor
  • Barrister / attorney
  • Legal consultant
  • Legal advisor
  • Judge


You can also choose to qualify as a lawyer after your LLM, but this isn't compulsory. Even if you don't, there are still many related roles that it can lead you towards. These include:


  • Public servant
  • Academic / lecturer
  • Company secretary
  • Management consultant
  • Law enforcement agent


Now you have a greater understanding of what an LLM degree entails, you’ll probably want to take your research further. Try reading our top five reasons to study for a master’s degree abroad and the top 10 reasons to study abroad. When you’re ready to further your degree research, head over to our course matcher tool, where you can find your perfect study path.

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