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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study maritime law?

Are you fascinated by the laws that govern the sea? Why not turn your interest into a flourishing career? Learn all about maritime law here.

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Want to become a solicitor or barrister? You’ll first need to get a law degree. At some stage, you will also need to pick your specialist subject such as criminal, employment or family law. In this instance, we’re going to delve into maritime law including how to get qualified, what you’ll study and what you could expect to be paid. Hopefully this guide will help you decide whether this is the law specialisation for you.


What is maritime law?


Maritime law or otherwise known as marine law, is an area of law that specialises in issues that occur offshore. These include ocean policy, admiralty, and maritime commerce. Not many realise that the rules governing the sea vary tremendously from those on land.


From issues such as accidents due to colliding fishing vessels, the discovery of sunken treasures, employees’ rights while working at sea, to conflicts arising from environmental issues. Maritime law covers them all. Did you know that maritime law is one of the oldest and most established types of law in the world?


What qualifications will I need?


As with most law degrees, the programmes available will differ depending on the country that you choose. In most countries such as Singapore, UK and many others, law degrees are given out in the form of an LLB (Bachelor of Laws), and students will go on to take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination followed by the completion of a training contract.


Sometimes a BA in Law (BL) or a BSc in Law is awarded instead. Bear in mind that some universities choose to differentiate between LLB and BA programmes, the former focuses exclusively on law while the latter allows students to take modules in other subjects. Graduate law degrees will have a greater focus on academic research, and they are referred to as a PhD in Law, (JSD) Doctor or Juridical Science or Doctor of Laws. 


Meanwhile in places such as the US, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia, A J.D (Juris Doctor) is offered instead. In these countries, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree in a different discipline and then proceed to take up legal studies at the graduate level. A J.D takes three years to complete.


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Students are also presented with the option of earning a Master of Laws (LLM) in a chosen area of specialisation after completing their J.D. For lawyers who don’t possess a J.D, they can study a LLM which will allow them to practice in countries that require a JD. Prospective students who intend to study in the US are required to take the LSATs (Law School Admission Test) to gain admission into American law programmes.


Some institutes provide their students with the opportunity to work pro bono (voluntary basis) with real-life clients to gain invaluable experience and legal skills that will help when applying for positions upon graduation.


What will I learn?


Similar to the way other law specialisations are studied, students taking the LLB in maritime law will be taught the fundamentals of law in their first year, such as introduction to legal techniques, the legal system, legal research, reasoning and literacy skills.


In your second year, you will learn more about criminal law, securities law, contract law, legal system and research, property law, law of torts and criminal justice. In your third year, you will cover the remaining core modules like employment law, family law, health care law, equity and trusts, data protection law and international law and finally study maritime law subjects.


Like most degrees, law programmes start with compulsory core modules, and more opportunities to choose law topics tailored to a particular career path later. Teaching is conducted through a combination of lectures, seminars, group work, presentations, class debates and ‘mooting sessions’ – practical law training in a courtroom setting to help students master important legal skills such as research and analysis, public speaking and argument formation.


Common course modules


  • Carriage of goods by sea
  • International trade law
  • Introduction to the international law of the sea
  • International commercial arbitration
  • Admiralty law
  • Marine insurance
  • Injured employee compensation
  • Marine pollution
  • Shipping contracts


Do I need a postgraduate degree in maritime law?


Maritime law is more often taken at the postgraduate level as an LLM (Master’s in Maritime Law) though there are a few institutions that offer a bachelor’s degree or a Juris Doctor. Students will need to have a LLB in Law or a related degree such as in English, political science, history, social sciences, economics or business and it will be beneficial if those degrees cover a large legal component.


Many graduates opt to continue their legal training beyond the undergraduate level to advance their legal career. The specific type of legal training required will depend on the country that you wish to practice in and the type of legal career that you aspire to. Often this involves further study, exams, and practical legal training through formal work placements.


What skills will I need?


Ideal traits of a maritime lawyer include:

  • Analytical skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Personable
  • Independent
  • Team player
  • Articulate
  • Natural problem-solver


Placement opportunities


We highly recommend that students complete at least one internship or placement before graduation to better your employment chances in a highly competitive job market. Internships and placements not only provide you with invaluable job experience, they also are the perfect platform to network with industry experts. Who knows, your internship might turn into a full-time job once you graduate!


What can I expect to earn as a maritime lawyer?


Based on a report by the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the average annual median salary for lawyers is USD 126,930 per year in the US. In the top law firms in the UK, starting salaries can reach GBP 60,000 – GBP 90,000 per year (Graduate Prospects 2020).


What are the career prospects of a maritime lawyer?


As a maritime lawyer, the kinds of cases that you will see are truly varied. They can range from injuries and working conditions at sea, cargo, shipping and commerce, any sort of illegal activity taking place at sea covering both business and pleasure.


This makes a maritime career not only exciting but also challenging. Maritime law not only differs from the laws onshore, but depending on the flags that the ships fly, these cases will fall under the respective country’s maritime line.


You can find yourself one day arguing cases in court, another day drafting documents and the next week, you’re negotiating agreements and handling complaints about injuries or illnesses that are caused by seafaring vessels, and on another occasion, you’re looking into complaints about a company dumping toxic waste into the waters near where they live.




You can work in various sectors with governmental agencies, non-governmental agencies, protection and indemnity clubs, local and international law firms, international maritime organisations, multinational corporations, private companies, finance, insurance, shipping, oil and gas, and the list goes on. You can opt to work on land or be based on a ship and see the world while you’re at it.


You can choose to work as a maritime lawyer on a freelance basis or as part of a firm. You can even become a consultant within any of these industries. Do you happen to have a passion for writing on top of your love for maritime law? Why not marry those two together? You can work as a reporter or journalist specialising in maritime cases.


So now you know more about what it takes to become a maritime lawyer, why not try our course matcher tool to find a course and university that’s right for you.


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