LL.M. is both a prestigious and qualifying training, which is internationally oriented. It comes from English-speaking countries, but it has spread in universities from all over the world. This course enables students and professionals to deepen their legal knowledge in a foreign university. It lasts about a year, from 9 to 12 months, but this all depends from each School of Law. Furthermore, LL.M. students may study either part-time or full-time.
There are two kinds of LL.M.: general LL.M. and specialised LL.M. While the former teaches a global vision of the legal system of the country – the UC Berkeley LL.M. “General Law” for instance – the latter enables students to benefit from a complete education of a particular branch of law: business law, competition law, intellectual property law, international law and so on. At the beginning of the LL.M., students choose their lectures following to an induction week. During this week, professors explain their subject and the way the courses will take place. The students have access to seminars introducing the LL.M. proceedings as well as legal writing techniques, use of the databases or of the library …Among all the courses, it is also offered to students the possibility to take part to moot courts, which is both rewarding and sought-after by recruiters.
Either an essay or a dissertation – a dissertation involves a more deepened reflection and therefore a more substantial work – is frequently required. It is written under the supervision of a professor and it shall talk about a topic the student has chosen.
Studying a LL.M. constitutes an enhancive and rewarding experience at a professional level as well as at a personal one. It opens several career opportunities and is very demanded by law firms and legal management of multinational companies. Having a LL.M. on a resume is an undisputable advantage and shows English-speaking skills, open-mindedness and knowledge of another legal culture. Moreover, LL.M. students come from all over the world, which enables to discover new horizons and to network with foreign lawyers. Students choosing a LL.M. in an American School of Law can also take a US bar exam, such as the Californian bar exam and the New York one. Once they have passed the bar exam and the French equivalent rating, they are allowed to register with a French bar.
Besides, French students will learn a new method of working thanks to a LL.M. Indeed, the way lectures are taught in foreign universities, especially in English and American ones, differ from the French « cours magistraux ». Students shall study the topic of the lecture before attending it, thus, more than a monologue by the professor, students are required to discuss and debate the topic. Some of them are already qualified lawyers and share their experience relating to the theme. Furthermore, many meetings take place throughout the year, eminent lawyers and renowned professors take part to these conferences and are keen to discuss their point of view with students. Another attractive feature is the access to the efficient alumni network.
Although a LL.M. displays undeniable advantages, applying for such a course should be a reflective choice. It implies important efforts and a personal and financial investment.
Even though conditions of admission differ from one university to another, most of the Schools of Law require a law degree. The application file shall include a cover letter, a resume, one or more recommendation letters as well as a language test. Non-native English speakers applying to American and English universities shall get a minimum score on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), on the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) or on the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) tests. Applicants may also be asked to join a law school transcript and a grade explanation, ie a document explaining the French grading system and converting French grades into letters (A, B, C or D). Some companies have developed their business around LL.M. applications. They offered their services to students to set up an application file. One of those is Weston Ivy through which French students get into prestigious American universities.
Some French universities offer to their students to take a LL.M. thanks to a partnership with foreign schools. Selected students taking part to such programmes are exempt from filing an application.
Moreover, a LL.M. represents a significant financial investment, even if the cost depends on universities. For instance, a LL.M. at UC Berkeley costs around 45 000 US $, while studying at King’s College London comes to around 12 600 £. These costs correspond to admission fees and do not include transportation, neither rent, visa fees – when a student visa is required – nor living expenses.
The financial aspect should be taken into account while thinking of a LL.M. However, it should not be determining given that there are issues to fund it, such as bursaries granted by host universities themselves, or some programmes, Fullbright programme in the USA for instance. Foundations, Harvard Club of France or Arthur Sachs foundation for example, and law firms help students as well. Thus, the law firm White & Case attributes every year three scholarships to French students accepted in either an American or an English university’s LL.M. Finally, in case of partnerships between universities, French establishments may also contribute to the costs.
Whatever your professional plan is (lawyer, in-house lawyer, professor…), a LL.M. will bring you a great educational and international experience.