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Am I ready for a Master of Laws (LLM)?

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Getting through your bachelor’s was no small feat, but going the extra mile can boost your career. Should an LLM be in your future?

Congratulations! You’re a lawyer… or have been one for some time! Wherever you are on your path, an LLM is a great career move. 2018 QILT survey results show favourable outcomes for law postgrads in comparison to their undergrad peers.

Full time employment for law postgrads was at 86.5% compared to 77.2% for undergrads, with median salary at $72,000 pa compared with $63,000 for undergrads. It’s also a chance to specialise. Topics include taxation law, international law, commercial law, criminology, environmental law and more. This makes it a sound way to enter a particular area you may have been struggling to crack with just an LLB. Even if none of that interests you, an LLM lets you get up to speed with current developments in your field of law and rise above the competition.

It sounds like a pretty good deal, but the decision isn’t a slam dunk. There are some questions to answer about your life circumstances and goals. We can’t answer these for you, but will help you decide whether or not an LLM is the right idea for you. 

Am I happy in my current field?

An LLM is an opportunity to branch into a completely different aspect of law than you might be in now. There’s no shame if you don’t particularly like your current choice, but it is something to consider when thinking about an LLM. Notions of “happiness” can be somewhat difficult to define, so try your best to imperfectly quantify them. What was it that made your current field of law appeal to you? Is there an area that seems to meet that expectation better? If so, it may be worth discovering if that area can be explored via the LLM. The further you can reason why something appeals to you, the better you’ll be at assessing whether it’s a good next step. 

If you’re happy where you currently are, it may still be possible to advance further with the aid of a relevant LLM, but you’ll have to weigh this against time spent progressing your career further instead. If you’re ravenously dedicated to your field however, part-time LLM study combined with a career can rocket you further, but may not be necessary. After all, that’s many weekends and evenings you may wish to spend on family, hobbies or otherwise. Ultimately, this situation is one in which personal preference reigns supreme! 

If you’ve not gotten into a law job yet, or are in a field entirely different from law (as more and more law graduates are doing in recent years), an LLM can be a way to get back onto that career track if you desire it. Part time and online options are available to make it possible, but should only be considered if you want to pivot into the profession.  

Am I clear on what I want to do?

Even with a fistful of clerkships and a graduate job, it can be difficult to know what you want. Getting into an LLM without any clear idea of where you’d like to be however isn’t the answer. This is your chance to really hone in on an area that inspires you and spend the scant time you’ll have on pursuits developing that end. For instance, if you know you want to go into international law, you’ll be able to start hunting internships and experience at the UN, NGOs and development centres. If you’re only half-decided or not fully committed, you may take a scatter-gun approach to work experience, or simply remain where you are. This applies to course content as well. If you know what you’re trying to learn from the degree and can see applications for it that truly inspire your imagination, you know you’re on the right track. This is therefore a fairly unambiguous requirement: be absolutely sure you know what you want from this degree before committing.

So how do you become clear about what you want if you aren’t already? This is much trickier and once again comes down to reflection, but can be aided by reaching out to relevant professionals. If you have an idea of what qualities you’d like in an ideal law job, you can start asking people already in the industry(s) you’re courting to describe them. What’s good about it? What sucks? What makes you get out of bed in the morning? It’s a bit of legwork, but if you’re willing to do it, it’ll help you find that clarity. 

Do I know if there’s an alternative that’ll better serve me?

This is basically a culmination of the answers from the previous questions. If you know whether or not you’re happy in your current field and can define your goals, it becomes possible to assess alternatives. For instance, even with all the conveniences of online part-time study, you may simply not have the time or will to pursue it given all life’s obligations. At the end of a long day at work, do you want to be logging in for some law reading? Do you have a child or spouse you’d rather spend some time one? We’re very aware of how career focussed people can be here at PostgradAustralia and totally understand why. What we’d wish more people could understand is career development doesn’t have to be the end-goal of life.

Although it’s quite possible to juggle careers with families, hobbies and interests, we only have so much time each day, but that’s not all. Even if you’re hell-bent on studying, it’s worth considering other postgraduate degrees, particularly if you’re looking at different careers altogether. Knowing whether or not this kind of hard-pivot is up your alley once again ultimately comes down to what you saw in law as a profession originally. What made you pick it? Perhaps there’s another profession, or at the very least another degree, that will allow you to reach that ideal sooner, to a greater extent or both. Take a look at all the different postgraduate law degrees available on our website alone to see what we mean. 

We think the LLM is a great option, but now you’ve had a look at just a few of the necessary questions in fully understanding the idea to undertake one, you should have a better idea of why it isn’t an obvious choice! The common theme here is satisfaction: what is it that makes you get up in the morning and why? If you can understand this, then you can understand far better whether or not the LLM is the best for your career, be it law or something completely different, and personal life too. 

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