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Do I need a Master of Laws (LLM)?

Hannah Chapman

Study & Education Writer
A Master of Laws could be the key to finding a job as a lawyer in your chosen field, which is no easy feat in today’s competitive employment landscape.

Once you finish your undergrad degree in law, you may likely be keen to start your career. Law school is an arduous degree that requires a lot of gumption to complete - returning to study could be the last thing on your mind.

However, a Master of Laws could be the key to finding a job as a lawyer in your chosen field, which is no easy feat in today’s competitive atmosphere for graduate lawyers.

Read on to find out the pros and cons of completing your Master of Laws, including what the postgraduate law degree involves, and your salary prospects with an LLM under your belt.

First of all, what is a Master of Laws?

The Master of Laws is an internationally recognised postgraduate law degree. Also known as a Legum Magister or LLM degree, this one year full-time course may help you both hone your skills for a career in law, and help you gain employment at a wide range of law firms.

Wondering if you need a Master of Laws to progress your career as a lawyer?

The LLM has many merits, not least of which include making you an attractive employment possibility, and giving you in-depth knowledge in the subject of your choice.

The fact that the LLM is internationally recognised and gives a lawyer qualification to work in a multinational legal faculty makes lawyers with this qualification more versatile employees than lawyers without it. This versatility is why the Master of Laws is a prerequisite before hiring for some law firms.

Studying the LLM also gives you the the ability to gain specialised understanding in your chosen legal field. There are a wide range of LLM. programs available, focussing on almost any area of the law. If you want to pursue a career in tax law, for example, studying a Master of Laws will let you go deep into the fine print that lawyers in other fields do not need to know.

Who can study a Master of Laws?

LLM programs are usually only open to people who have an undergraduate degree in law. In Australia you cannot practice as a lawyer without completing a Bachelor of Law, but some other countries allow people without undergraduate degrees in law to study an LLM and go onto being a lawyer.

What is required in an LLM?

If you study a Master of Laws full-time, you should be able to complete it within a year. LLM courses will vary depending on where you choose to study, and can vary between being more research or coursework based. Regardless of whether your Master of Laws course favours the coursework or research side of study, you will most likely have to write a thesis in order to graduate.

Do lawyers with a Master of Laws qualification make more money?

Whether your salary will be improved with an LLM depends on a few factors. If you choose to study and LLM in the technically complex fields of tax or healthcare, then yes, your LLM is likely to improve both your job prospects and your salary. As mentioned, an LLM is also usually helpful if you would like to work in international law.

However, if you want to work in other areas of law such as native title or family law, it may not be worth it financially to get your LLM. Educationally you will gain a greater depth of understanding, it’s true, but whether you place importance on financial or educational improvement is up to you.

To find out whether an LLM is worth the cost of study in your chosen field, get in touch with the institution where you will consider studying. Ask about job placement rates for their LLM graduates in your area of interest, and whether recent graduates have advanced in their degrees after getting their Master of Laws.

If you do the specific research into both your field of interest and where you would like to study, you can find out if an LLM is the smartest next step for you to take.