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09 July 2012

Master of Laws

The Master of Laws is an advanced academic degree, pursued by those holding a professional law degree, and is commonly abbreviated LL.M. (also LLM) from its Latin name, Legum Magister, where the double L stands for the Latin plural, because both profane and ecclesiastical law are included. (For female students, the less common variant Legum Magistra may also be used.) The University of Oxford names its taught masters of laws B.C.L. (Bachelor of Civil Law) and MJur (Magister Juris), while the research masters is named either MPhil (Master of Philosophy) or MSt (Master of Studies).

Background on legal education in common law countries

To become a lawyer and practice law in most states and countries, a person must first obtain a law degree. While in most common law countries a Bachelor of Laws (or LL.B.) is required, the U.S. and Canada generally requires a professional doctorate, or Juris Doctor, to practice law.
If a person wishes to gain specialized knowledge through research in a particular area of law, he or she can continue his or her studies after an LL.B or J.D. in an LL.M. program. The word legum is the genitive plural form of the Latin word lex and means "of the laws". When used in the plural, it signifies a specific body of laws, as opposed to the general collective concept embodied in the word jus, from which the words "juris" and "justice" derive.
The highest research degree in law is the S.J.D. (or J.S.D., depending on the institution), and it is equivalent to the Doctor of Philosophy in Law (PhD or DPhil depending on the law school in UK), Doctorat en Droit (in France), or the Doktor der Rechtswissenschaften (Dr.iur.) in Germany. There are also variant doctoral degrees, such as the D.C.L. (Doctor of Civil Law) degree bestowed by McGill University in Montreal. Most schools require an LL.M. before admission to a SJD or a PhD in law degree program. Like the PhD, the SJD degree generally requires a dissertation that is graded (often by two graders), orally defended (by an exam known as Viva) and then often published as a book or series of articles.
The "Doctor of Laws" (LL.D.) degree in the United States of America is usually an honorary degree.

International situation

Historically, the LL.M. degree is an element particular to the education system of English speaking countries, which is based on a distinction between Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Over the past years, however, specialized LL.M. programs have been introduced in many European countries, even where the Bologna process has not yet been fully implemented.
Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Cyprus, Italy and Switzerland require a Master's with an additional two to five years to become a lawyer.
As of 2011, Spain requires a masters degree in addition to a 5 years degree to become a lawyer.
In Finland an LL.M. is the standard graduate degree required to practice law.[1] No other qualifications are required.[2]
To be allowed to practice law in the Netherlands, one needs an LL.M. degree with a specific (set of) course(s) in litigation law. The Dutch Order of Lawyers (NOVA) require these courses for every potential candidate lawyer who wants to be conditionally written in the district court for three years. After receiving all the diplomas prescribed by NOVA and under supervision of a "patroon" (master), a lawyer is eligible to have his own practice and is unconditionally written in a court for life but he/she will need to continually update his/her knowledge.
In Mauritius, to be able to practice as a lawyer, only a relevant degree (not necessarily Law, i.e. Politics or History) and a bar afterwards are required, and the latter can start exercising after that, similar to the UK and France. However, those doing a degree in Law and Management can also become a lawyer, provided that they undertake a conversion course after their degree, and after which their bar. Even an LLM is possible for those students.

Types of LL.M. degrees

There are a wide range of LL.M. programs available worldwide, allowing students to focus on almost any area of the law. Most universities offer only a small number of LL.M. programs. One of the most popular LL.M. degrees in the United States is tax law, sometimes referred to as an MLT (Master of Laws in Taxation). There is also a parallel course for CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) at Villanova University School of Law's Graduate Tax Program that awards a non-law M.T. (Master of Taxation) degree to CPAs; lawyers (JDs) who participate and graduate from the program are awarded an LL.M.
Other developing areas are bankruptcy law, banking law or financial services law, and environmental law. Some law schools allow LL.M. students to freely design their own program of study from the school's many upper-level courses and seminars, including commercial and corporate, international, constitutional, and human rights law. In Europe, LL.M. programs in European law are recently very popular, often referred to as LL.M. Eur (Master of European Law). Other common programs include environmental law, human rights law, commercial law, intellectual property law, information technology law, estate planning (as a sub-specialty of tax), international law, maritime law, litigation and dispute resolution, trial advocacy and insurance law.
Some law schools offer innovative LL.M.s in concentrated courses such as Criminal Law or Prosecutorial Sciences. Space and Telecommunications Law is one type of LL.M. offered and is only offered by one school in the United States. Some LL.M. programs, particularly in the United States, and also in China, focus on teaching foreign lawyers the basic legal principles of the host country (a "comparative law" degree). The top-tier law school at Washington University in St. Louis offers an online LL.M. in U.S. Law for foreign attorneys.
Moreover, some programs are conducted in more than one language, give the students the opportunity to undertake classes in differing languages. Many LL.M. programs require a thesis.

Requirements

LL.M. programs are usually only open to those students who have first obtained a degree in law. There are exceptions to this but an undergraduate degree or extensive experience in a related field is still required. Full-time LL.M. programs usually last one year and vary in their graduation requirements. Most programs require students to write a thesis. Some programs are research oriented with little classroom time (similar to a M.Phil.), while others require students to take a set number of classes (similar to a taught degree or M.Sc.).
LL.M. degrees are often earned by students wishing to develop more concentrated expertise in a particular area of law. Pursuing an LL.M. degree may also allow law students to build a professional network. Some associations provide LL.M. degree holders with structures designed to strengthen their connections among peers and to access a competitive business environment.

Australia

In Australia, the LL.M. is generally only open to law graduates. However, some universities permit a non-law graduate to undertake the degree.
The shortage of graduate program/articles places has resulted in some LL.B. graduates proceeding directly to an LL.M. course prior to seeking graduate employment.[citation needed]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, an LL.M. programme is open to those holding a recognised legal qualification, generally an undergraduate degree in Laws or a CPE. They do not have to be or intend to be legal practitioners. An LL.M. is not a sufficient qualification in itself to practise as a solicitor or barrister, since this requires completion of the Legal Practice Course, Bar Professional Training Course, or, if in Scotland, the Diploma in Legal Practice but is an opportunity to gain specialist knowledge of a particular area of law and/or an understanding of the legal systems of other nations. As with other degrees, an LL.M. can be studied on a part-time basis at many institutions and in some circumstances by distance learning.
Some institutions allow those without legal qualifications onto their LL.M. programme although there are still minimum educational requirements, such as an undergraduate degree, or evidence of substantial professional experience in a related field. Examples of such institutions include the University of London External System which has been offering LL.M. studies to both LLB and non-law graduates since 1925,[3] the University of Edinburgh (LL.M. degree by distance learning[4]) and the University of Leicester[5] In addition, Queen's University offers an LL.M. suite, accessible to legal and social science graduates, leading to specialisms in sustainable development, corporate governance, devolution or human rights. Northumbria University offers an innovative approach to an LL.M. qualification to students starting the Masters programme as undergraduates. Students completing this four year programme graduate with a combined LL.M. and Legal Practice Course professional qualification.

China

The LL.M. is available at China University of Political Science and Law, and the entrance requirements are: a native English speaker, or near native English, with any bachelors degree. The course is flexible and allows students to study Mandarin and assists with organizing work experience in Beijing and other cities in China. It normally takes two years, but can be completed in one and a half years if students take the required credits in time.[6]
The flagship of the China-EU School of Law (CESL) in Beijing is a Double Master Programme including a Master of Chinese Law and a Master of European and International Law (with special focus on Chinese Law). The Master of European and International Law is taught in English, open for international students and can be studied as a single master programme.[7]
Beijing Foreign Studies University has launched an online LLM for international professionals. The course is taken over two years, with the first covering online lessons through video and assignments, the second year is for the dissertation and an online defense is required at the end. Students are required to attend Beijing for an introductory week in September to enrol and meet students and staff. Students also have the opportunity to take work experience at a top 5 law firm in China. [8][9]

Germany

In Germany, the LL.M is seen as an advanced legal qualification of supplementary character. As such, Master of Laws programmes are generally open not only to law graduates, but also to graduates of related subjects and/or those displaying a genuine interest in and link to the particular LL.M programme in question. Some graduates choose to undertake their LL.M directly following their "erstes juristisches Staatsexamen" (the "first state examination" constitutes the first stage of the official German legal training and completes the German undergraduate law degree), an alternative undergraduate course, or their "zweites juristisches Staatsexamen" (that is, the second and final stage of the official German legal training, following which graduates are referred to as "Volljuristen" who then have access to practice in different branches of the legal profession). On the other hand, many professionals now take career breaks in order to study for an LL.M, in particular for subjects of growing importance or those with constantly changing dynamics, such as European law or media law for example.

Hong Kong

LL.M. degree programmes are offered by the law faculties of The University of Hong Kong, the Open University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the City University of Hong Kong. An LL.B. degree is usually required for admission, but for some specialised programmes, such as the LL.M. in Human Rights programme offered by HKU, requires an undergraduate degree in laws or any related discipline.

India and Pakistan

In India, the thrust of legal education is on the undergraduate law degrees with most of those opting for the undergraduate law degree either going forward to enroll themselves with the Bar Council of India and start practicing as Advocates or giving legal advice without being eligible to appear in courts (a consequence of non-enrollment). Similar to the United Kingdom, a Masters degree in Law in India is basically opted to specialize in particular areas of law. Traditionally the most popular areas of specialization in these Masters degrees in law in India have been constitutional law, family law and taxation law.
However with the established of the specialized autonomous law schools in India in 1987 (the first was the National Law School of India University) much emphasis is being given at the master's level of legal education in India. With the establishment of these universities, focus in specialization has been shifted to newer areas such as intellectual property law, international trade law etc.
In Pakistan, University of the Punjab, Lahore, International Islamic University, Islamabad, S.M.Law College, Karachi are LL.M.degree awarding institutions. In University of the Punjab, procedure of obtaining LL.M.degree is very difficult. Duration is of two years plus mandatory thesis on the proposed topic. A student has to get 60% marks in order to qualify for LL.M.degree. That's the reason only 136 students have been awarded LL.M.degree from the University of the Punjab since 1981 when the LL.M.degree course was started.

Ireland

A number of Universities and Colleges in Ireland offer LL.M. Master of Laws programmes, such as Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork who have an LL.M. e-Law programme, National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) who offer an LL.M in Public Law, National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM), who offer an LLM programme and an LLM in International Business Law (this is a dual degree with the Catholic University of Lyon) and Griffith College in Dublin and Cork who offer LL.M. programmes in International, Commercial and Human Rights Law. Hibernia College offer a completely online LL.M. in International Business Law validated by Birmingham City University.[10]

Portugal

The programmes offered in Portugal are the LL.M. Law in a European and Global Context and the Advanced LL.M. in International Business Law, both at the Católica Global School of Law, in Lisbon.

South Africa

See: Legal education in South Africa; List of law schools in South Africa
In South Africa, [5] the LL.M. is a postgraduate degree offered both as a course-based, and as a research-based Masters. In the former case, the degree comprises advanced coursework in a specific area of law as well as (limited) related research, usually in the form of a "short dissertation", while in the latter, the degree is entirely thesis based. The first type, typically, comprises practice-oriented "training", while the second type is theory-oriented, often preparing students for admission to LL.D. or Ph.D. programmes; see Doctor of law#South Africa. Admission is generally limited to LL.B. graduates, although holders of other law degrees, such as the BProc, may be able to apply if admitted as attorneys and / or by completing supplementary LL.B. coursework. [6]

United States

Legal education in the United States
Law School Oral Arguments.jpg
Stages
Exams
Organizations
In general there are two types of LL.M. programs in the United States. The majority are programs designed to expose foreign legal graduates to the American Common Law. The other programs involve post doctoral study of a specialized area of the law such as Admiralty, Tax Law, Securities Law, Elder Law, Intellectual Property, Aeronautical Law or International Law, and more recently, Environmental Law.

Programs for foreign legal graduates

An LL.M. degree from an ABA-approved law school also allows a foreign lawyer to become eligible to apply for admission to the bar (license to practice) in certain states. Each state has different rules relating to the admittance of foreign-educated lawyers to state bar associations.
An LL.M. degree from an ABA-approved law school qualifies a foreign legal graduate to take the bar exam in Alabama, California, New Hampshire, New York and Virginia, as well as in the independent republic of Palau. In addition, legal practice in the home jurisdiction plus a certain amount of coursework at an accredited law school qualifies a foreign legal graduate to take the bar exam in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. However, a number of states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and North Carolina only recognize JD degrees from accredited law schools as qualification to take the bar.[11]
New York allows foreign lawyers from civil law countries to sit for the New York bar exam once they have completed a minimum of 20 credit hours (usually but not necessarily in an LL.M. program) at an ABA-approved law school involving at least two basic subjects tested on the New York bar exam. Lawyers from common-law countries face more lenient restrictions and do not typically need to study at an ABA-approved law school. Foreign lawyers from both civil law and common law jurisdictions, however, are required to demonstrate that they have successfully completed a course of law studies of at least three years that would fulfill the educational requirements to bar admission in their home country.[12]

International law and other LL.M. programs

As of 2008, there is one LL.M. degree in International Law offered by The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the oldest school of international affairs in the United States. Given that the degree specializes in international law, and is not teaching a first degree in U.S. law (the J.D. degree), the program has not sought ABA accreditation.
Duke University School of Law offers J.D. students the opportunity to simultaneously pursue an LL.M. in International and Comparative Law.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law provides an LL.M. in Space, Cyber & Telecommunications Law, the only program providing focused study in these three areas. The program was established using a grant from NASA and a partnership with the U.S. Air Force Strategic Command.
There is one institution that offers an ABA-approved LL.M, that does not offer the first degree in law (the J.D. degree); The U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's School offers an officer's resident graduate course, a specialized program beyond the first degree in law, leading to an LL.M. in Military law, with concentrations in Administrative and Civil Law, Government Contract and Fiscal Law, Criminal Law, and Operational and International Law.[13][14]
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