The field of Law and legislation is a compelling one. Now, career options in the legal sector are showing strong signs of growth with increasing areas of legal innovation. The earning potentials in the legal sector are tremendous as well, which experts say, make it second only to investment banking. Non-law graduates could pursue a postgraduate degree in law for many reasons; a new job that requires legal knowledge, specialisation or a change in professional direction. Moreso, the increasing number of international agreements, makes legal knowledge a huge asset. Although it is relatively possible to pursue a postgraduate degree in Law, institutions’ admission requirements usually have the final say. These requirements usually demand some experience working with the legal department or a current career that is connected with Law. Therefore, the need to meticulously choose the degree and institution cannot be overemphasized. Firstly, let’s talk about degree options:
Bachelor of Laws (LLB)
The LLB holds the fundamental knowledge to build a healthy foundation for your legal career. It is important in acquainting you with the different areas of law so you can decide your area of specialisation. This is why most institutions demand significant experience in Law to make up for the absence of the LLB. Some institutions even have a preference for graduates who studied certain courses. This includes political sciences, international development or economics and any course with close ties to law. More so, not everyone obtains an LLB to practise law and not all lawyers have LLBs, especially in the UK. You can study the LLB not necessarily to practice law but to gain insight into the field.
Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)
The GDL is a graduate conversion course after an undergraduate degree that enables you to start a postgraduate legal course. It is usually a one year program available as an alternative to the LLB degree. Although the content is not as exhaustive as the LLB, it teaches the core areas of law and the skills of legal analysis and research essential. These are important to succeed on the solicitor or barrister courses and in the early years of practice. On completion, you are awarded the diploma for the Common Professional Examination (CPE). After this, you can now progress to the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors followed by a training contract in a law firm; or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers followed by a year of pupillage in a chamber. This is most common in the UK and Wales.
Juris Doctor or Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD)
The JD is a professional degree for people who intend to become lawyers. It is earned by completing law school. It is traditionally a three-year full-time program, although some institutions may offer modifications. Compared to the LLB which is fundamentally academic, the course content of the JD is more vocational. The JD is a requirement to practise law in the US, then graduates are immediately eligible to sit the bar exam in any state which, if they pass, licenses them to practise law. But in other countries adopting the JD, graduates may have to go through further practical training before they are eligible to apply for a licence to practise.
Master of Laws (LLM)
Professionals who want to attain specialised legal training in a particular field of law can take the LL.M after their LLB or JD. However, in countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Cyprus, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Finland and the Netherlands, an LL.M must be obtained for one to practise law. It is typically a one year Master’s course and most institutions have a preference for law graduates. Institutions accepting no-lawyers can limit the kind of LL.M one can pursue. For instance, a professional with a commercial background can be offered a Global Business LL.M., history, international relations and politics background can be admitted into International Law LL.M or teachers, activists and government workers can be offered an Intercultural Human Rights LL.M. Some can even offer a dual master’s degree in business and law to cultivate one’s legal knowledge.
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