It is not always an easy decision to make, of this I have little doubt. In all probability, this is the first educational choice you are making after your decision to study law. And, if you decided to study in the five-year program, that decision was made a while back.
So here you are, scoping out LLM-guide or LLMStudy, speaking with peers and seniors, and (probably) wondering whether it is going to be worth all the effort in the first place. Like I said, this can be a difficult decision to make.
Fear not, there are some ways in which the decision making process can be made easier. There are a few questions you can ask that may just help you in reaching the final goal.
Of course, these questions only work if you are being honest with yourself. Which is not particularly easy (insert “lawyer liar” joke here). But is it worth it if you don’t have to try hard?
Anyway, here are three questions I think you need to ask yourself before thinking about an LL.M. (or any other master’s degree) outside the country.
Question One: Why?
The first one, and often the hardest one to answer, is “why”. Why do you want to do a master’s course? What value do you see in the course, how does the degree fit into your career goals? How do you foresee the course helping you?
Those italicizations above are no coincidence.
No matter what people tell you, and there are more than a few people who will want to selflessly share their thoughts, the final choice is yours to make.
At Amicus Partners, some of the more common answers we receive to the “why” question are gaining specialist knowledge, a career in academia, or a desire to practice in non-Indian jurisdictions. Then there are the less common, but equally valid, ones such as a desire to take a break after a few years of the grind. Which is fair.
Lawyers are human after all. Well, sort of.
The point that I am trying to make is that you need to be honest with yourself here. And as long as you do that, you will be fine. Trust me.
Question Two: Where?
If you are reasonably sure of your answer to the question above, you can then start narrowing down on the “where”. Or maybe you don’t have the answer right now, and you want to think of something else. Perhaps take a peek at the “where” question?
So, one of the more common ways of going about the selection process is relying on rankings. A few of the more popular ones are USNews, QS World Rankings, the THE rankings – all three of these have rankings for the study of law. Given our love (hate?) of rankings, this is a particularly easy way out.
Without going into the problems associated with rankings, and I think there are many, the only rider I would add here is that you should use rankings as a starting point for your research at best.
Another way of identifying your graduate school is by focusing on the faculty profiles. Often, experts within a particular field of study will be part of the faculty. Or you may have practitioners offering courses – both of which can make for deeply fulfilling learning experiences.
A third way of going about the selection is to list the criteria that are important to you. Say, you want to study closer to home. Or you want to study in a cosmopolitan city, or perhaps a truly remote location.
As long as you can identify what matters to you, you have a starting point.
Question three: Who will pay?
This is a factor whose importance should simply not be underestimated. And yet, it very often is. The costs of the LL.M./master’s course will, or rather should, play an important role in your eventual decision.
The reasons for this are many, the one that is often overlooked is that the fees will determine your financial health at the end of the course. This in turn will play a pivotal role in your career choices after you graduate.
On average, an LL.M. at a top tier US law school will cost more than seventy lacs, while one in the UK will set you back by about half that. These are no small figures, more so if you are planning to take a loan.
There are a number of ways and means to reduce your financial liabilities, the most popular one being scholarships and/or bursaries. These range from course-specific, to university-specific, to general scholarships. Information on the first two are quite easy to locate – you will find them on the websites of the educational institution. The third category requires a bit more research, but that should not dissuade you.
In addition to this, there are philanthropic organizations which offer interest-free loans with a generous repayment schedule.
And if you will need to apply for a loan, apart from the banks, there are a couple of online lenders in the education market. For instance, both Prodigy Finance and MPower Financing claim to have a simplified application process (with no collateral requirement), and competitive interest rates.
But, like any good lawyer, make sure you read the fine print before entering into any agreement.
The questions listed above are just suggestions. They may work for you, they may not. Nine times out of ten, you are not going to arrive at this answer immediately.
Nor is it going to be a completely linear process where one answer leads to the next and so on and so forth.
Which is just fine.