I have recently seen an advert in the Law Society Gazette for a well-known London university offering law graduates a chance to enhance their career prospects by taking one of their Masters Degrees. A question we regularly get asked by candidates is whether taking a Masters Degree will increase their chances of success in the workplace.
The very quick answer, based on 12 years of recruitment in the legal profession is that a Masters Degree has absolutely no effect whatsoever in any circumstances on your future employment prospects. Speaking as a Masters Graduate myself I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed studying for my LLM and found it to be quite eye-opening in the sense that I was able to research a practical area of law I was working in and gain benefit from doing so personally.
However I got no benefits at all from a career perspective because a Masters Degree has absolutely no bearing on any future employment prospects. Furthermore, I found that it hindered me when making an application to join a Law Society Panel. When I went for the interview to join the panel I found that the panel members were more keen on trying to test out my perceived superior level of knowledge because I had done a Masters Degree rather than assessing my suitability to be on the panel.
In fact, when the feedback came from the panel to tell me why I had not been selected, it included the line “did not have the level of knowledge we would have expected from a Masters graduate”.
I think you would be better using the many thousands of pounds you were planning to expend on the Masters Degree by taking 6 months off and travelling round the world. When you get back from travelling round the world if you are looking to break into the profession make a concerted effort for a further 6 months to get as much legal work experience as you can and if you are already in the profession you will find that your 6 months break will have made you think very carefully about life, your existence on earth and your future.
Yes, I hear you say, but what about if you have a 2:2 or 3rd class Degree and are trying to get into a decent firm? I can safely advise you that the same advice applies. Law firms do not give two hoots for a Masters Degree. It has no effect at all on the fact that you may have low A-Levels or a low LLB, these things cannot be altered once they happen.
Furthermore, I challenge any higher education providers to provide evidence where their Masters Degree has led to a higher level of employment amongst their graduates than those graduates who do not have a Masters Degree. Simply comment on this entry and we will publish your response on our website.
Jonathan Fagan, MD, Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment
This subject has had quite a lengthy response. Here are some of the comments from readers:
13/06/2012 From: CM
A LLM can actually provide a route to becoming a Level 3 Advanced Caseworker for Immigration, which includes a higher rate of pay.
Thus, whilst I do not possess Masters Degree, it must be pointed out that your [article] is somewhat inaccurate, since an LLM provides a route to develop a Level 2 Caseworker into a Level 3, which supports the notion that, in certain circumstances, a Masters Degree can make a difference.
I had not heard of this before and apparently this relates to the LSC Level 2 and Level 3 Immigration Caseworker status.
13/06/2012 From: FG
Whilst I do not have your experience of recruitment I can give one example of whether an LLM is of benefit for career purposes. When I was setting up a team of paralegals in 2009/2010 one of those taken on was an LLM graduate along with others some of whom had an LLB some of whom did not. She was not appointed for her LLM but for her personality.
This tends to be my experience. Candidates are not recruited for their possession of an LLM, but rather for their experience and character.
13/06/2012 From NA
I wish I had known about the disadvantage of having an LLM. 10 years ago, I studied the LLB senior status which was a condensed law degree over a 2 year period. At the time I was juggling work, bringing up a family, with my youngest in and out of hospital for the first year of my degree.
I completed the degree by attending evening classes and day lectures etc. All my exam passes and assessments were at 2:1 unfortunately my dissertation supervisor left part way through the year and so I had no-one supervising me which resulted in an overall 2:2. I did not appeal the decision even though I was a few marks off as I was grateful to have passed and to be honest I did not even consider the 2:2 because 10 years ago this was not a huge issue.
A few years ago I completed the Masters degree in Criminal Law and thoroughly enjoyed it. I believed that it would pull up my grade to a 2:1 or higher. I have been waiting for CPS trainee positions to come up for the past 3 years. Their minimum criteria was a 2:1 and yes you have probably guessed right, they withdrew my application. For the past 4 weeks I have been going round and round in circles to try and obtain some sort of formal confirmation about the value of the LLM so I can challenge the CPS decision but no luck.
In addition I have 14 years of experience working as a legal linguist fluent in 6 different languages and dialects. I hold full status on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters. I am a fully accredited police station representative, qualified CAB generalist adviser and work part-time for HMRC. I have lost count of the times I have intervened to find missing information for barristers etc due to their lack of cultural understanding. The law is changing on Forced Marriages etc and I believe I had valuable experience to take the CPS forward.
It is really vital to publicise any lower than a 2:1 is worthless. On top of this, I was further humiliated when CPS recommend ILEX as an alternative route to qualify. I already have the LPC so they are suggesting I go 50 steps back to take 1 step forward.