I Might Get an LL.M.


I am a second-year associate at a mid-sized firm in litigation.  The practice is fine, I guess.  The money is pretty good.  My boss is an ass-hat, and if I am being brutally honest, my future here is probably not the brightest.  I can probably make better money somewhere else doing something that I would enjoy more.  (Probably for another ass-hat boss.)

The questions is: I am thinking about leaving after I finish this second year to get an LL.M. (Master of Laws) in a focus area I really want to practice.  Also, I am thinking of doing it in London. What are your thoughts?  Bad Idea?  Not worth making my already absurd loans, well, more absurd?  Need to stay stateside?

To me, LL.M. degrees are pretty much a joke.  No one really cares.  Why would you want to go to school again to develop a specialty, when you could develop one on the job—and get paid doing it?  I guess if your dream is to become a tax lawyer, an LL.M. couldn’t hurt.  Other than that, it seems absurd.  Unless you just want to regress for a few years, become a student again and party your ass off.  That I get.  But don’t kid yourself, getting an LL.M. won’t magically open new doors for you—and your new bosses won’t be impressed.

As for the London part of the equation, I feel the same way.  It doesn’t make sense, unless you just want to hang out and have a good time in London for a year or two, which I can completely understand.

So, bottom line: Don’t get an LL.M. because you think it’s going to change your career prospects (with the possible of exception of a Taxation LL.M.); do it because you want to escape the real word for a while and have some goddamn fun.

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Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

5 Comments

  1. Al Dickman

    October 31, 2008 at 3:17 am

    I disagree.  You can get some intrinsic benefit out of going back for an LLM (I did).  In addition to getting substantive background (i..e. in Corporate Law), you devote real time to learning that you didn’t really understand in law school.  Things like an article 9 financing statement finally mean something after you have actually filed one.  If all you are looking for is to party, obviously there are better places than the law library.  You are right that some people do not respect LLM people, thinking of them as twerps who went to a crummy law school, did not do that well and need something more to attract attention (and pretty women).  Trust me, it doesn’t, but it’s still worth it.  Just don’t get an LLM from another crummy school, or you will foreever be branded as a dillweed.

  2. Snively Whiplash

    October 31, 2008 at 5:31 am

    Now an LLM finally makes sense to me. I thought an LLM was just a way to get a better school on your resume, and get another go at the whole federal clerkship thing, by paying that “better” school a seccond king’s ransom.  Do professors magically have more time to spend with LLM candidates, because that is the only possible way you are going to learn anything you arguably could not in practice? I did the whole law journal thing and the only reason I ever spent more than an hour getting real/valuable advice on a topic with a professor who knew his s#!t was because I was lucky. A coupler of times, I did 5 pages worth of research on something and a prof never got back to me on it. Honestly, if you aren’t in tax, just talk to your Lexis/Westlaw rep, do some research, and publish something in a bar review journal.

  3. Anonymous

    October 31, 2008 at 7:01 am

    An LLM might be worth it if it is from a school with a much better reputation that where you got your JD.  I understand the admissions process to be a lot easier for LLM students, so you might be able to go from Tier 2 to Top 14.  Your future employers know you’re not any smarter for it, but they also know that the better school will look nicer on law firm website.

  4. anon.

    November 1, 2008 at 9:37 am

    The other exception to an otherwise invalid LL.M. is if you are pursuing a career in Public International Law.  (Want to work for the UN?) A field similarly arcane to tax, people on the inside value the expertise.  There are a couple of widely recognized programs, NYU is probably the top.

  5. Anonymous

    November 2, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    An LLM in Internaltional Relations s a good way to meet scrawny broads with B.A.s from little Ivy schools who are dying to get humped by a smart lawyer who can quote UNCTRAL and COGSA.  If you can do this, their legs will spread like butter.  Go for it, dillweed.

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