I did the Edinburgh LLM in Innovation Technology and the Law as part of the JD / LLM program and graduated (from both) in 2005.Â I came back to the Great State of Texas afterwards to study and take the Texas Bar, and moved back to Scotland within 11 months of leaving it.Â I’ve lived in the UK ever since and really enjoy it.
I get asked about this experience quite a bit from prospective students as well as from anyone who wonders how a Texan ended up in Britain, and so I’ve created this page to collect some references and guides from my experience.
How do the classes compare to UT law?Frankly it is a whole different style of teaching and is more comparable to a seminar course at UT.
- You take 3 courses for a full year (both semesters) compared to 4-5 per semester at UT. They’ve started offering one-semester-only courses now so you may have the option to take six total for the year.
- Each semester only has 10 meetings for 2 hours each in it, with the first not very substantive or intense (in my experience).Â The expectationÂ is in part that you can try courses out on the first day to see if you like them and there isn’t a large reading list you have to accomplish before showing up.
- Your week thus usually consists of 6 hours of face-to-face class time for 10 weeks, times 2 semesters.
What are the classes like?On the whole they don’t do the Socratic method, and when they do, you’ll be more than used to it from UT. Class sizes tend to be small (my largest was 30 students or so and was at the max capacity).Â They tend to be either discussion led or lecture led depending on who is teaching.
Don’t be surprised if the majority of your classmates are not Scottish, or even British.Â My three courses had 4 British people in them, 2 of which were Scottish.Â The rest in my year were from around the European Union or from China or other parts of Asia. The balance of students depends however on what courses you take, and my experience may be a bit skewed because I did IP/IT law. You’ll find out that several students are there mostly to do an English language masters in order to prove to employers that they are fluent in English and not because of what the LLM is about per se. One of the best parts though of the course is getting a different perspective on legal issues, and the diversity of students does mean that you get an amazing number of world views.
GradingMore up to date information should be on the law school site, but the core of it is that grades are usually based around writing essays.Â You have about 6 weeks at each semester end to write 3 essays (one for each of your three classes).Â It sounds like a lot but it flies by. The vast majority of your grade is based on your end-of-semester essay. Their essay style is a bit different than we are used to in US law circles (they try to limit footnoting for example), but the core is the same and it is a lot of work to write a good one.
The dissertationThe dissertation is just like writing a journal article or your seminar paper. It’s 10,000 words, and needs to be novel and (surprise) have some legal analysis and insights attached. It’s not due until the end of August, and you’ll be done in May with your essays for the spring semester, so you have lots of time to work on it. You can easily work part time (or even full time if you wanted to be really busy) and get it done in that timeframe. Treat it like writing a journal article â€“ mine was published in one of the Edinburgh journals afterwards and I think it is a great way to get some extra mileage out of the experience.
Immigration: The hidden benefitAnother big (but hidden) plus of the program is immigration. I’m a US citizen and having the degree has been the main (and only) reason I can stay here for so long.Â The UK government has a scheme you can take advantage of that allows you to work after getting a UK degree for 1-2 years without having to be in a special category or get sponsorship (meaning you can work for anyone, including for yourself). That time then can be used to build up your profile to get a more longer lasting visa, and in turn permanent residency. My wife (a fellow Texan) and I just got our next visa round and can stay till 2012 for example (I wrote this in 2009).
The great thing for me about doing the degree in terms of career, besides just how amazing Edinburgh is both intellectually and physically, was the connections with fellow students, staff, and the legal community.Â It’s a great opportunity to build out a network and work towards a post-graduation job in the UK from the moment you arrive, and with some planning you can stay in the UK for over a year on your student visa while working towards a permanent job.
What to do after
Career paths in the UKMy career has taken a bit of a circuitous path as when I returned to Scotland I worked for the University of Edinburgh as a researcher for a bit, and have since opened my own legal consulting practice and have gone on to work directly for a group of IP consultants.Â I have had quite a bit of experience however with the legal market here in the UK though, but these are just my experiences.
The LLM has certainly helped quite a bit as it proves to people that I have an understanding of the UK legal system. Having a degree from Edinburgh also helped with demonstrating an understanding of the Scottish legal system as well, which is a big plus in Scotland. I got the specialist IP/IT law LLM because I knew that area was going to be my focus, and it has helped quite a bit having that qualification when doing IP/IT work.Â Edinburgh also do several other specialist LLMs that AFAIK you can take if you ask. Part of my reason for going was that (at the time) UT didn’t have the kinds of IP/IT classes I wanted to take, and Edinburgh did.
Becoming a Solicitor, staying a US lawyerYou can’t be a solicitor for the whole of the UK.Â England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all have their own regulations for lawyers (like different states in the US).Â England & Wales is probably the easiest to get into from the US, but it requires 2 years of practice, 1 of which (now) has to be under supervision of an English solicitor in the law of England & Wales. So it is a bit tricky to become a solicitor, and trickier if you don’t practice at all in the US before coming.
I’ll have to add some more on this as I build out the site, but see the respective law society webpages for more details.
With the internet and online CLEs, staying a Texas lawyer is easy and just a matter of making sure you keep up with the paperwork, pay your dues, and take your CLEs.