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Degrees of insight

1 July 04

The career benefits from a postgraduate degree course

The fact that 64% of the readers of CA Magazine taking part in the survey reported in last month’s Journal, consider their solicitors “understand business and commercial issues well”, shows that the profession takes its modern role as business managers and business advisers seriously – but that there is room for further improvement.

Certainly there is no room for the excuse of lack of opportunity to learn. Most Scottish universities offer relevant courses in both law and management, while for those who wish to look further afield the choice is huge.

An LLM to help develop a legal specialism, or the increasingly popular MBA for those taking their management role seriously, are perhaps the most obvious choices, but the range of options extends from postgraduate diplomas in subjects as diverse as human rights law and telecommunications law, to an MPhil or PhD research course for the really serious student. Napier University is one of a number of institutions that offer a BA or MSc in criminal justice-related studies, including a course in police studies directed at applicants from Scotland. At Strathclyde the MSc claims to be the only course of its kind running a module in criminal justice management.

Strathclyde University’s Law School shortly celebrates its 40th anniversary with a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes which pursue the University’s central mission, to provide “the place of useful learning”.

Head of department, Professor Kenneth Norrie explains: “From 2004 all our taught masters courses will be offered jointly with Glasgow University, through the aegis of the Glasgow Graduate School of Law.”

The award of the highest, “5A” rating in the recent Research Assessment Exercise, and the highest grade by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council for the quality of the teaching and learning strategy, recognises an environment where staff are conducting research of national and international excellence.

Indeed LLM courses are becoming increasingly specialised. Spanning the growth areas of construction law, IT law, human rights law and criminal justice, courses on offer in Scotland include intellectual commercial law, European trade law, and international water law. In Strathclyde’s case, since launching the first part-time LLB evening programme in 1986, courses have evolved in response to the demands of individuals requiring relevant, flexible qualifications, delivered to dovetail with current lifestyle and career commitments. The university’s postgraduate portfolio currently extends to LLM degrees (part or full time in the evening and online distance learning) in Human Rights Law; Construction Law; Information Technology and Telecommunications Law; Commercial Law, and an MSc in Criminal Justice.

Professor Noel Whitty, director of the human rights course, claims that his programme has wide appeal and relevance to both solicitors and human rights practitioners: “Postgraduate study can provide you with the skills to respond to the new challenges faced by the growth in human rights awareness and litigation.”

LLM course costs at Strathclyde range from £3,600 for commercial law (part time £1,505 per annum), through £3,600 (£1,825) for criminal law or human rights, to £4,500 (£2,300) for construction law. (Students from outwith the EU pay £7,700-£8,000.)

With so many universities to choose from, you should consider all the factors: your personal interests and intended career; what the teaching body has to offer in quality, range and content of programmes; its atmosphere and facilities; its accessibility and how you would fit the course into your hectic schedule; and also what style of teaching – lectures, seminars, tutorials or online, evening or daytime study, would best suit you.

It has been claimed that you can gain as much management expertise over the three years of the MBA as you can in 20 or 30 years of legal practice. Certainly surveys have indicated that the degree is a major path to senior management. Some courses are tailored for the needs of lawyers and legal firms, but whatever the provider, you should find the degree gives you greater insight into service, ethics, client relationships and teamworking.