A trainee undertaking an LLM, supported by his firm, alongside his traineeship, explains the attractions
For many, studying for your LLB qualification and then Diploma in Legal Practice is enough of a challenge on the way to becoming a solicitor, without dragging the process on for another two years. Glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to embark on a part-time corporate masters degree at Glasgow University whilst juggling the reasonable/unreasonable responsibilities that a traineeship throws at you. Granted, by the time you have slogged your way through five years at university, I can see why further study wouldn’t exactly be a priority for many.
I have to be honest and say that combining the two does take discipline and hard work, as you can be sat in the office at 10pm completing a corporate deal and the next day you could be handing in an essay that is worth 40% of your overall mark, which can all become a little daunting. I am lucky however to have the support and encouragement of my firm, as I could never have managed to combine the two if it was not for them. Boyds, in line with their personal development ethos have supported me every step of the way, an example being that they allowed me to attend classes during working hours.
Why take it on?
The attractions of an LLM qualification to me were simple. The course lasted exactly two years, allowing me to graduate at the same time as becoming newly qualified. I have always had a particular interest in the area of corporate law. The topics covered by my LLM are more in-depth and relevant to me than the variety of subjects I was compelled to study at LLB level.
There is also more responsibility and flexibility to conduct private study and additional general reading, resulting in a greater understanding of the topics you choose to study. LLM students have to keep up with developments in the area they have chosen, and tutorial subjects can frequently be based around business activity in the previous week, which is hugely interesting and often immediately rewarding, contributing to your all-round understanding of the topic.
Although I study alongside individuals on the full-time degree programme, my timetable is less intensive and therefore it gives me the flexibility to combine work with study. Throughout the two-year course I am required to take four courses and submit a dissertation of my choice at the end of this period. Each course has a prerequisite of submitting one essay and sitting one exam.
I am not alone at Boyds when it comes to further education. My fellow first year trainee Euan Faulds is conducting a part-time LLM in information technology and telecommunications law. Frances Ennis, a second year trainee, is about to complete her MSc in criminal justice at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law. At all levels continual development is encouraged: for instance, Laura Gordon, until recently an associate in our corporate team [see interview on p24 – Editor], successfully completed her LLM in information technology and telecommunications law three years ago. Michelle Lynn, a paralegal in our commercial property department, is halfway through her part-time LLB qualification.
Alan Simpson, training partner at Boyds, recognises the wider benefits to the firm from supporting these studies. He commented: “We are thrilled that three of our current trainees are conducting further studies outwith their traineeships. Whatever support we can give to them throughout the course of their study, we will endeavour to do. We feel that the knowledge and experience gained will ultimately have an advantage to the firm as a whole, always putting us one step ahead of our competitors.”
The Law Society of Scotland has also welcomed the firm’s backing for its employees’ efforts. “Legal practice has always been all about the quality, skills and knowledge of the solicitors providing legal advice and services”, observed Neil Stevenson, Deputy Director (Education and Training). “In an increasingly complex and competitive environment the Society is delighted to start seeing firms like Boyds investing in the future generation of lawyers by offering something over and above standard traineeships and CPD.
“A masters can bring a significant financial and time commitment, for both firm and employee. However, it can also open doors to in-depth study and knowledge of a specific legal area or the learning of management and specialist skills to help the running of a practice and the better understanding of client companies and the issues facing them. It is good for the firm and good for clients.”
You’ll find something
As there is such a variety of LLMs, there is bound to be one out there that would attract any solicitor or trainee. Studies can be conducted in a variety of ways: distance learning, night school, or as I did, with my firm allowing me to attend university one morning each week. By continuing to study in an area that interests me I have managed to keep up with all recent updates and changes in the law, and have then been able to go back to my firm and relay this knowledge to my colleagues. On a personal note, I have found that my area of study has helped me on a number of occasions with situations that arose during my working day.
Although the LLM qualification is the next progressive step after the LLB, there are other forms of further education that should not be disregarded. Through my further studies I have encountered qualified solicitors studying for a variety of qualifications including PhDs and MBAs. Through my own experiences I can thoroughly recommend that any trainee given the chance to conduct further study should grab it with both hands, not only for the short term gain, but looking towards the future when a further qualification may set you apart from another solicitor tendering for the same deal, or when advising clients in staying one step ahead of the competition.
Andrew Freeman is currently a first-year trainee at Boyds Solicitors LLP, working in the Corporate and Insolvency department in their
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