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MASTERING WHAT, EXACTLY?

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Bar graduate Adam Fellows isn’t convinced doing a masters degree is a good way to land a trainee legal job

One option for law graduates without a training contract or a pupillage is to study for a masters. Universities have offered LLMs for a long time. More recently, the big name course providers such as BPP and the College of Law have moved into the LLM market. The latest instalment in this developing area is BPP’s new MA in Law and Business, which will allow graduates of its Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to gain a masters in as little as 15 weeks.

The process involves the study of modules covering business strategy, management, finance and analysis. It costs, in addition to the LPC or BPTC fees, £3,650. The hope is that law firms and chambers will see this new course as giving graduates an extra string to their bow. In law firms, a good sense of business is as essential to a successful career as a good sense of the law. And with chambers being encouraged to enter into alternative business structures as a way to preserve the bar, such skills and knowledge may be useful to someone entering the junior end of the profession.

But how impressive, really, is this type of qualification? There are, after all, many respected postgraduate law degrees run by traditional universities – the most respected of which is the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) offered by Oxford University.

What sets the BPP course apart is its sub £4,000 price. Even courses offered part-time or via distance learning which allows the student to fit this extra learning around work can cost more than this (Northumbria University’s masters courses designed for practitioners can cost between £4,500 and £6,000, for example) and can take much longer to complete.

There is a choice to be made regarding postgraduate degrees: put oneself into more debt, and study more with absolutely no guarantee of a training contract or pupillage at the end, or opt to continue trading on your current educational credentials and boost your CV another way. BPP’s new masters may be shorter and cheaper, but law graduates still need to ask themselves the same question. The danger is that unless the masters is from a high prestige institution, employers will look on the candidates who follow this route as having taken the easy option.

Adam Fellows is a non-practising barrister, called by the Inner Temple in July 2011, who wants to specialise in public and media law. He currently works as a legal researcher.

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