LLM Study Advice
Graham Ferris teaches on the LLM Programme at Nottingham Law School. Here, Graham provides an extensive insight into LLM teaching, and provides tips to students as to what they can do to ensure they excel on the course.
Nottingham Law School’s LLM programmes deliver taught modules through weekly, two hour, small group seminars. Seminars allow for interaction between you, other students, and your tutors. If you have studied on an undergraduate programme in the UK then you will be familiar with small group teaching, and you will also be familiar with the lecture. The biggest change as you move onto the LLM is that we have no lectures. Obviously, tutors will use some class time to introduce, talk about, and explain the subject, but the main source of information is your reading. That means your preparation is crucial.
We teach intensively; a lot is covered over a short time. Students need to hit the ground running to get the most out of the course. It is important to keep up, as some of the material we cover is technically demanding. There is a risk that if you do not prepare, and attend, and take part in the weekly sessions, you might lose track of what is going on, and that can lead to anxiety and even panic. Try and make sure you are doing the preparatory reading, and any other preparatory tasks set, and make attendance at the seminars a personal priority. Most importantly, if you start to feel you are not understanding what is going on raise the matter with your tutor.
You can use the seminars to clarify anything you do not fully understand and develop your understanding. We indicate what reading is most important in the materials. Although we study law because it is important in the real world, the LLM is an academic course that supports your development of specialised ways of understanding and arguing. So, always start with the guidance for reading provided by tutors. Eventually, we hope that you will start to identify other reading that is important for the questions that you want to ask about law and society, and right and wrong. This will be important, especially in your dissertation.
The dissertation is a vital part of LLM study. It is a research project, which means you will formulate a question and try to answer it. You get one-to-one supervision by a tutor for your dissertation. In taught modules tutors are like guides and teachers; with dissertation supervision tutors are like guides and partners. You are now a research apprentice: someone carrying our research.
The reading you will be doing for your taught modules and dissertation is supported by our library. A lot of it is electronic. If a book, or report, or other source that you need is unavailable then we have processes to obtain it; as well as our library catalogue you can get access to other libraries’ resources.
If you want to do really well, then you need to study the work set by your tutors. You cannot leapfrog over the need to understand the area of study. Then you need to find the areas that are difficult or uncertain, and work out why they are problematic. Then, you need to read, and talk, and think about what the best approach to these problematic areas are. Finally, you need to write and explain the problem and your solution and why it is the best solution available in the light of other attempts to solve the problem. These are not easy tasks, but the seminars and practice essays provide opportunities for practice.