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How to Survive the LLM

There are some pretty scary stories about postgraduate study experiences out there. The words ‘intense’, ‘overwhelming’ and ‘lonely’ tend to get mentioned on more than one occasion…

It’s true that a Master of Laws degree will be hard work, whichever way you choose to study it. But many, many people survive the LLM to tell the tale… And have actually enjoyed it! There are definitely some things you can do to help you get through the course without going crazy. Here are a few tips…

Establish a good working relationship with your tutor

Your tutor is there to ensure you achieve your potential with your postgraduate studies – so make sure you use them! There is a much more independent focus on your work as an LLM student; however, it’s important to use your tutor for guidance and advice when you need it.

A good tutor-student relationship is particularly important for students taking an LLM by Research; where a lack of course peers mean tutor meetings are the only opportunity to discuss progress and receive feedback on work.

Distance learning students will also have to manage with very little to no face-to-face contact with their tutor. Those studying in this way may also want to contact their tutors at an early stage to find out the best times for getting in touch for advice.

Be sure of your funding sources

Money worries are stressful at the best of times, and concerns about funding certainly aren’t something you want during your studies.

It’s really important to research your funding options before you begin an LLM, such as scholarship and bursary opportunities. Being sure about the way in which you will fund your tuition fees and yourself during your studies will help you to be more comfortable and focused in that time.

If you do experience unforeseen severe financial difficulties as a full-time student during your LLM studies then get in touch with student support services at your university. They may be able to help.

Get a study plan together

Preparation and organisation of your time is key: a Master’s course is intense, and you will need to put a good deal of work into your studies in order to succeed. A timetable and solid weekly routine will help to establish good habits of when you work and when you relax.

Full-time students can organise their study time around their set lectures and seminars. Part-time and distance learning students will have to think about making time in their evenings and weekends for their course work; a full-time job and study can be very difficult to manage if there isn’t a strict routine in place.

Don’t forget to schedule in breaks too. It’s important to relax now and again to keep stress levels down and help you to focus!  

Organise your paperwork

This might sound obvious, but books and notes can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t keep track of what everything is and what you need it for. Separate your work into sections, keep comprehensive notes from your lectures and seminars and try not to leave organising it all until the last minute – or else you risk forgetting what it was all for!

Get to know the other people on your course

An LLM programme does involve a lot of independent thought and work, but the support of a fellow student or two can relieve stress. Distance learning students can use the induction course and any weekend sessions to make contacts. Talking to someone who understands what you’re dealing with can combat any lonely feelings during your studies and help you through.

By Jos Weale, Editor,