MIAMI GARDENS – In recent years, there has been a growing interest in students who are pursuing LL.M. degrees, otherwise known as an advanced law certification with credibility worldwide, even though these students may not be involved in the law industry personally.
The reasons for pursuing such a certification are numerous, from wanting to learn more about the legal system to becoming more marketable. Students seeking such programs may approach a number of challenges in the pursuit of an LL.M. but there can be benefits to holding such a certification, as well.
Siegfried Wiessner, the director of the graduate program in Intercultural Human Rights at St. Thomas University, told the Florida Record about some of the considerations and details for non-law students pursuing an LL.M.
The university offers an LL.M. degree in intercultural human rights to those students who already hold a Juris Doctor degree, making the admission process competitive, but the program is also offered to holders of a bachelor's degree and non-law students, but does not necessarily prepare students for going into law.
Though non-law students have many reasons for pursuing an LL.M., Wiessner said that those who are interested in human rights or human rights organizations will benefit from the knowledge of international law and make them more well-rounded in their careers.
When asked if this route to a law certification was unconventional, Wiessner shared his opinion.
"It wouldn’t be unconventional for this LL.M. degree, as explained, as it is no general LL.M. degree," Wiessner said.
Not all schools will accept students from non-law backgrounds immediately and may put the students through rigorous testing standards prior to admitting them.
One such university is Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany which requires that applicants demonstrate an understanding of the legal matters.
Some additional universities which offer LL.M. programs to non-law students include the University of London External System, the University of Edinburgh and Queen's University, according to Wiessner.
Upon completion of the program, students pursue a number of careers, and not all of them are always related to law, as Wiessner explained the tendency for graduates to enter nongovernmental organizations (NGO).
"Some of our non-lawyer graduates do go on to pursue the full J.D. degree program after taking the LL.M. Some of our LL.M. graduates now work with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Volunteers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Council of Europe, the African Union, the International Organization for Migration, the World Bank, OXFAM, the Open Society Forum, the Parliamentarians for Global Action, the Red Cross, and others; others are successfully litigating cases in courts, work for governments and in academia, or run their own NGOs," Wiessner said.
The program at St. Thomas is a specialized degree in which the students learn the details surrounding international law and can result in success for its students, even those outside of the study of law.
"The reality of our program has proven that there are no challenges for them: non-lawyers graduated at the top of their class a number of times," Wiessner said.