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phmirwal

International Law ABROAD: JD vs. LLB + LLM

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Posted (edited)

Most threads here advise against going to the UK for an LLB, however, my objectives differ somewhat from the average poster here:

1.  I have zero interest in corporate law, and I'm not sure if I want to work in Canada. 

2.  I want to work in international law or human rights law, ideally in Europe (The Hague, Brussels, Geneva, etc.)

Given my particular career ambitions, how would a JD from uOttawa or Osgoode be valued against an LLB + LLM from a prestigious school like LSE or UCL? 

According to world rankings, LSE and UCL consistently place among the top 10 universities for law - right up there with Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford.  Globally, Canadian schools rank extremely low (with the exception of U of T and McGill).  Almost no one in Europe has ever heard of Osgoode, Queen's, or Western... let alone Windsor.  

My question is, would the brand name "LSE" be more valuable than the letters "JD" at the international level, for a career in international law, in Europe?

Edited by phmirwal

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Maybe. I think relatively few people have enough insight on the topic to be able to say definitively but it's certainly plausible.

Some things worth thinking about include: 

-- If LSE/UCL offer better access, in relative terms, to highly coveted careers, what level of access do they offer in absolute terms? I suspect the majority of people interested in the sorts of careers you've referenced are unable to access them - even at LSE, UCL, Oxbridge, etc. If this is the case, what would your backup plan be?

-- Assuming that the schools do indeed offer good access to the types of careers you're interested in, do the successful applicants have some other trait that you might not have? For instance, are they all trilingual? Do they have residency/working privileges in countries where you will not?

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2 hours ago, phmirwal said:

Most threads here advise against going to the UK for an LLB, however, my objectives differ somewhat from the average poster here:

1.  I have zero interest in corporate law, and I'm not sure if I want to work in Canada. 

2.  I want to work in international law or human rights law, ideally in Europe (The Hague, Brussels, Geneva, etc.)

Given my particular career ambitions, how would a JD from uOttawa or Osgoode be valued against an LLB + LLM from a prestigious school like LSE or UCL? 

According to world rankings, LSE and UCL consistently place among the top 10 universities for law - right up there with Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford.  Globally, Canadian schools rank extremely low (with the exception of U of T and McGill).  Almost no one in Europe has ever heard of Osgoode, Queen's, or Western... let alone Windsor.  

My question is, would the brand name "LSE" be more valuable than the letters "JD" at the international level, for a career in international law, in Europe?

Did you actually get in LSE or Osgoode Hall?

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you can always do a JD and a LLM in the UK or Europe 

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23 minutes ago, RJar said:

you can always do a JD and a LLM in the UK or Europe 

Slightly tangential so my apologies, but would a JD in Canada followed by an LLM from somewhere in the UK make one well suited for a corporate legal career in the UK, preferably in big law?

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Posted (edited)

The main thing for international law/international human rights law is keeping your costs down, which I suppose would also include opportunity cost. I think the other posters in this thread have made good points, which I'll just add to:

I think the best route for a Canadian is generally to do a JD, then article, then pursue an LLM. You would end up being a fully qualified lawyer (unlike a UK LLB alone, which would require a further two years as a trainee) and have the graduate credentials (which you can pursue at the 'prestigious' universities you listed, regardless of where you did your JD) typically required by the employers you just listed. The trick is to do all this without incurring so much debt that you are unable to do the un/underpaid positions needed to get in the door at most international institutions.

The big thing many internationally-minded Canadian lawyers have working in their favour is French fluency, if not also dual nationality. It's significantly more difficult to practice in Europe without one or more European languages. (And, query: What work is there in Brussels for a non-European national, anyway?) I would further note that one of the fields you might be interested in -- namely international criminal law -- is not what it once was. Even then, career positions in ICL typically go to prosecutors with domestic experience. Take a gander at the Canadians working at those institutions now. 

Finally, human rights law is primarily a domestic matter. There is plenty of that work in Canada. If you want to do international human rights law, know that that kind of work is rare, even in Europe. Again, most human rights cases are domestic. 

Edited by onepost
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You're going to get a lot of Canadian bias on this forum because it's a Canadian forum. 

This is obviously anecdotal but I've lived in Europe, did my Master's at a top UK school, and have quite a few friends working at the EU, the Hague etc.

Some people knew McGill and thought of it as a really good school, a few knew U of T but only because Toronto is seen as a little brother version of London as a city, and absolutely nobody knew what the hell any other Canadian university or law school was (including Ottawa, Osgoode, and my undergrad alma mater UBC, which aren't bad schools). My experience going abroad was very clearly that Canada is not a country on anybody outside of Canada's mind.

Studying law in the UK is not like in Canada where you can grad in the top 25% of your class from TRU/Windsor and it's basically equivalent to graduating in the top 50% of your class from UBC or Osgoode.

Hiring in the UK (and to my knowledge across Europe and in the institutions you talked about) is very prestige driven. Oxbridge, LSE, Sciences Po? Great. Edinburgh, UCL, KCL? Do well and you're good. Anything less well known? Very difficult to get where you want to get to. 

You are absolutely better off going to LSE or UCL than any school in Canada given your goals and yes "LSE" is much more valuable than "JD" given those goals IMO. 

As far as I know, attaining your goals would be considered a bit of a "unicorn" outcome from even a top Canadian school like McGill or Toronto, but it's comparatively very accessible from LSE despite your field of interest being notoriously small and tough to break into. 

The one thing you might want to consider though is that if you've already done a Bachelor's in North America you might resent being in a classroom with 18 year olds for 3 years and essentially starting from scratch chasing your career goals after 4 years of hard work. If you're just starting uni then no big deal.

Also, if your goals change coming back to Canada to practice will be a pain (NCA etc.) and people won't be impressed by an LSE degree the same way they are in Europe. 

Hope that's helpful!

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Have you tried searching for a law school related forum based out of Europe?

I have no idea if this is a good website or not, but here is an example of something I searched - https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=28

If you are considering studying law in Canada and then practicing law in Europe, my gut tells me don't do it. It would be better to just study law in Europe.

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3 hours ago, jvand93 said:

Slightly tangential so my apologies, but would a JD in Canada followed by an LLM from somewhere in the UK make one well suited for a corporate legal career in the UK, preferably in big law?

becoming an accredited lawyer in Canada is easier than becoming one in the UK. If you're looking to work in Europe, like some ppeople have said you will need to know a few EU languages, french, german would probs be the most useful ones. 

You can also pursue LLB in European schools in France, Germany, Italy, all of which have programs taught fully in english. If you take this route you will have to come back to Canada and be accredited here. 

I've lived in Europe for a long time, and have plenty of friends who are living there. I would suggest doing a JD in Canada doing your articles and then doing an LLM in Europe. (you will have your Canadian JD to fall back on if at any point you change your mind). Just because a school like Western isn't well known in Europe does not mean you will not get into a prestigious school in Europe for your LLM.  

You can also research any canadian schools who have exchange programs in Europe (if there are any). 

 

However, International lawyer jobs, or any EU position is going to highly favour European citizens. 

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Posted (edited)

It really comes down to what you're committed in doing. If you're absolutely certain that you'd like to practice abroad, then there's no sense pursuing any legal education in Canada. There's little benefit in spending four years of undergraduate, followed by three years of law school only to later pursue an LL.M. considering that most international firms have additional unique requirements. 

From a time and financial perspective, you would be better suited getting an education in Europe if you plan on practicing there. Once you graduate and are able to secure employment you will be paid to finish your licensing procedure if you're on a training contract. 

Again, I would only advise you take that decision if you're fully committed to working abroad for the foreseeable future. On an international level, Canadian law degrees are simply not as valuable in comparison to UK and US credentials abroad. 

Edited by Shady
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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, jvand93 said:

Slightly tangential so my apologies, but would a JD in Canada followed by an LLM from somewhere in the UK make one well suited for a corporate legal career in the UK, preferably in big law?

Absolutely not. You won't be able to license in the UK with a Canadian JD. It is not seen as a qualifying law degree in England. You'll likely have to pursue further education like a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Additionally, most big legal firms in the United Kingdom lean heavily on recruiting from Russell Group Universities as oppose to any Canadian institution. 

Edited by Shady

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You know what I find ironic? Foreign trained lawyers always complain about the discriminatory practices in legal employment in Canada, yet the same seems to hold true for Canadian trained lawyers wanting to practice abroad as well. It does not surprise me at all that employers want to hire people who studied law in their jurisdiction. 

OP, if you want to practice law in the UK/Europe, just go to school there. 

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10 hours ago, jvand93 said:

Slightly tangential so my apologies, but would a JD in Canada followed by an LLM from somewhere in the UK make one well suited for a corporate legal career in the UK, preferably in big law?

This really depends on how you approach your career path. You have a good chance of making it into big law if you manage to snag an articling position at one of the Seven Sisters or international law firm with offices around the world with the likes of Gowling WLG, Dentons, DLA Piper, and others of similar calibre. 

If you want to become a solicitor in England and Wales, completing the QLTS scheme would have been the best option after being called to the bar in one of the Canadian provinces. However, the SRA is transitioning to the SQE this September with a different process to become a solicitor in England and Wales. 

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15 minutes ago, timeisticking said:

However, the SRA is transitioning to the SQE this September with a different process to become a solicitor in England and Wales. 

I am familiar with the QLTS but not so much this new SQE scheme. Could you possibly elaborate upon it a bit as it would relate to a licensed Canadian lawyer ?

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Posted (edited)
On 3/6/2021 at 12:25 AM, jvand93 said:

I am familiar with the QLTS but not so much this new SQE scheme. Could you possibly elaborate upon it a bit as it would relate to a licensed Canadian lawyer ?

From what I understand, the process for the SQE scheme, like the QLTS, is still split into two parts. While the SQE scheme allows greater flexibility to complete your assessments elsewhere in the world, it will be more difficult than the QLTS scheme. The first stage will include two assessments testing your knowledge of substantive law (as opposed to one in the QLTS). This is essentially the same thing as the bar exam. The second stage will be more rigorous, covering a greater number of legal practice areas and skills than the QLTS.

Where the QLTS scheme allowed candidates an unlimited amount of times to complete all assessments without any time frame, the SQE will only allow 3 attempts for each assessment. Both assessment must be completed within a 6-year period. 

The QLTS scheme only applies to foreign qualified lawyers, while the SQE will allow all aspiring solicitors to become qualified, regardless of their background and education. As a licensed Canadian lawyer, you should be better prepared for these two assessments, given your legal education, articling experience, and completion of the bar exams.

Here's a chart which compares the two different schemes.  

sqe-infographic.jpg

Edited by timeisticking
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1 hour ago, timeisticking said:

From what I understand, the process for the SQE scheme, like the QLTS, is still split into two parts. While the SQE scheme allows greater flexibility to complete your assessments elsewhere in the world, it will be more difficult than the QLTS scheme. The first stage will include two assessments testing your knowledge of substantive law (as opposed to one in the QLTS). This is essentially the same thing as the bar exam. The second stage will be more rigorous, covering a greater number of legal practice areas and skills than the QLTS.

Where the QLTS scheme allowed candidates an unlimited amount of times to complete all assessments without any time frame, the SQE will only allow 3 attempts for each assessment. Both assessment must be completed within a 6-year period. 

The QLTS scheme only applies to foreign qualified lawyers, while the SQE will allow all aspiring solicitors to become qualified, regardless of their background and education. As a licensed Canadian lawyer, you should be better prepared for these two assessments, given your legal education, articling experience, and completion of the bar exams.

Thank you so much for this!

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I would find a way to keep my costs down while doing the following, assuming you've already gotten a Canadian undergrad:

Work on your French (or any other international language credentials; Spanish is very helpful too).

Find a way to minimize your debt while going to a Canadian law school. This limits you to non Ontario law schools actually. McGill or UBC or UVIC come to mind in terms of cost.

Do an exchange at one of the schools you mentioned. While there, network like crazy. 

Then do an LLM at one of the schools you mentioned. But look into schools that are "feeders" into the whole UN Corpus. I think Essex is one but I'm not sure.

Do all of this while keeping costs down so you can do an unpaid internship, possibly multiple, in order to get your first paid contract.

I'll just warn you that a career at one of the international institutions is anything but "stable" if that matters to you. People in their 40s who've been there for a while still go contract to contract. And while it's obviously easier to get contracts once you're in, it doesn't give the same idea of stability as a domestic legal job.

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On 3/13/2021 at 11:59 AM, pzabbythesecond said:

Work on your French (or any other international language credentials; Spanish is very helpful too).

This is a really important point. It's very hard to land a job, let alone do a good job, in the spaces you're talking about without being near-fluent or better in English and at least one of French, Spanish, or German. 

I'd still push you to attend LSE or UCL, assuming you hold an LLB offer to those schools right now, if you're relatively confident this is the career you want to pursue because: 

1) Getting into one of them for an LLM after getting a Canadian JD is not a guarantee and your prospects in this space with something like a Canadian JD+Essex International Human Rights LLM are on average nowhere near as good as with an LSE/UCL LLB or LLM; 

2) UVic doesn't have any exchanges to universities that provide a high probability of being helpful in the pursuit of your goals (maybe Utrecht, but time there is unlikely to help you get a foot in the door the way LSE or UCL will);

3) If you attend UBC or McGill it's not a complete guarantee you'll be able secure an exchange to a school like Sciences Po, Paris II, or KCL;

4) Even if you do, having 4 months over the next 3 years to build a network in Europe on exchange is nowhere near the same as living in Europe for 3 years and building a network as part of the community at LSE or UCL; and

5) This is just a personal opinion but I've spent significant time in Vancouver, Montréal, and London. The former two are cool but the latter is really something special. You might just fall in love with London and want to secure a training contract as a UK solicitor, who knows? Life is short and trying something new could be very rewarding and help you grow. 

Also if you'd like, you can PM me and I can put you in touch with a friend of mine who is an upper-year LLB student at one of LSE/UCL, just let me know! 

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Posted (edited)

Is OP an EU citizen? What OP should do varies depending on the answer. Being one makes all of your goals much simpler to attain. Second part of that, is that unless you're a home citizen you're gonna pay international tuition, something EU citizens didn't have to do until recently in the UK.

Tangential rant, but somehow brexit voters never stopped to think about the talent that was sourced from across the continent into British institutions and is now being redirected across the continent. 

Edited by toastedguac
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The tuition fee point is a really good one. Still, you can expect to pay approximately U of T JD domestic tuition as an LSE LLB international student, so depending on your debt aversion you may or may not find that worthwhile given the increased opportunity LSE is likely to afford you over any Canadian school in the space you're interested in.

The point about being an EU citizen is true too, though it's not as big of an obstacle as it might seem on the surface if you're a Canadian or US citizen. If that's the case, you don't need a work visa to work in Europe, you simply need to apply for residence and a work permit in the country (e.g. potentially Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands) you end up working in upon your arrival there.

The bigger roadblock this can cause is that there's a de facto onus placed on you to convince the employer you're interviewing with that you're committed to working there long enough to make employing you worthwhile to them. This is essentially a non-issue at the EU, UN, etc... where people bounce around contract-to-contract and city-to-city across countries anyways. 

As far a Brexit, I think you're definitely right to an extent, though Oxbridge and UofL schools + firms in the City of London (the law/finance district) will always have tremendous pull. Plus I don't think that the people who actually voted to leave would care much about the talent redirection factor even upon reflection 😂

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