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The benefits of graduate studies in law

While a lot of students with a Juris Doctor degree would question the benefit of obtaining additional legal qualifications after their first law degree, there are many benefits to undertaking graduate studies in law. To name a few such benefits, students would be able to specialize in an area of law that interests them as well as increase their marketability by having an extra credential over regular job applicants.

There are many types of graduate studies in law programs, including the offering of graduate diplomas and certificates with a specialization in an area of law, LLM programs including thesis-based or project-based options, as well as Doctor of Philosophy in Law or Doctor of Laws degree programs across Canada.

Obtaining an advanced degree in law gives you the competitive edge in job applications. Standing above the rest of the candidates with a JD degree, you can show that you have a specialized knowledge in an area of law. For example, an immigration and refugee law firm may be interested in a candidate with advanced knowledge in immigration and refugee law obtained through a specialist certificate program.

While completing your JD studies, you may find that you are interested in an area of law, but the available electives may not permit you to specialize in that particular area. Enrolling in graduate studies in law enables you to pick and choose courses in your area of specialization and lets you explore the topic in more depth.

While undertaking your advanced degree in law, there may be opportunities for you to work as a teaching assistant for a course or a research assistant for a professor. These opportunities push you further and they are a way to learn new and transferable skills, such as learning how to explain difficult legal concepts to new students and conducting legal research in an advanced law subject. These skills are useful in whatever career option you choose to pursue.

One important distinction between a JD degree and an advanced law degree is the opportunity to work closely with one or more professors. The mentorship and guidance from the professors with whom you work are invaluable to you both as a person and as a future lawyer.

Instead of just working in small groups, in an advanced law degree, there are often opportunities to interact with your peers or colleagues. These opportunities can and often do translate into opportunities to collaborate in a future research project and additional networking opportunities — again, invaluable for your future career.

Jenny Poon is a barrister and solicitor (Law Society of Ontario). The author may be reached at jpoonlaw@gmail.com.