LLM success: advice from a recent student

A mortar board and diploma held aloft with sky in the background

This post was first published on 24/09/2019.

Ekaterina Kashina completed an LLM in International Corporate Governance, Financial Regulation and Economic Law at IALS in 2019. In this post Ekaterina reflects on her LLM year and shares some valuable advice for new LLM students.

Now is a very exciting time to be joining IALS, home to the UK national legal research library. Having just undergone the multi-million pound transformation, the library is looking chic and boasts sensor lighting, semi-private study spaces and the most comfortable chairs! I attest to the chair quality being a proud member of eight London libraries, ranging from the British Library through to my local council-run establishment. And I would suggest not to discard either one – my council library happened to stock a go-to contract law book that I couldn’t get a hold of in any of the academic libraries.

But IALS is so much more than a specialist library. It shares the building with a number of UK legal research centres, such as the British Institute of International and Comparative Law and Information Law and Policy Centre. Together, they host a great variety of public lectures and conferences, attracting high-profile participants and leading professionals in their field from all over the UK and abroad. If you already are in the library, why not take a break from studying and attend the events for the most up-to-date knowledge and some inspiration?

IALS also offers the services of over a dozen highly qualified law librarians, and this is a luxury that can hardly be overestimated. Apart from group seminars covering various aspects of legal research, writing and referencing, the librarians also run invaluable individual sessions. Preparing for exams is not a good time to be shy, so do take advantage of these, especially if you are coming from a non-common law jurisdiction or haven’t previously used OSCOLA referencing standard. Being able to book a bespoke consultation with a law librarian saved me hours of dealing with tricky questions, and also ensured that I didn’t end up with the wrong answers! Otherwise I probably would have never figured out how to reference the documents of the Council of the EU (not covered by OSCOLA), automatically update cross-references on a Mac, or determine the most widely-used keywords for the research. Even if you know the OSCOLA guide by heart, can navigate Westlaw practically with your eyes closed and construct footnotes in your head as a hobby, an IALS law librarian is still likely to surprise you with a trick or two up their sleeve.

Now to the eternal questions, such as the ever-present phenomenon of procrastination. During my time in IALS, I learned that the only sure way to stop putting something off is to start doing it. There is no effective motivational talk, positive affirmation, magic pill, perfect moment, place, company or circumstances. They may exist, but they aren’t guaranteed to make you write an essay. The only thing that will is simply writing it. I have met the elusive students who submit their assignments a week in advance, but their winning technique is also just that – they write it.

Other eternal questions do not seem to have a solution at all. As an LLM student, you will be required to prepare a few hundred to around a thousand pages of reading each week. Turns out, it is not really possible, at least not for one person. But it is possible to divide the workload and to read in groups, sharing the knowledge. If you also need to source the materials on the reading list before you can read it, asking one person to find all the reading and then to pass it onto everyone else could be a great time-saver. This strategy probably was the single most impactful in our case. And of course, do ask a librarian if you are struggling to find something!

If all of this already sounds a bit daunting, fear not. At the end of the day, you have been admitted to the LLM programme because you have a realistic prospect of successfully completing it.

Good luck and enjoy your time at IALS!