What are my employment prospects after taking an LLM in China?
This is a question that is often asked by students particularly from developed countries such as US, in deciding whether studying an LLM in China is the right move for them.
After discussing this with a dean of a Chinese law school and our experience in assisting students to study in China, our take is as follows.
The Chinese legal system is developing. The amount of lawyers is relatively small. There are 230,000 lawyers in China as of 2013. In US there are over 1.2 million lawyers as of 2011. The legal system in China is relatively small, but it is growing and changing as China’s economy develops.
It is important to remember that as a foreigner you are not be able to pass the bar exam in China, but you would be able to provide “legal consultancy services”. If you have already passed the bar in your home country, you can have an opportunity to work in an international role in a Chinese law firm working between China and your jurisdiction. Although, this is highly likely to open up in the future as part of China’s commitment as a member of the WTO.
In terms of working at Chinese law firms, for an internship, or long term, a working level of Chinese is very important. Most Chinese law firms are not interested in hiring foreign interns if they do not speak or read Chinese. There are some law firms who will want to hire non-Chinese speaking lawyers for international work, but in this case Chinese speaking would be preferred. Lesson: focus on learning Chinese.
In terms of the value of doing an LLM in China, it depends on your goals. If finding a legal job in China is your goal, it is important to focus on learning Chinese and networking, building up connections and getting work experience. An LLM in China could provide a good platform for doing this, provided you are active in learning Chinese and going out to find work experience by making connections yourself. Hint: a great source of opportunities can come from your teachers and the University faculty if you approach them asking for help.
If your goal is to get a job back home, it can be difficult for a law school in China to assist with making the connections after you graduate. It may be a good idea to check with these law firms to see if the LLM would be relevant or increase your attractiveness before you embark on it, and if not maybe taking a summer program in Chinese law, a semester program in Chinese law, or taking some online classes may meet your goals better.