Skip to main content

LLM in Comparative and European Private Law

Anyone working in legal practice, academia, national, or international institutions or corporations will need to engage with foreign laws and legal concepts. The study of private law from a comparative perspective is therefore essential to those seeking a career in an international or transnational context.


Drawing on both the civil and common law tradition, this programme offers the ideal platform for you to develop expertise in core areas of private law from a comparative perspective, and to benefit from research-led teaching from legal scholars who are recognised as experts in their field.

This unique masters programme provides you with the opportunity to obtain an advanced qualification that is both academically rigorous and professionally beneficial.

The LLM in Comparative and European Private Law offers a wide range of subjects that deal with various aspects of private law from a comparative perspective, as well as courses on legal theory and legal history. In addition, you can select further courses from a wide list of options offered by the School, allowing you to tailor the LLM to meet your specific interests.

Since 2018 this LLM programme offers two courses that focus on the comparative study of trust law. Those with a specific interest in studying trusts from a comparative perspective will therefore have a unique opportunity to specialise in this area.

Core courses cover the main areas of private law, including:

  • Contract law
  • Property law
  • The law of trusts
  • Delict and tort
  • Family and child law
  • International private law
Hannah Frahm, LLM in Comparative and European Private Law Graduate
Studying the LLM in Comparative and European Private Law at the University of Edinburgh was a game changer for me, both professionally and personally.
Hannah Frahm
LLM in Comparative and European Private Law, 2017

Scotland is a mixed legal system meaning that its laws are shaped by both the civil law and the common law traditions. Edinburgh is therefore the perfect place to study private law from a comparative perspective. Edinburgh’s private lawyers work in a tradition that is outward-looking by its very nature, maintaining active research links with scholars in continental Europe and with the larger common law world beyond the United Kingdom.

The LLM in Comparative and European Private Law attracts an international community of talented and ambitious students from common law, civil law, and mixed legal jurisdictions from all over the world.

The programme provides you with an excellent foundation for a career in legal practice in national and transnational law firms or employment in international organisations. It also offers a strong basis for doctoral research in private law and the growing fields of Comparative Private Law and European Private Law, whether in the UK, in Europe, or beyond.

Graduates of this programme have pursued successful careers in all sectors of legal practice or have undertaken doctoral research in the UK or their home countries.

Graduates and students talk about their experiences of studying the LLM in Comparative and European Private Law on this video playlist.

As an LLM student at Edinburgh Law School you'll not only benefit from expert teaching, but you will also be part of a vibrant intellectual community of legal academics and students.

Edinburgh Law School has a long-standing and very distinguished tradition of scholarship in the field of comparative private law. Private law has been taught and researched at the University of Edinburgh since 1722, and Edinburgh Law School is widely recognised as one of the leading institutions in the world in the field of Comparative and European Private Law.

Closely associated with the LLM is the Edinburgh Centre for Private Law (ECPL) which was established in 2009. Much of the research carried out in the centre examines Private Law in a European and comparative context and fosters a lively dialogue between civilian and common law jurisdictions. Law reform is also strongly represented, with several members of the ECPL being current or former Law Commissioners.

Several members of the ECPL conduct research in various fields of private law, including contract law, unjustified enrichment, delict and tort, property law, trust law, succession law, family and child law not only in the Scottish context, but also in the comparative European and international, as well as historical, context. Their scholarly work has been as much concerned with the intellectual history of the law and the circulation of ideas across legal traditions as it has been with matters of legal doctrine.

Visit the Edinburgh Centre for Private Law website

The Edinburgh Centre for Private Law holds regular events featuring speakers from many different jurisdictions, which are attended by our LLM students. These events provide an excellent opportunity for you to meet legal scholars, legal practitioners, and judges interested in comparative and European private law.

The centre also organises the annual W. A. Wilson Memorial Lecture.

The centre hosts several international academic visitors every year. It also has a separate Distinguished Visitorship in Private Law scheme. Former Distinguished Visitors include Professor Danie Visser (UCT South Africa) and Professor Lionel Smith (McGill University).

Other centres that you may want to get involved with are the Centre for Legal History, the Edinburgh Centre for Commercial Law, and the Edinburgh Centre for Legal Theory.

Find out more about Edinburgh Law School's research centres and network

This programme can be taken full-time over one year, or part-time over two years (due to current UKVI regulations, the part-time programme is only available to UK and EU students). It offers a wide range of subjects that deal with various aspects of private law from a comparative perspective, with the possibility of choosing additional courses so as to enable you to tailor the LLM to meet your specific interests.

The programme consists of 180 credits, comprising taught courses worth 120 credits (60 credits per semester) and a 10,000 word dissertation worth 60 credits. Full programme details are available on the University Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study website.

View full programme and course information for the LLM in Comparative and European Private Law

Courses shown below are scheduled to run in the 2019/20 academic year.

You can select between 80 and 120 credits of the following courses:

  • Child Law in Comparative Perspectives (20 credits) – new for 2019/20

    This course aims to examine child law from a comparative perspective by looking at the status of children and children’s legal rights from a range of jurisdictions, such as Scotland, England, United States, Australia and New Zealand. You will also be encouraged to share research from your home jurisdictions, where different.
    The course will identify common child law issues that will provoke discussion, challenge previously-held views and encourage reading and research to find common ground and establish ways to pursue equality, whilst respecting cultural and religious backgrounds.
    The issues to be addressed will include: the legal definition of “child”; welfare vs protection; evolving capacity of a child; state intervention; criminal responsibility; UNCRC; and religious and cultural considerations.

  • Contract Law in Europe (40 credits, full-year course)

    The aim of this course is to examine the law of contract from a comparative perspective. Reference will be made to civilian and common law systems (including mixed systems) and, in particular, the laws of Scotland, England, France and Germany.
    You will critically consider major themes, spanning the life of a contract, in these jurisdictions. You will also be asked to consider whether there are significant differences between the common law and civilian systems or whether the differences are more apparent than real. The use of supra-national and harmonisation initiatives will also be discussed.

  • Comparative and International Trust Law (20 credits)

    The aim of this course is to examine the notion of ‘trust’ from a functional perspective. It explores the essential nature of trusts, as well as their core features across a number of jurisdictions. The course is not limited to any particular system of trust law, but is international and comparative in its approach. The trust jurisdictions considered include England, the United States of America, selected ‘offshore’ jurisdictions, mixed legal systems (e.g. Scotland, South Africa, and Quebec), and civil law systems, such as, for instance, France and Germany. European harmonisation projects and other international trust instruments will also be considered. This course does not require any previous knowledge of trust law. However, it does presuppose a basic knowledge of the law of obligations, of property law, of succession law, of insolvency law, and of international private law. It also presupposes familiarity with basic comparative methodologies as well as a basic understanding of the two major legal traditions examined, the civil and the common law.

  • Delict and Tort (20 credits)

    This is an advanced level course on the law of delict. It will examine the treatment of key areas of liability in Scots and English law. The approach adopted will be comparative and reference will be made throughout to other Anglo-American and European legal systems. Fundamental conceptual structures will be compared, as well as specific problems, with a view to illuminating not only differences but also the common features of those systems. Particular attention will be given to the impact of Human Rights law on the law of delict and current debates on the extent of the constitutionalisation of private law. Recent initiatives to establish a common European law of torts will also be discussed.
    The course is designed mainly for those students who have already studied the law of obligations in their own system. If you have not, you may still apply for a place on the course, but you should be aware that additional study may be required.
    You will require an undergraduate degree in law to study this course and it is particularly suitable if you who have already studied delict/tort in reasonable depth at undergraduate level and wish to pursue your interest further in a comparative perspective.

  • Family Law in Comparative Perspectives (20 credits)

    This course examines the theory and practice of family law in relation to a range of topics, centred on adult relationships – primarily "living together" and "parenting together". The issues addressed in class will often reflect issues of current debate and importance: What adult relationships are recognised in law, and what protection is afforded to couples who marry, cohabit, or divorce? What establishes the parent/child relationship – genetics or social parenting? What impact does assisted reproduction or surrogacy have on legal parental status?
    Each topic will be studied in relation to Scotland, England, and at least one other country, which will be agreed at the start of the semester, and will usually reflect a jurisdiction (or two) which are of interest to members of the class – and which may vary, depending on the topic under discussion. We will also draw on international instruments, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    Through understanding the relevant law in different jurisdictions, we can identify common problems and assess the range of legal solutions offered. We will also trace the impact of different political and religious influences on families and family law, and assess proposals for law reform and harmonisation.

  • Fundamentals of Comparative Private Law (20 credits)

    The growing permeability of frontiers, the openness of national economies and societies, has a deep impact on the evolution of the law, as legal concepts and principles flow across borders. Anyone envisaging a career with an international dimension will need to engage not just with foreign laws and foreign legal concepts, but will also be confronted with different legal cultures. It is therefore crucial to be familiar with the opportunities but also the difficulties that arise when stepping outside one's own legal system. The aim of this course is to provide students with a general introduction to the basics and the methodology of comparative law, and to equip them with the tools necessary to conduct comparative analysis. It further introduces student to the historical developments of the major legal traditions and their respective styles. The course therefore offers an ideal foundation for students who want to study core areas of private law across both civil and common law jurisdictions.

  • International Private Law: Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments (20 credits)

    This course deals with civil jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments, issues which have been central to recent developments within International Private Law. It will consider the provisions contained in EU instruments, focusing on the Brussels I bis Regulation but also looking at the Insolvency Regulation and Brussels II bis Regulation. The course will also examine proposals for reform of these instruments. In addition there will be consideration of appropriate Hague Private International Law Conventions, especially the Choice of Court Convention and the current work of the Hague Conference in the field of recognition and enforcement of judgments.

  • Natural Law: an Historical Introduction (20 credits)

    Natural law is one of the most debated and controversial ideas of the entire Western legal culture. While one of the oldest legal concepts, it is also one of the most important in contemporary legal debates.
    The concepts of fundamental rights and, more recently, of human rights arguably stem from the notion of natural law. But what do we actually mean by natural law? The answer is surprisingly multifaceted, for natural law meant different things at different times. The best way to approach this subject, therefore, is a historical analysis of the most important jurists and thinkers who dealt with it, from ancient to modern times. From Ancient Greece and medieval Europe to modern times, this historical introduction to natural law will focus on the most important scholars who wrote (or taught) on the subject, to appreciate the diversity of their positions while contextualising their thought in the historical and intellectual context in which they lived.

  • Reasoning with Precedent (20 credits)

    This course provides students with the opportunity to analyse in detail the practice of justifying legal claims and conclusions by reference to precedent. Students will discuss judicial cases and other instances of appeal to legal precedent (e.g. motions), identifying the ways in which precedent is used in legal reasoning and some common mistakes of arguments presented as grounded on precedent. The course will examine the relationship between precedent-based arguments and both:
    (i) some central aspects of legal reasoning (including deductive arguments);
    (ii) common types and canons of legal argumentation (including coherence-type arguments, arguments a fortiori, arguments a contrario, and consequentialist arguments).
    Students who take the course will thus (a) further develop their ability to engage critically with legal precedent in the context of legal reasoning in general, and judicial reasoning in particular; (b) further develop their ability to articulate and assess sound precedent-based legal arguments; (c) further develop an understanding of the moral and political dimensions of precedent-based reasoning in law.

  • Trusts across the Common Law World (20 credits)

    This course investigates the distinctive analyses of trust law and asset management that originated in the Equity jurisdiction of the English Court of Chancery. These now extend to the major common law jurisdictions of the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the many “offshore” trust jurisdictions of the Caribbean and the Channel Islands.

  • Comparative Property Law (20 credits) – not offered in 2019-20 academic year

    This is an advanced level course on the law of property. It will examine the treatment of key areas within this subject, in particular ownership and limited real rights. Both movable and immovable property will be considered. The approach adopted will be comparative and reference will be made throughout to other jurisdictions. This will include continental Europe and the USA as well as other mixed legal systems such as Louisiana and South Africa. Fundamental conceptual structures will be compared, as well as specific problems, with a view to illuminating not only differences but also the common features of those systems. Recent initiatives to harmonise property law in Europe will be considered, in particular the Draft Common Frame of Reference.
    The course is designed mainly for those students who have already studied the law of property in their own system. Those who have not may still apply for a place in the course, but they should be aware that additional study may be required.

You will have the option to take between 0 and 40 credits of courses from different subject areas offered by the Law School, depending on availability and with the express permission of the programme director. Depending on demand, space on courses outside the core courses may be limited.

Full programme details, including core and optional courses is available on the University Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study website.

View full programme and course information for the LLM in Comparative and European Private Law

Having successfully completed 120 credit points of courses within the LLM, you will be ready to move onto a single piece of independent and in-depth research. The 10,000 word dissertation allows you to focus on a preferred topic from within the field of comparative and European private law, normally based on a subject you have studied in one of your courses during programme.

You will be assigned an academic dissertation supervisor who will provide you with support and guidance while you prepare and write your dissertation.

The dissertation is a challenging but rewarding endeavour, asking you to demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the relevant literature and an ability to engage critically with a range of sources, drawing on the skills and knowledge you have developed during the course of the programme. Students are encouraged to show originality and evidence of independent thinking, whether in terms of the material used, or the manner in which it is presented.

The dissertation is written in the summer months (April to August) after the taught courses are successfully completed.

Please note that due to unforeseen circumstances or lack of demand for particular courses, we may not be able to run all courses as advertised come the start of the academic year.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in Comparative and European Private Law please don't hesitate to contact us.

Staff teaching on the core courses of the LLM in Comparative and European Private Law for 2018/19 are experts in their field and are actively involved in cutting-edge research in various areas of private law.

Professor Braun holds the Lord President Reid Chair in Law. She joined Edinburgh Law School in August 2017, having previously been Professor of Comparative Private Law at the University of Oxford and a Fellow and Tutor in Law at Lady Margaret Hall. Professor Braun is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of European and Comparative Law in Oxford, and an Honorary Research Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

Professor Braun has broad research interests in comparative law and legal history. Her current research focuses primarily on the comparative study of both succession law and the law of trusts, as well as on the study of the circulation of legal ideas across legal traditions. Professor Braun is also interested in the impact of the transfer of wealth on questions of intergenerational inequality and the cultural history of inheritance. Other interests include legal education, the study of the intellectual history of the law, and the development of various forms of legal scholarship and its interaction with, and impact upon, judicial decision-making.

Professor Braun teaches on two of the LLM courses: Fundamentals of Comparative Private Law and Comparative and International Trust Law.

Find out more

Gillian Black is a Senior Lecturer in Law, with teaching and research interests in family law, particularly adult relationships, parent/child relationships, and heraldry. She also researches contract law, and privacy and data protection.

Find out more

Dan Carr joined the School of Law in August 2011 having read for his LLB and MSc by research at the School of Law. In 2010, he was awarded his doctorate, ‘Equity in Scots Law’ by the University of Cambridge. Between 2009-2011, he was a lecturer at the University of Dundee, where he taught Legal Method and Systems; Administrative Law, Scottish Property Law; English Law of Land, Trusts and Equity; Commercial Law and Criminal Law.

Find out more

Professor Fox holds the Chair of Common Law. He is a barrister in England and Wales, with a door tenancy at Maitland Chambers in London and is a contributing editor to recent editions of Snell’s Equity. His research interests have a strong historical and comparative focus. They concentrate on the formation of modern trust and property doctrine in common law systems, and on the private law applicable to money.

Find out more

Katy’s particular area of interest is Child and Family Law. Between 2002 and 2007, Katy lectured and taught courses on the LL.B, Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (DPLP) and Trainee Continuing Professional Development (TCPD) before being appointed as a Teaching Fellow in the Law School in 2008 and a Senior Teaching Fellow in 2014.

Before joining the Law School she headed up the Scottish Child Law Centre from 1997 to 2007. Katy is a qualified solicitor, Safe guarder for the Children’s Hearing System, Reporter in Family Law Actions in Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Find out more

Laura Macgregor holds the chair of Commercial Contract Law and was formerly Visiting Professor in International Commercial Law, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

Laura's interests lie in the field of commercial law, specifically contract law, agency law and partnership. Her research considers Scots law in its comparative context, both European and global. She is also interested in legal history.

Find out more

John MacLeod joined the Law School in 2018 from the University of Glasgow. His interests range across private and commercial law, with a particular focus on structural and taxonomical questions, the law of delict, the law of property and the law of debt. He has worked extensively with the Scottish Law Commission and the Law Reform Committee of the Law Society of Scotland. He also delivers CPD across a range of topics.

Find out more

Claudio Michelon graduated LLB in 1992 from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) and, in 1996 obtained an M.Phil by research from the same University. He gained his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in 2001. From 2001 to 2006 he lived in Brazil and was an assistant professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul while also practicing as a lawyer. He joined Edinburgh Law School in 2007.

Claudio Michelon's research focuses on (i) legal reasoning and legal decision-making and on (ii) the underlying normative structure of private law doctrines, rules, and concepts.

Find out more

Hector MacQueen has been a member of the Edinburgh Law School staff since 1979, having also taken his LL.B and Ph.D at Edinburgh. Appointed to the Chair of Private Law in 1994, he was also Dean of the Law School, 1999-2003.

Professor MacQueen's research and teaching focus on three major areas:

  1. the history of law;
  2. the private law of obligations; and
  3. intellectual property.

Find out more

Professor Reid's main research interests are in Scottish private law. She is currently working on a monograph for Edinburgh University Press on The Scots Law of Delict.

Find out more

Kenneth Reid was appointed to the Chair of Property Law in 1994, having previously been a lecturer (from 1980) and then a senior lecturer. Since 2008 he has held the Chair of Scots Law. His main research interests lie in the general area of property law, both moveable and immoveable, and including: the classification of proprietorial rights; servitudes and other perpetual restrictions on the use of land; the transfer of property; land registration; trusts; and comparative property law. He is also interested in doctrinal legal history, especially of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Find out more

Lorna Richardson joined the Law School after seven years practising as a commercial litigator, with major Scottish law firms. Her particular interests include contract law, particularly in relation to formation, interpretation and breach. In her time in practice Lorna acted in a number of contract dispute cases which generated significant comment. Lorna is also interested in contract law in a comparative context.

Find out more

Guido joined the School of Law in 2013. Before that he served as Stipendiary Lecturer in Law at St Catherine's College, Oxford. He was educated in Pavia (Italy) and Cambridge.

His main research interests lie in Legal History, especially late medieval and early modern Civil law, Canon law, and mercantile law. Secondary research interests include Roman law, Comparative law and economic history.

Find out more

Dr Verónica Ruiz Abou-Nigm specialises in private international law and shipping law. She has a great deal of experience in these fields both in practice in Uruguay and as an academic in the UK. Her main areas of research and teaching are private international law and shipping law. Other research interests include international commercial litigation, international commercial arbitration, air law, oil and gas law, comparative law, and the interaction between public and private international law.

Find out more

Academic staff listed above are subject to change for the 2019/20 academic year. Staff listed as on sabbatical will not be available to teach for the duration of their sabbatical.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in Comparative and European Private Law please don't hesitate to contact us.

We require a minimum 2:1 honours degree from a UK university, or its international equivalent, in law. We will also consider candidates with a degree in a related discipline which includes relevant prior study.

If you have a non-UK degree, please check whether your degree qualification is equivalent to the minimum standard before applying.

Check your degree

Postgraduate study in the field of law requires a thorough, complex and demanding knowledge of English, so we ask that the communication skills of all students are at the same minimum standard.

Students whose first language is not English must therefore show evidence of one of the following qualifications below:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module).
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module).
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 61 in each of the Communicative Skills sections).
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module).
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III (with a pass in all four components).

Your English language certificate must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

We also accept an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The UK Government's website provides a list of majority English speaking countries.

View the UKVI list of majority English speaking countries

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or equivalent, that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about the University's English language requirements

Your application may not be successful if you do not currently satisfy any of these requirements; alternatively, you may be offered a place conditional on your reaching the satisfactory standard by the time you start the degree.

The University runs a series of programmes for English Language Education, including a pre-sessional English Language Programme intended to strengthen your English Language skills before you start your programme of study.

Find out more about English language support offered by the University

Contact us

If you have any questions about our entry requirements please don't hesitate to contact us.

We recommend that you apply as early as possible; this is particularly important for students holding conditional offers (for example, you may need to allow sufficient time to take an English language test) and for overseas students who may need time to satisfy necessary visa requirements (for further, country-specific information, please consult the website of the University's Edinburgh Global) and/or to apply for University accommodation.

Apply now for September 2019 entry

The deadline for applications is 30 June 2019.

We aim to review applications and make selection decisions throughout the cycle and we monitor application numbers carefully to ensure we are able to accommodate all those who receive offers. It may therefore be necessary to close a programme earlier than the published deadline and if this is the case we will place a four-week warning notice on the relevant programme page.

Applications are made online via the University Application Service, EUCLID.

Please follow the instructions carefully and make sure that you have included the following documentation with your application:

  • Degree certificates showing award of degree.
  • Previous academic transcripts for all past degree programmes (please upload the full transcript showing results from all years of study).
  • A reference in support or your application. The reference should be academic and dated no earlier than one year from the start of study on the LLM programme.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency, if required.

If you are currently studying for your degree or you are not in a possession of an English test result you may still apply to the programme. Please note that it is your responsibility to submit the necessary documents.

After your application has been submitted you will be able to track its progress through the University's applicant hub.

Application processing times will vary however the admissions team will endeavour to process your application within four to six weeks of submission. Please note that missing documentation will delay the application process.

You will be informed as soon as possible of the decision taken. Three outcomes are possible:

  • You may be offered a place unconditionally
  • You may be offered a conditional place, which means that you must fulfil certain conditions that will be specified in the offer letter. Where a conditional offer is made, it is your responsibility to inform the College Postgraduate Office when you have fulfilled the requirements set out.
  • Your application may be unsuccessful. If your application has not been successful, you can request feedback from us or refer to our guidance for unsuccessful applicants, which explains some of the common reasons we why we reach this decision.
    View the University's guidance for unsuccessful applicants

You can find full and detailed application guidance on the University's website.

Find out more about applying to the University of Edinburgh

The University’s terms and conditions form part of your contract with the University, and you should read them, and our data protection policy, carefully before applying.

University of Edinburgh admissions terms and conditions

Apply now for September 2019 entry

Contact us

If you have any questions about applying to the LLM in Comparative and European Law please don't hesitate to contact us.