Friday, November 26, 2010

The MLF Program

There are so many differences between my previous educational experiences and Oxford that I could not begin to explain them all in a single post. However, I will try to explain a couple of them.

Unlike US schools with two semesters per year, Oxford has three "terms" per year:  Michaelmas Term runs from October to December, Hilary Term runs from January to March, and Trinity Term runs from May to June.  Most Oxford students take the same classes all three terms and have a single exam at the end of Trinity Term.  However, the Masters in Law and Finance degree (MLF) is set up such that all students take two law "electives" and two "core" MLF classes over the course of the year.

We were able to choose from a variety of law electives, and each elective is taken with other post-graduate law students (BCL and MJur students).  Each student's two law electives run all three terms, and there is one exam for each elective at the end of Trinity Term.  My law electives are (1) Transnational Commercial Law and (2) Principles of Financial Regulation.

The "core" MLF courses are (1) Finance I (Michaelmas Term) which transitions into Finance II (Hilary and Trinity Terms) and (2) First Principles of Financial Economics (Michaelmas Term) which transitions into Law and Economics of Corporate Transactions (Hilary and Trinity Terms).  The core MLF courses are tested at the end of each term, and the thirty MLF students are the only students in these classes.

Tutorial system
Unlike the lectures typically given in US schools, Oxford classes are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, and seminars (known as the "tutorial system" which is unique to Oxford and Cambridge). In tutorials and seminars, students are taught by faculty fellows in groups of approximately three to five students. Students typically prepare an essay for each of these, and they receive direct feedback on their essays in a small discussion setting.  Tutorials are thought to be more academically challenging and rigorous than lectures, because during each session students are expected to orally communicate, defend, analyze, and critique the ideas of others as well as their own in conversations with the faculty and the other students.  I cannot speak to the full "Oxford experience" yet, since I do not have any tutorials during this term. I only have lectures in Michaelmas, but my tutorials and seminars will start in Hilary Term (after Christmas break).

However, the lectures are nothing short of fascinating. There is intense reading (mainly articles) to prepare for each class. The teaching style is not the Socratic method common to US law schools, but it is very theoretical.  The lectures present the theory and identify the important questions, but it is up to the students to make the effort to get the practical aspects through independent study.  It is not uncommon for other members of the faculty to attend the lectures, and for them to directly question and/or criticize the concepts presented in class. The lectures are also slanted towards the lecturers' own research and personal views.  Each lecture is three hours long, so we only have one lecture per class each week. Although this may sound like an easy load, I can assure you that it is not! The reading and independent study is much more part of the education than at US schools.

There are not any "required" readings (or textbooks) for any class.  The lecturer typically gives a list of "suggested" readings, but this is by no means a requirement or a limitation.  Although this can be frustrating and seem unstructured, it is also refreshing for a class not to be guided by a single casebook or textbook.  As opposed to my experience with US university libraries (where the library is mainly a place for students to socialize and access a computer), the Oxford libraries are constantly packed with students reading from multiple different sources for each class (which cannot be taken out of the library).

The most enjoyable part of the experience is definitely the other students. I have never met so many interesting and diverse people.  For example, I am part of a study group composed of guys from Ireland, Australia, Belgium, Kenya, and Norway. The MLF students are about evenly divided between those with legal experience and those directly out of law school (I am the second or third most experienced. lawyer of the group).  I am always surprised that everybody automatically assumes that I practiced at  a huge law firm. There are only three other lawyers from the US in the program, and all  of them will probably end up at huge New York law firms. They always look at me strangely when I tell them I practiced with grand total of nine other lawyers (but I always assure them that the boys from Pope Hardwicke can practice law with the best of them).

Teaching Lawyers Business and Math
I may have mentioned this before, but this is the first year that the MLF degree has been offered.  I do not know of any program like it that combines business and law.  It is exciting to be a part of the "inaugural class" and I can tell that Oxford is putting a major effort into integrating its outstanding  Law  School and Said Business School faculties through the MLF program.  It has been interesting to see the lecturers  adapt their styles to overcome the struggle of teaching advanced mathematical and concepts to a group of lawyers.  I am thankful everyday for my Agricultural Engineering degree from Texas A&M!

The MLF crew all dressed up
Of course, it is not all books and studying


  1. Hi! I was researching for the MLF and came across your blog...interesting to hear a first hand account indeed...just one question: the MLF application program requires a 2000 word written work. COuld you please let me know how one should go about choosing a topic and whether it necessarily has to be on law and finance or could be on something on general commercial law?

  2. Hi MLF-
    I used a piece of practical work from my law practice for my application. It was on water law and not related to law and finance. I do not think they are looking for anything substantive, but rather for writing and analytic ability. Best of luck!

  3. Thanks a ton for the prompt reply! :) You've taken a major worry off my head as, given that I am facing a paucity of time, I am not in a position to write anything afresh; I was worried this would affect my chances.

  4. Hi, I also came across your blog, and liked it pretty much! Last year I was put in the waiting list. Unofortunatelly, none offer to me!
    What do you suggest regarding the Personal Statement?
    Thank you!

  5. Hi Emanuel-
    Sorry for my delayed response. According to the MLF website "the Statement of Purpose is your chance to explain your reasons for wanting to do the course, your future plans or any other information about yourself you find relevant to the application that is not included in your CV or anywhere else in the application materials."

    An important thing to keep in mind is that the MLF is a brand new degree program. Therefore, I think the selection committee would look very favorably on people who will (1) go into a "field" to which the degree is directly relates (banking/law/regulation) and (2) who will be in a position to implement the the ideas taught by the program into practice.

    As such, I think a personal statement which exhibits these things would be favorably viewed. This is just my inclination, but I could be totally wrong.

    I hope it is somewhat helpful. Best of luck!

  6. Hello !
    I just came across your blog while doing some research about the MLF program. It is very interesting ! I was offered a place in the program a few days ago, and I have a few questions about it. I was wondering if there was any way I could contact you to ask my questions directly. Thank you !!

  7. Sure. If you will post a comment with your email address in it, I will be glad to email you directly.


  8. Thanks ! I sincerely appreciate it !
    My e-mail is

  9. Hi! I read with great interest your comments about the MLF. Like the person above, I've also been offered a place in the MLF program for the next academic year. I'd like to ask you a few questions about it, could I contact you via e-mail? Mine is

    I wish you all the best with your future endeavors.

    Thank you!

  10. Hi! I read your comments about the MLF and I must say it was very informative. I am planning to apply for the 2012 batch. Is there anyway I can reach you directly? Can you enlighten me on the dissertation and thesis that are required to be submitted? Thanks

  11. Hi!

    I was reading up on the Oxford MLF online, and came across your blog. I myself am thinking of making an application for either the MLF, or the BCL, and would appreciate being able to ask you a couple of questions about the former programme.

    I notice your last update was in May last year - hope you see this!


  12. Hi! I really appreciate the first hand experience that you have set out above for the MLF program. I had been granted a place last year and have deferred it to this year (academic year 2013-14) for various reasons. It would really be a huge help and give me a better insight if you could answer few of my questions in relation to the course. Could I contact you via e-mail? My e-mail id is

    Thank you!

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Hey man i applied this year and i wanted to tell you that in fact i do have a LLB in private law and a BA in Business and MA in Finance so does that makes me have a chance to be accepted. I am from Lebanon a lawyer with two years of experience.

  15. Hi! Congratulations for the completion of MLF and your detailed text! I am thinking of applying for the MLF and I also have some questions. I am mostly worried about the Statement of Purpose and the question about my future career. Because since I came to the UK, I have been advised to say to future employers that my aspirations involve practice, while to universities that I want to move to academia. What is your opinion on this, given the fact that the MLF is inbetween those two sectors?