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How to Become a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer

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Have you been wondering how items are transported from the countries they are made to countries where they are sold? Or how your faulty imported items got back to the place you bought them from? The answer is most likely that they were transported through shipping. Shipping is a major means of transportation for global trade and is categorized into two forms – wet shipping and dry shipping.

While wet shipping deals with issues that may occur when a ship is on the sea, dry shipping focuses more on matters such as charter agreements, funding, and infrastructure of harbors for ships, commerce, cargo claims, among many others.

As you must have already noticed, shipping is quite a crucial part of any country’s economy, and this is where Shipping Law comes into play.

Maritime/Shipping Law Defined

Shipping Law, as it is called in the United Kingdom is also known as Maritime Law (sometimes Admiralty Law) in the United States and other countries. It is the body of rules that controls all the processes involved in shipping. Although they (maritime/shipping law) are mostly the same, Maritime Law deals more with conventions and international treaties that make up national laws.

Maritime/Shipping lawyers are attorneys who specialize in the branch of law affecting navigable bodies of water. Their primary focus is on laws relating to all activities on the sea. They represent their clients in cases relating to shipping, the seas, oceans, and other open bodies of water.

Responsibilities of a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer

  1. Maritime/Shipping Lawyers advise their clients on laws and business transactions and claim liability. They advise their clients on whether it is sensible to prosecute or defend lawsuits. They tell their clients about their legal rights and obligations.
  2. As a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer, you will interpret laws, rulings, and regulations regarding maritime matters for individuals and businesses.
  3. You will also analyze cases and determine possible outcomes of cases, using your knowledge of legal precedents.
  4. As a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer, you will present and summarize cases to judges. You will represent your clients before government agencies that oversee regulating sea and water activities.
  5. Maritime/Shipping Lawyers gather facts and evidence to defend their clients from lawsuits from government agencies, or to initiate a lawsuit.
  6. As a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer, you are expected to study the constitution, statutes, decisions, regulations, and ordinances for maritime issues to determine ramifications for cases.
  7. You will also prepare and draft legal documents, such as contracts, and records of processes.
  8. When you meet a challenge, you will confer with colleagues with specialties to know the way to handle the legal proceedings.
  9. You will supervise legal assistants.
  10. You will also negotiate the settlements of all the disputes your clients are involved in.
  11. As a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer, you will interview witnesses that can help with your cases.

Skills of a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer

Ability to work in a team: This skill is not exclusive to lawyers as all professionals need it. Maritime/Shipping Lawyers need to have skills of respect and empathy, as well as the ability to listen.

Decision-Making Skills: As a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer, you must know how to make decisions independently when the situation demands it.

Problem-Solving Skills: As a Maritime/Shipping lawyer, you are expected to solve complex problems by exploring new ideas, arguments, and avenues to get the desired result.

Communication Skills: It is impossible to avoid writing and speaking in your practice, therefore, you must have excellent communication skills. You will draft documents, write letters to clients, and represent them in court.

Ability to work under pressure: A Maritime/Shipping Lawyer regularly comes under a lot of pressure when handling cases for clients. It is important to be calm and work efficiently and effectively when this kind of pressure arises. You will also have deadlines that you must meet. However, tasks are not beyond what an expert should be able to handle.

Commercial Awareness: You must have a broad knowledge of current affairs and business happenings in the maritime and shipping sector. This skill is quite important as those issues also affect your clients.

Ability to understand people: Since you are providing a service, all your practices must be directed towards the needs of your clients. This also involves taking the time to listen and understand their concerns.

Attention to detail: This skill is particularly important for Maritime/Shipping Lawyers because they sometimes have to process large and somewhat unclear documents which will require the ability to spot important pieces of information to help the case.

Research Skills: As a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer, you must always be professional by showing that you are prepared. Lack of preparation and research will always weaken your position. Preparing adequately for any case you are handling is non-negotiable.

Other important skills for every Shipping/Maritime lawyer:

You need to be aware of and be knowledgeable about the shipping industry in your country. Equally, you’ll have to understand its roles in international trade. These give you an edge when it comes

to overseas trading and transportation.

Maritime/Shipping Law

Educational Requirements for Maritime/Shipping Lawyers

You need a degree in Law to become a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer. Standard and accredited universities that offer L.L.B programs include:

  • Swansea University in the United Kingdom offers a Law, LLB (Hons). This degree is structured to let you can choose from a wide range of specialized subject areas of law relating to medicine, human rights, family, the environment, trade, employment, and media as your studies progress. The duration of the program is 3 years full-time. The tuition for international students is £ 14,150.

You can choose to continue studying at the university as they have an International Maritime Law, LLM program that will give you an in-depth understanding of the law concerning contracts for the carriage of goods, marine insurance, international trade, and law of the sea. The duration of the program is 1 year full-time (£ 16,450), 2 years (£ 8,250), and 3 years part-time (£ 5,500).

  • The University of Tasmania in Australia offers a Bachelor of Laws degree. The program is designed for persons who wish to enter the legal profession and other careers involving legal work. It helps students develop the values and intellectual abilities necessary to marshal facts and to critically assess and evaluate information, theories, and doctrines thus preparing themselves for a variety of career roles. The duration of the program is 4 years full-time. The tuition for international students is AUD 31,950.
  • The University of Limerick in Ireland offers a Bachelor of Law (Law Plus) degree. The program is structured to help intellectual stimulation and exposure to decision-making and argumentative skills. The Law Plus program lets you choose elective subjects in other courses including Politics, History, Psychology, Economics, Maths, and languages. This means that you can expect to have a wide variety of options open to you upon graduation. The duration of the program is 4 years full-time. The tuition for international students is €12,270.

Career Outlook and Salary

As already mentioned, if you are looking to take up a career in Maritime/Shipping Law, you must have undergone an L.L.B undergraduate program. This gives you the necessary background knowledge and certifications. Also, a course or two in commercial law at the undergraduate level will add to your knowledge of both domestic and international trade.

An L.L.M (Masters) program in Maritime Law will provide you with an in-depth understanding of all activities in the field. Also, working as a volunteer or a junior lawyer in firms or organizations that specialize in Maritime Law will provide crucial training and valuable work experience which will be useful in starting a career in the field. It is quite important to build on such experiences as they open doors for huge opportunities in your career.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Lawyers, in general, are expected to see an increase in employment at a rate of 6% between 2018 and 2028.

  • The Lawyer Portal website estimates the average salary of a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer as £60,000 per year in the United Kingdom.
  • According to Law Crossing, the average salary of Maritime/Shipping Lawyers in the United States of America is $118,500 per year.
  • Indeed states that the average salary of Lawyers in Canada is $105,627 per year.
  • PayScale estimates that Lawyers in Nigeria earn salaries that range from 300,000 NGN per month (minimum salary) to 1,040,000 NGN per month (maximum salary).

    Maritime/Shipping Law

Typical Employers of Maritime/Shipping Lawyers

Maritime/Shipping Lawyers usually work in government agencies, insurance companies, international corporations, and companies dealing with sea transport. Also, private individuals employ them for defense purposes whenever claims involving loss of property or personal injury arise. Shipping /Maritime lawyers mostly live in areas surrounded by water, as these are places where their services are most likely required.

Postgraduate Options for Maritime and Shipping Lawyers

Maritime Law LLM from Bangor University in the United Kingdom. This postgraduate program helps students learn advanced-level skills in the areas of Maritime Law and Commercial Law. It gives a broad understanding of Maritime Law, including its fundamental principles and values, the substantive rules of the discipline and the underpinning architecture and institutions; as well as an understanding of the different areas within the discipline, such as wet shipping law and dry shipping law. The duration of the program is 1 year full-time. The tuition for international students is £15,500.

LLM Maritime and Transport Law from Erasmus School of Law – Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The program is designed to provide thorough, in-depth knowledge of the dynamic world of maritime and transport law. The degree will help you develop an international outlook on the many legal aspects of shipping and the transportation of goods. The duration of the program is 12 months full-time. The tuition for international students is €2,143.

Professional Certifications for Maritime/Shipping Lawyers

Certificate in Maritime Law and Shipping Contracts: This course is structured to provide a comprehensive and user-friendly overview of how the shipping industry is regulated. The carefully structured module addresses the functions, scope, and context of international maritime law, carriage of goods by sea, charter parties, bills of landing and applicable instruments, marine insurance and international contracts of sale, admiralty jurisdiction and enforcement of maritime claims, salvage, general average, towage, ports and pilotage, limitation of liability, dispute resolution, arbitration, and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques. The duration of the program is 12 weeks part-time (a total of 21 hours). The fee for this certificate is £1699.

Advanced International Maritime Business Certificate: This course offers a multi-dimensional overview of the maritime industry, which represents over 80% of global transportation. The certificate will demonstrate that you understand how the global economy, trade, transport, stock markets, and commodity markets are closely related to shipping. It will also show that you can assess the conceptual, regulatory, operational, technical, and economic aspects of the maritime industry. Participation in the program will help you understand the significance of shipping in the entire global supply chain. The training has three certificates:

  • Certificate Level 1: Fundamentals in Maritime Business (5 Units)
  • Certificate Level 2: International Shipping Certificate (4 Units)
  • Certificate Level 3: Advanced International Maritime Business Certificate (3 Units)

The fee for the training is $1,199.

Careers Related to Maritime/Shipping Law

Intellectual Property Law: Intellectual property law grants legal protection to any Intellectual property, that is, original creations from one’s mind. It gives creators opportunities to benefit from their works. Creative works such as literary and artistic works, films, computer programs, designs, and marks, are intellectual properties that can be protected by the law, with the help of an Intellectual property lawyer.

Medical Law: Medical Law regulates judicial activities within the medical sector. Lawyers in this specialization handle various medical lawsuits and other medical malpractice claims. They usually have extensive knowledge of medical laws and standards, as well as the guidelines that govern ethical and professional conduct in the medical field.

You should check out our guide on other specializations in the legal sector. There are so many lucrative careers in the field. One will suit your aspirations and career goals. And if you need further guidance on how to progress into any of the institutions mentioned above, send me an email right away. We’ll be glad to help!




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