United States LLM Program Information
What to consider in your selection
What is an LL.M?
The LL.M. (Master of Laws) is an internationally recognized postgraduate law degree.
It is usually obtained by completing a one-year full-time program however each law school in the United States has unique programs.
The LL.M. is a higher academic degree, comparable to an MBA in business and management. Law students and professionals frequently pursue the LL.M. to gain expertise in a specialized field of law, for example in the area of tax law or international law. Many law firms prefer job candidates with an LL.M. degree because it indicates that a lawyer has acquired advanced, specialized legal training, and is qualified to work in a multinational legal environment.
Attorneys are not required to hold an LL.M. degree, and many do not choose to obtain one. An LL.M. degree by itself generally does not qualify graduates to practice law. In most cases, LL.M. students must first obtain a professional degree in law, e.g. the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) in the United Kingdom or the Juris Doctor (J.D.) in the United States, and pass a bar exam or the equivalent exam in other countries, such as the Zweites Staatsexamen in Germany.
While the general curriculum of the LL.B. and J.D. is designed to give students the basic skills and knowledge to become lawyers, law students wishing to specialize in a particular area can continue their studies with an LL.M. program. Some universities also consider students for their LL.M. program who hold degrees in other related areas, or have expertise in a specific area of law.
Graduation requirements for an LL.M. program vary depending on the respective university guidelines. Some programs are research-oriented and require students to write a thesis, while others only offer a number of classes that students must take to complete the course of study. Many LL.M. programs combine both coursework and research. Part-time programs are also available for professionals wishing to complete their LL.M. while working full-time.
Prospective students should understand that there is no universal definition for the term LL.M. It is used in different ways by institutions around the world. Particularly in the United States and Germany, LL.M. programs are often designed to teach foreign lawyers the basic legal principles of the host country. In this regard, the LL.M. can help lawyers seeking to relocate and practice in another country, or expand their area of practice to multinational issues.
The completion of an LL.M. program, however, does not automatically qualify foreign students to take the bar exam in their host country. In the U.S., for example, some states allow foreign lawyers to seek admission to the bar upon completion of an LL.M., while in other states, a J.D. is required.
LL.M. is an abbreviation of the Latin Legum Magister, which means Master of Laws. In Latin, the plural form of a word is abbreviated by repeating the letter. Hence, “LL.” is short for “laws.” Legum is the possessive plural form of the Latin word lex, which means “specific laws”, as opposed to the more general concept embodied in the word jus, from which the word juris and the modern English word “justice” are derived.
Will an LLM help your career?
In today’s competitive job market, many foreign lawyers are looking for ways to distinguish themselves from the pack.
However, the LLM is not for all lawyers and is a big investment in time and finances. The majority of students receiving the LL.M. are international and their number continues to grow.
Most international LL.M. students already have a law degree in their home country, and in many cases, they are required to get an LL.M. to compete in the global marketplace; or feel an American law degree helps them advance their careers.
As globalization is bringing the world closer together; lawyers need to learn the language of international deals, which is English. LLMs provide a great way to expand one’s knowledge of a specialty area in the law. There are a number of reasons foreign lawyers might seek an LL.M. degree. Many want to develop an expertise within a particular field or change their area of practice after working for a couple of years. Still others want to enhance their credentials by going to a nationally-recognized school, or are looking to get their career back on track after an interrupted career or life changes.
The LL.M. is particularly useful to foreign lawyers who want to specialize in a particular field but have not have an opportunity to pursue that area going through the law program in their country. Although an LLM is not for everyone it may be very helpful for those lawyers to work on a specialty and make contacts in the States.
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If you plan on sitting for a US Bar Exam an LLM is helpful.
Passing a US state bar exam has long been a hard-fought honor for many foreign lawyers who get their LL.M. in the United States, regardless of whether they intend to stay or return home. This is especially true for students interested in international business law or similar subjects.
It can also help develop an area of expertise.
In some fields of law, like tax, getting an LL.M. is common part of a lawyer’s training. Lawyers also often use the LL.M. to deepen an existing specialization or develop a new one, particularly when their first law school didn’t offer that concentration.
But in the US, at least, it may soon get harder to specialize. New standards for LL.M. programs ï¿½ like those recently introduced for programs that qualify foreign lawyers for the New York State Bar ï¿½ would force LL.M. students to do more of their program units on bar-oriented courses rather than working toward a chosen concentration, like corporate finance or intellectual property.
This would affect one of the main reasons for doing an LL.M.. Therefore, it’s worth asking the law schools you are interested what the implications of these new standards might be on their program structures and course offerings.
An LLM can improve the foreign lawyers English.
To improve foreign language skills, obviously there’s nothing like spending a year in a country where that language is spoken. Hiring law firms know this. International firms like to see that you’ve gotten through a year of law school in an English-speaking country (or at least an English-speaking program).
You can meet contacts and gain friendships.
Sadly, some hiring law firms still don’t care much about the LL.M. But others have begun to see the degree as an asset for new hires. It’s just another way for job-seeking lawyers to stand out, particularly in a competitive job market.