If you’re looking to advance your legal career or specialize in a particular branch of jurisdictional theory, an LLM degree might be just what you need. In case you’re not familiar with that term, here is an overview of what an LLM degree stands for, how you can get one, and what its greatest benefits are. Besides this, you can also read about the application requirements to adequately prepare for that next step in your career.
What is an LLM?
In short, an LLM represents a Masters in Law, a graduate qualification created for lawyers to expand their knowledge in their chosen field. With it, they can focus on a specialized area of law and acquire international qualifications, in case they obtain their law degree outside the US or Canada.
An LLM usually lasts for one year, and can be divided into two types of programs: The Specialized LLM and General LLM. Both programs would make you a Master of Laws, but there are some significant differences between them. The General Master of Laws program covers a variety of topics, allowing you to study different areas until you develop an individualized curriculum you are most interested in. On the other hand, a Specialized LLM enables you to focus on a distinct area of law, such as constitutional law, business and trade law, human rights, international environmental law, or something else.
Essential Things to Know About an LLM
- An LLM is a non-professional qualification. You can practice law without it, but it is an attractive accessory to your resume, and might open some new career doors.
- International students who want to get into one of the LLM programs need to have a law degree, such as a Bachelor of Laws. In some US states, international students with an LLM degree are allowed to take the bar exam, but it depends on each state’s regulations.
- All American and Canadian students who wish to acquire an LLM degree need to have a JD degree to begin with.
- Some international lawyers use LLMs to prepare for entering a JD program in the US later on.
Benefits of an LLM
1. Narrow down your interests
One of the vital benefits of entering an LLM program is that it gives you the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of law. An LLM course will help you acquire advanced skills, knowledge, and experience in your preferred field of law. Depending on the program you pick, it will take one to two years to complete it, and you can choose between the full or part-time options.
2. Boost your English skills
An LLM can be highly beneficial to aspiring international lawyers, as it can help them improve their English skills. Aside from that, an LLM specialization is an excellent opportunity to establish professional connections, which are great for further development.
3. Switch specializations
Another great advantage of an LLM degree is that it allows you to prequalify to another field of law in a relatively short time. If you already have a specialization but want to change it to a different area, you can do so in a year or two through an LLM program.
4. Uplift your earning potential
Having an LLM degree does not guarantee a better job prospect by default. However, it will most likely lift your earning potential and make your CV more attractive to employers.
5. Extend your legal network
In addition to the previously mentioned LLM benefits, having a second degree on your resume can significantly extend your legal network. During an LLM course, you will get to meet other lawyers, professors, and individuals interested in the same field of law. Once you graduate and start searching for a job, this can come in handy, especially if you’re working abroad.
Now that we know what an LLM is and what its major benefits are, it’s time to see what it takes to start one. If you’re an applicant with a US law education, you need to have a JD degree to qualify for an LLM. And if you’re an internationally educated candidate who wants to know how to get an LLM, here’s what you need:
To enter an LLM program in the US, you must have a first law degree from your country of origin. You will also be required to submit your English proficiency examination score if English isn’t your first language. Be advised that, in some states, international graduates do not qualify for the bar exam. Therefore, it is recommended you check the criteria for a particular state you are interested in. A few states allow international LLM graduates to sit for the bar exam, including New York, Washington DC, California, and Maryland. And what’s also good to know, while we’re here explaining LLM requirements, is that you don’t need the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to enter an LLM program in the US.
According to the American Bar Association, there are more than 360 different programs to consider. If you’re unsure about the type of program you would like to become part of, feel free to check the complete list of schools offering LLM degrees. They are divided into categories, such as American Legal Studies, Child and Family Law, Cybersecurity and Information Privacy Law, Intellectual Property, and others.
The Difference Between an LLM and JD
As well as LLM, a JD represents a law degree, which is why people sometimes confuse them. However, there is a clear distinction between the two.
A JD degree is the standard educational requirement to practice law in the US. In short, it’s the first level of law degree one can get in the States. JD programs cover a wide range of topics, and they usually last from two to four years, and graduates become licensed lawyers once they finish it. A JD degree is necessary to take the bar exam.
So what is an LLM degree, then? An LLM is a secondary law degree with more specialized law programs that last shorter. After getting an LLM degree, some graduates work as lawyers in their respective fields, while others seek different careers. They become judges, diplomats, law professors, etc.
To sum up, a JD program is the standard law school program in the US; it’s broader in range and lasts longer, while an LLM offers more specialized knowledge in a specific field of law and lasts from one to two years.
Although you don’t need an LLM degree to practice law in the US, it can be a great next step in your legal career. With an LLM, your career options can only improve. If you already have some experience in the field, an LLM program will help you become an expert and widen your professional network. An LLM degree can also help you stand out to potential employers and charge more for your legal services by increasing your knowledge and skills. At the end of the day, who can say no to a candidate with two law degrees?