What is an LLM? A Master of Laws, or LLM, is an advanced academic degree – not to be confused with a professional degree in law, such as a Juris Doctor (JD). There are several important differences between an LLM and a JD. Lawyers typically earn an LLM for one of two reasons: to become familiar with a foreign system of law, or to gain expertise in a specific area of law.
A JD, on the other hand, allows lawyers to practice law in the United States. Some states allow lawyers with professional degrees from foreign countries to practice law in the United States if they earn an LLM focused on the American legal system, such as that offered by the online @WashULaw, but LLM regulations vary between states. Lawyers interested in taking this route to practicing law in the United States should contact their local Bar Admission Offices. An LLM earned for the sake of expertise in a narrow field of law does not affect a lawyer’s eligibility to practice law – it simply deepens a lawyer’s knowledge of a particular subject.
Common LLM concentrations include taxation, bankruptcy, international law, financial services, and environmental law. While admission to a JD program typically requires a bachelor’s degree and LSAT score, admission to an LLM program usually requires a professional law degree and often an English proficiency test. LLM programs usually run only one year in duration (full-time), as opposed to JD programs, which require three years of law school training.
To sum everything up, a professional degree is required to practice law; however, completion of an LLM enables foreign lawyers to practice law in certain states, and can also prepare lawyers already holding professional degrees to become experts in important subject areas such as taxation, bankruptcy, international law, financial services, and environmental law. For foreign lawyers, an LLM can be the key to practicing law in the United States, and for all lawyers, an LLM can be an effective way to advance legal careers.