There are important differences between a Juris Doctor (JD), which is a professional degree, and Master of Laws (LLM), which is an advanced academic degree. This distinction is particularly important for lawyers who have earned a professional law degree outside of the United States, and wish to practice law within the United States. Enrollment in an LLM program is often the only alternative to spending another three years and tens-of-thousands – if not hundreds-of-thousands – of dollars on a second professional law degree. LLM programs for foreign lawyers usually require one year to complete, provide a broad survey of the American legal system, and include an English proficiency test. The only requirements for most programs are an approved foreign professional law degree, and successful completion of the required English proficiency test. One option for foriegn lawyers to earn their LLM is the recently launched @WashULaw Master of Laws (LLM) program through the top-tier Washington University School of law, which offers an online Master of Laws (LLM) in the U.S. specifically for foreign lawyers.
The trouble is that some states strictly require a JD to practice law, while others allow lawyers with professional law degrees earned in foreign countries to practice law if they complete an ABA-approved LLM program. What this means is that if you hold a professional degree in law from a country outside of the United States, you must either complete a three-year JD program in the United States, or a one-year ABA-approved LLM program in order to practice law in the United States, depending on which state you want to practice law in. You can research your specific situation in the recent edition of the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements, which is published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the American Bar Association (read pages 14-19).
For more information, contact the local Bar Admissions Office in the states where you are considering practicing law. Below find a table with the each state Bar Association website, applicable information for international lawyers and a phone number where you can reach someone to answer more specific questions:
StateBar WebsiteIntl InfoPhone Number