Like any other degree, a Master of Laws(LLM) is a sizable investment in your future. When deciding whether or not an LLM program is right for you, ask yourself the following important questions:
- How much am I willing to pay for an LLM?
- How much more do I expect to earn with an LLM degree?
- How do I apply for financial aid?
- What loans and scholarships are available for the LLM programs I am looking at?
- Do I want to enroll in a full-time (one-year) or part-time LLM program?
- Am I open to earning my LLM degree through an online LLM program?
- Is there a difference in funding for domestic and international students?
The first question – how much am I willing to pay – should help dictate your choices for the rest of these decisions. The latest information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that lawyers in the United States earn a median wage of $110,590. Laywers with only 9 months of experience after graduation from law school still earn a median wage of $68,500. While this is good news for prospective lawyers, it also means that law schools can charge a considerable amount of money for tuition, knowing that their students will soon be able to repay loans. A quick glance at some of the nation’s top LLM programs reveals that an LLM degree can cost up to $30,000-$50,000 in tuition, and up to $70,000-$80,000 in total anticipated expenses.
An LLM degree can sometimes bump the salary of a first-year associate by roughly one-year or 7%, but this is not always the case. The effect of an LLM on your salary depends on the focus of your LLM program, the institution where you received your LLM degree, and of course your employer. For foreign lawyers interested in practicing law in the United States, an LLM is usually a sound investment since it is often a prerequisite for the practice of law by foreign-trained lawyers in the United States.
Many law schools offer LLM scholarships for students, however these scholarships are usually specific to each law school, so it’s difficult to say precisely how much money prospective LLM students can expect to receive through grants; some students will be lucky enough to have their entire LLM degrees subsidized by scholarships, however, this is a very rare case. In general, most law students — whether they’re enrolled in a JD or LLM program — rely on loans to fund their time in law school. Most United States citizens are eligible for Federal Stafford Loans, which are often given to law students.
Recently, more and more law students have turned to so-called loan forgiveness programs, which offer repayment for loans in exchange for low-paying legal work in public advocacy. Part-time and online LLM programs offer flexibility in funding an LLM degree. Both make working a job while earning an LLM more realistic. Additionally, part-time study can help spread out the costs of an LLM, while online study can eliminate some of them.
The bottom line is that you have to give something to get something. Lawyers earn high salaries, but they can only do so after investing lots of time and money. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting job growth with keen competition for lawyers, an LLM may be a way for lawyers to set themselves apart in the job market – especially in highly technical fields like tax law.