Is an LLM Worth It?

Many law students and practitioners around the world have heard of the benefits of obtaining an LLM, but more than anything, they want one simple question answered: is an LLM worth it?

An LLM is an investment of time, money, and energy, so before committing to a significant educational program, students want to get a sense of the value proposition it entails. As with many aspects of education, the value to be gained through an LLM varies depending upon a number of factors, including career goals, experience, age, the type of LLM sought, and more.  In this post, we’ll examine some of the main considerations people should think about when trying to figure out the answer to the question, “Is an LLM worth it?”

Costs

  • Financial. Because an LLM is a one-year program, it costs far less than obtaining a JD. Compare the average total JD tuition of about $96,000 with the cost of an LLM, even at a top-ranked school, of about $50,000. That said, an LLM is still a major expense to bear, and many schools also require proof of ability to pay.  With online LLM programs, however (like the @WashULaw LLM in U.S. Law program), you won’t have to pay for the requirements of living on campus, which can include relocation expenses, rent, and more. In addition, some employers may have programs to assist employees with tuition expenses, and there are many sources of significant scholarships available, making it easier to bear the cost of attendance.
  • Time. As opposed to a three-year JD program, an LLM takes only about a year to earn, which can still be a big commitment for many practitioners.  A year away from practice and family is, for many, out of the question.  However, online LLMs allow students to earn a degree without having to disrupt family and professional obligations.  Online courses allow students to watch lectures anytime, anywhere, and do coursework on a more flexible schedule.  This minimizes the impact of the time needed in a given day to pursue an LLM.

Benefits

  • Skills and knowledge. Obtaining an LLM allows a practitioner to learn new information and strengthen practice skills.  With specialized topics, including U.S. law, taxation, bankruptcy, securities, and more, an LLM can be a great way to develop the knowledge needed to address a new practice area.
  • Practice development.  For many practitioners, practice development is a great benefit of obtaining an LLM.  Young attorneys can bolster their credentials and improve their resumes by obtaining an LLM in a specialty topic area that interests them. For foreign practitioners, an LLM in U.S. law can open a number of doors in terms of expanding practice abroad and representing clients in connection with projects and issues that touch on U.S. law.
  • Licensing. Some U.S. jurisdictions will allow foreign practitioners to sit for the bar exam (in the states of New York and California, specifically) after obtaining an LLM, thus facilitating licensing.

Value

Now that you’ve taken some of the benefits into account, is an LLM worth it?  An LLM serves to advance careers, open up new practice areas, and help attorneys serve new client bases. And with the possibility of obtaining an LLM online, many can do it with little disruption in their everyday lives, which include other obligations. For many, an LLM is indeed worth it. That said, students must take multiple factors into account and decide for themselves whether the benefits of obtaining an LLM are worth the costs, given their own unique situation and goals.