The LLM Degree: What Is It? Major Distinctions Between an LLM and JD Degree

The LLM Degree: What Is It? Major Distinctions Between an LLM and JD Degree

An LLM degree can be right for you if you want to develop your legal career or move ahead in your educational life. An LLM degree is intended for lawyers who wish to study a specific area of law, broaden their expertise, or get international credentials if their undergraduate degree was obtained outside of the United States. Your decision to pursue an LLM can be influenced by knowing more information about the degree.

In this post, we go over what an LLM degree is, why you ought to obtain one, how it differs from a JD, and what you need to do to get one.

An LLM Degree is what?

LLM, often known as Legum Magister or Master of Laws, is an acronym. It is a post-graduate degree given by a college, university, or other academic institution. Unlike many other master’s degrees, which are frequently granted before a doctoral program, an LLM degree is commonly pursued in the U.S. by those who already hold a Juris Doctor (JD) or another Ph.D. degree in law. An LLM typically lasts one year and calls for extensive training and a curriculum that emphasizes either coursework or research. The following are just a few of the modern subjects covered in LLM degree programs:

  • Taxation
  • Environment and energy law
  • Dispute settlement
  • Corporate law
  • Sports law
  • Estate preparation
  • Intangible assets
  • Rights of people
  • Criminal justice
  • Recreation, arts, and sports
  • Aging law
  • Agriculture and food law
  • Airspace regulation

Why pursue an LLM?

The study of the legal intricacies offered by an LLM degree makes it a worthwhile investment. Additionally, it might give you an edge over rival candidates and open up opportunities for you to change legal specialties or take on more international clients for your existing firm. You can also specialize in a vast area of law, like international humanitarian law, or a discipline with a much smaller scope, like tax legislation or arbitration, with an LLM degree.

Key distinctions between a JD and an LLM

Both the JD and LLM are doctoral degrees that you can get at different stages of your education and employment; however, there are some important distinctions you should be aware of, such as:


An LLM’s objective is to give you further training, whereas a JD’s purpose is to equip you to work as a lawyer. A JD degree is made to give students who have no prior legal experience all the knowledge and expertise they have to work as a lawyer. It’s a broad degree that requires overview classes in subjects like agreements and criminal law that every practicing attorney must know.

In contrast, an LLM degree is intended for foreign-trained attorneys who need instruction in American law or JD holders who desire to specialize in a particular area of law, such as healthcare law. Compared to a JD, an LLM degree is typically more narrowly oriented.

Unlike a JD, an LLM is more theoretical.

An LLM degree is intended for prospective lawyers that have already acquired the fundamentals of the law. In contrast, a JD degree is primarily focused on training students for a career in law. An LLM program often places a strong emphasis on legal theory, whereas a JD degree concentrates on educating what the legislation entails and how to implement it.

To enroll in an LLM program, you must not only show that you comprehend the American law system but also that you are aware of its potential for change. An LLM program can assist you in understanding legislative issues and in developing your policy stances.


In locations where your degree is highly recognized, an LLM can help you draw in more clients. An LLM degree can help lawyers develop in challenging, heavily regulated areas of the law, like environmental legislation, as it boosts the legitimacy of your resume.

For lawyers applying for high-level government jobs, having an LLM degree may be advantageous because some recruiters in the government favor LLM holders over candidates with merely a JD. Additionally, an LLM can improve your prospects of landing a job in consulting, academia, or policy.


An LLM is not necessary for lawyers who wish to practice in the United States, but it is recommended. Other possibilities include degrees like the Doctor of Law (JSD), Masters of Legal Studies, Masters of Science in Law, and various certification programs in law.


A thesis is often required for an LLM program but not for a JD program. The LLM’s thesis requirement might be a difficult obstacle for those who begin the program immediately after getting their JD.


While an LLM degree only requires a year of full-time study, a JD degree normally requires three years of full-time study. However, if you enroll in the course part-time, your classes might be spaced across two years.


All American law schools grant the JD degree, however not all of them grant the LLM degree. All accredited public and private law institutions in the United States are listed on the ABA website, along with links to every school’s curricula and course offerings, as well as those that grant the LLM degree.

Professional certification

You can sit for the bar exam in every state in the union after receiving a JD. Lawyers holding a JD degree should complete and pass the bar test in their states to practice law. If you merely have an LLM, very few states will let you take the bar test without any further requirements.

Conditions to obtain an LLM

Consult with your top-choice law school to learn the precise criteria for an LLM because they vary greatly amongst institutions. The following is a list of prerequisites you must fulfill to apply for an LLM degree:

Legal education

You need to hold a JD degree to be eligible for an LLM program. If you received your education abroad, you must hold a first-degree legal degree from your home country. To pursue a certain LLM specialty, students may need to have a specified degree, according to some American universities.

Linguistic ability

Non-native English speakers must generally present the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores to legal schools in the United States. While each institution has a different minimum grade requirement, you are often required to have a high level of English proficiency. For example, the least TOEFL score required by the University of California, Berkeley is 600 for the paper-based exam and 100 for the online exam or 7.0 on the IELTS.

Transcript from law school

Your school of law transcript must be submitted with your admission to any LLM program. Most law schools give your performance a lot of weight when deciding whether or not to accept you into an LLM program. Many American universities lack strict grade criteria, although others claim that your LLM application will be significantly impacted by your law school grades.

Recommendation letters

Typically, you must provide recommendation letters with your application to an LLM school. The requirements typically vary by school, with several demanding at least two. Law schools also have different requirements for who must write your reference letters. Many will ask for at least one letter from a professor you have studied law with, but some additionally prefer that you provide a letter from a recent boss at an internship or job.

Research and work experience

Most law schools in the United States will look at your outside-of-school experience when enrolling in an LLM program, even if some don’t need work or research experience. Certain schools rarely allow candidates who have recently completed law school and give great preference to those who have been employed for a minimum of a year following receiving their JD. You can obtain experience and hone your research skills by undertaking research internships.

Writing abilities

You must send a writing sample or personal statement to almost all law schools. Your English test results, CV, and transcript might also be required. The likelihood that you will be accepted into an LLM program increases if you demonstrate your writing abilities in the writing sample and statement.


The Latin term Legum Magister, which translates to “Master of Laws,” is abbreviated as LL.M. In Latin, a letter is repeated to shorten a word’s plural form. Therefore, “LL.” stands for “laws.” Unlike the more broad idea reflected in the word jus, from which both the word Juris and the contemporary English word “justice” are derived, legum is the genitive compound word of the Latin phrase lex, which means “particular laws.” Jus is the root of the word Juris.


The following are responses to typical LLM questions:

  • Are there various LLM program types?

Two different kinds of LLM programs exist. These consist of the General LLM, also known as Individualized Study LLM, and Specialized LLM. While both lead to a Master of Laws, the General LLM enables you to study a wide range of legal subjects and create a customized course of study that fits your unique career objectives. However, the Specialized LLM offers you a focused course of study in a specific field of law, such as company finances and organization, constitutional law, or civil rights.

  • Is an LLM degree required to practice law abroad?

An LLM degree is frequently a crucial certification if you practice international law. Lawyers with worldwide experience and a global viewpoint are preferred by several private enterprises and multinational law firms. When looking to increase their mobility and diversify their professional duties in the global market, lawyers may be at a significant advantage if they possess an in-depth knowledge of complicated international affairs thanks to an LLM degree with a focus on international law.

  • Do LLM degrees have any use for practicing abroad?

If you are an international lawyer, an LLM from the United States can be a useful starting point for learning the complexity of the American legal system and landing a job there. Based on the state, international lawyers who obtained an LLM in U.S. Law Studies from an institution recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) may be qualified to sit for the bar exam.