What is an LLM Degree?

Law School Admissions
One common question we get from law school applicants is “What is an LLM degree?” Most top law schools offer programs in this area, many international students enroll each year seeking this degree, and it is a commonly heard but rarely understood component of a law school curriculum. Therefore, as both a way to educate any loyal readers of this blog and also to have as a handy FAQ response (self-serving blog posts are the best kind), we decided to outline exactly what an LLM is and how it works.

The easiest way to break it down is to go through a series of commonly asked questions:


What is an LLM? The LLM stands for the Master of Laws and it is basically a masters degree geared toward subject matter expertise, not unlike an MBA or a masters in public policy. It does not carry with it the training necessary to qualify someone for the practice of law, as future lawyers must almost always have a JD in the U.S. or an equivalent degree (an LLB in the UK, for instance) and then pass the bar or equivalent exam in order to practice. Rather, it is an added piece that might make an individual more qualified to practice a certain type of law (one of the most common subjects is tax).

How long is the program? An LLM is almost always a one-year program.

What is the coursework like? The LLM can vary greatly depending on the school. Some programs heavily integrate LLM students into the general curriculum while others focus more on a specific track, which is often followed by a thesis requirement.

Is it just for international students? One of the most common misconceptions that people make about the LLM is that it is a degree specifically for international students. This is not true, as any student who seeks additional specialization in an area of the law can pursue an LLM (again, tax is the most common area where a U.S. student might spend the extra year). That said, the use of the degree in the U.S. is most commonly associated with training international students on some of the key elements of American law – coursework that helps those students go back to their home countries and former firms with an advanced understanding of U.S. legal frameworks.

Can an LLM qualify an international student to take the bar exam in the U.S.? This one actually requires some research, as some states allow international students to sit for the bar examination with an LLM (in conjunction with a JD equivalent from another country), while other states require a JD. International students should always double and triple-check the state bar requirements before pursuing an LLM with the hopes of transitioning into an American legal practice.

Who should get an LLM? Again, the degree is often a great fit for international students seeking an understanding of U.S. law to compliment their existing training, and – as detailed above – can often provide a springboard for practicing law in certain U.S. states. It is also an interesting option for American law students who seek either advanced exposure to individual subjects (especially at law schools that gear the LLM around a thesis) on the road to academia or for students who wish to practice a multinational brand of law.

For more questions about LLM degrees or anything pertaining to law school admissions, give us a call at (800) 925-7737 and get a free consultation with a Veritas Prep admissions expert!

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