What is a Master of Laws Degree? Exploring the LLM Degree

Are you a law graduate looking to advance your career and specialize in a particular area of law? A Master of Laws (LLM) degree, also known as a “master of laws degree,” might be the perfect opportunity for you to gain invaluable knowledge and skills in your chosen field. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the LLM degree, its history, benefits, eligibility criteria, popular specializations, and tips for success in LLM programs. Let’s begin your journey towards an enriching and rewarding legal career.

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • The LLM degree is a specialized postgraduate law program that provides attorneys with an opportunity to specialize in a particular area of law, increase their career prospects, and gain global legal insight.

  • Eligibility criteria for the degree include possessing prior law degrees and demonstrating English language proficiency.

  • Benefits of pursuing an LLM include enhanced career opportunities, specialization in specific areas of law, gaining global perspectives on legal systems through networking opportunities and practical learning experiences.

Understanding the LLM Degree

The Master of Laws (LLM) is a postgraduate law program that enables attorneys to focus on a particular area of law, broaden their career prospects, and gain worldwide legal perspectives while building upon basic legal principles. This advanced degree is designed for individuals who already possess an undergraduate academic law degree, a professional law degree, or an undergraduate degree in a related subject.

Pursuing an LLM degree allows you to enhance your expertise in a designated field of law, augment your job prospects, and develop international legal knowledge and connections.

History and Origin of the LLM Degree

The LLM degree has its roots in Europe and has since become a popular choice for law students looking to specialize in a specific area of law and expand their career opportunities. Harvard Law School established the first LLM program in 1923, aiming to offer advanced legal education to students and professionals.

Today, LLM programs are offered by law schools worldwide, including 11 institutions in France that provide nearly 20 LLM programs taught in English.

LLM vs. JD: Key Differences

An LLM is a postgraduate degree that is specialized in nature, whereas a Juris Doctor (JD) is a general law degree that is necessary for practicing law in the US. The primary distinction between these degrees lies in their purpose: a JD program furnishes the essential understanding to practice law, while an LLM enables attorneys to specialize in a particular area of law. JD graduates may choose to pursue an LLM degree to gain expertise in a specific field of law.

International students who have studied law outside of the US may also be eligible to pursue an LLM degree without earning a JD.

Types of LLM Degrees Available

LLM degrees are available in a variety of specializations, including international business law, tax law, and intellectual property law. Some other specialized LLM programs include the University of Milan’s LLM program focusing on Sustainable Development, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law’s LLM in Space, Cyber & Telecommunications Law, and the Notre Dame Law School’s LLM in International Human Rights Law.

In Australia, LL.M. variants include the Master of Legal Practice (M.L.P.), Master of Commercial Law, Master of International Law, and Master of Human Rights Law.

Benefits of Pursuing an LLM Degree

An LLM degree offers a wealth of advantages for law professionals. It allows you to specialize in a particular area of law, enhance your career opportunities, and gain a global understanding of the legal landscape. For U.S. and Canadian JD graduates, an LLM can further enhance their expertise in a specific area of law, thereby increasing their value to their employer.

Additionally, international students can gain a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. or Canadian legal system, which can be beneficial for enhancing global credibility and participating in international law and legal practice.

Specialization in a Specific Area of Law

Focusing on a particular area of law can bring about a number of advantages, such as honing expertise, advancing one’s career, meeting client expectations, boosting employability, and achieving personal satisfaction. Common specializations for an LLM degree include international business law, tax law, intellectual property law, and environmental law.

Selecting the appropriate LLM program requires considering one’s personal objectives and preferences, investigating law schools and faculty, and analyzing program formats (online vs. on-campus).

Enhanced Career Opportunities

An LLM degree can lead to increased career prospects, including higher remuneration and more esteemed job roles. Securing an LLM degree showcases to employers and clients your specialized knowledge in a specific field of law, positioning you as a valuable asset in the legal profession.

Whether you’re aiming for a career transition, a promotion, or a new job, an LLM degree can open doors to new opportunities and help you achieve your career goals.

Obtaining an LLM degree offers several benefits, including:

  • Expanding your professional network through networking events, connections with alumni, and involvement in the university community

  • Studying the legal systems of other nations and becoming acquainted with international legal precepts

  • Comprehending the distinctions between legal systems, which is valuable for a career in international law or cross-border legal practice

Eligibility Criteria for LLM Programs

To be eligible for an LL.M. program, an applicant must possess a prior law degree, demonstrate English language proficiency, and fulfill other admission requirements such as academic performance and work experience. In some countries, like South Africa, admission to LL.M. programs is typically restricted to LL.B. graduates, while in Canada, an LL.B., LL.L., B.C.L., or J.D. is required as a first degree. For international students, the same eligibility criteria apply, including passing English language proficiency tests and meeting other admission factors.

Law Degree Requirements

Generally, a professional law degree, such as a JD or LL.B, which typically requires a bachelor’s degree for admission, is a prerequisite for an LLM program. In some cases, foreign legal graduates may be eligible to take the bar exam in certain states if they have legal practice in their home jurisdiction and have completed a certain amount of coursework at an accredited law school.

J.D. degrees from accredited law schools are necessary to be eligible to take bar exams in many states including:

  • Arizona

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • New Jersey

  • North Carolina

Without such a degree, one cannot appear for the bar examination in these states.

English Language Proficiency Tests

Non-native English speakers may be required to take an English language proficiency test, such as the TOEFL or IELTS, in order to be accepted into a university or other institution in an English-speaking country. These tests are designed to assess an individual’s capability to comprehend and employ the English language.

In addition to the TOEFL and IELTS, there are other English language proficiency tests available, such as the Cambridge English exams, the PTE Academic, and the Duolingo English Test.

Other Admission Factors

In addition to the law degree and English language proficiency requirements, LLM programs may also consider other admission factors. These may include academic performance, evaluated based on undergraduate and/or graduate GPA and any applicable standardized test scores such as the LSAT or GRE.

Work experience is also considered, with the type of work, duration of the position, and relevance of the experience to the LLM program all taken into account. Lastly, personal statements are assessed based on the writing quality, clarity of the statement, and relevance to the LLM program.

Popular LLM specializations include:

  • International business law

  • Tax law

  • Intellectual property law

  • Environmental law

These specializations allow students to focus on specific areas of law that align with their career goals and interests. By choosing a specialization, you can develop a deeper understanding of the legal principles and practices within that specific field, making you a valuable asset to clients and employers.

International Business Law

International business law focuses on the legal aspects of international trade, finance, and investment. This specialization entails understanding the regulations and protocols that oversee the import and export of goods and services, as well as the means for resolving disputes between parties involved in international trade.

Additionally, international business law covers the laws and regulations that regulate the transfer of capital across borders and the taxation of international investments.

Tax Law

Tax law deals with the legal aspects of taxation, including domestic and international tax regulations. This specialization encompasses a broad range of areas, such as:

  • Income tax

  • Corporate tax

  • Estate tax

  • Gift tax

  • Sales tax

  • International tax

As a tax law specialist, you will be responsible for ensuring compliance with tax laws and regulations for individuals and businesses, making you a vital resource within the legal profession.

Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual property law covers the legal aspects of:

  • Patents

  • Trademarks

  • Copyrights

  • Trade secrets

This field of law offers protection for intellectual creations, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, and symbols.

Intellectual property law aims to incentivize innovation and creativity by providing creators with the motivation to produce new works, as well as the legal means to protect their creations from unauthorized use.

Environmental Law

Environmental law focuses on the legal aspects of environmental protection, natural resources, and sustainable development. This specialization outlines frameworks and tools for the protection, conservation, and sustainable use of the environment and natural resources.

As an environmental law specialist, you will play a crucial role in safeguarding the environment and natural resources for future generations and promoting sustainable development.

LLM Programs for International Students

LLM programs for international students provide the opportunity to study abroad, prepare for the bar exam, and become familiar with different legal systems. Studying abroad can provide international students with valuable cultural experiences and global legal perspectives, while preparing for the bar exam can help them gain the qualifications necessary to practice law in the US. Lastly, becoming familiar with different legal systems can enhance their global legal knowledge and make them more attractive to employers and clients.

Studying Abroad

Pursuing an LLM program abroad presents numerous advantages, such as:

  • Specialization

  • Cultural immersion

  • Language acquisition

  • Networking prospects

  • Comparative legal studies

  • Personal development

Studying in a foreign country equips you with valuable insights into the legal systems and practices of other nations, offers opportunities for new language acquisition, and adaptation to diverse cultural environments.

Moreover, studying abroad allows you to expand your professional network and connect with fellow students, faculty, and alumni from around the world.

Preparing for the Bar Exam

LLM programs can assist international students in preparing for the bar exam, thus allowing them to practice law in the US. In some states, foreign legal graduates may be eligible to take the bar exam if they have legal practice in their home jurisdiction and have completed a certain amount of coursework at an accredited law school. J.D. degrees from accredited law schools are necessary to be eligible to take bar exams in many states including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Without such a degree, one cannot appear for the bar examination in these states.

International students can learn to adapt to different legal systems through LLM programs, enhancing their global legal knowledge. By studying the legal systems of other nations, becoming acquainted with international legal precepts, and understanding the distinctions between legal systems, international students can gain a deeper understanding of the global legal landscape and become more desirable in the job market.

This adaptability is invaluable for those seeking a career in international law or cross-border legal practice.

Selecting the Right LLM Program

Selecting the right LLM program involves assessing personal goals and interests, researching law schools and faculty, and evaluating program formats (online vs. on-campus). When selecting an LLM program, considering your personal objectives and preferences, as well as researching the reputation and offerings of the law schools and faculty in your chosen specialization, is crucial.

Additionally, it is important to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of online and on-campus program formats to find the best fit for your needs and schedule.

Assessing Personal Goals and Interests

Assessing your personal goals and interests is a critical step in determining the best LLM specialization and program for you. Reflect on what you aspire to accomplish with your LLM degree, such as a career transition, a promotion, or a new job, and consider what LLM program you would like to pursue, including a full-time or part-time program. This self-reflection will help you identify the most suitable LLM program for your needs and ensure that you make the most of your educational experience.

Researching Law Schools and Faculty

A vital step in selecting the right LLM program is conducting thorough research on law schools and their faculty. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Examine the programs offered by different law schools, including their rankings, curriculum, and areas of specialization.

  2. When researching faculty members, consider their expertise, publications, and teaching experience.

  3. Connect with current students, alumni, and faculty to gain insights and perspectives on the law school and faculty.

Additionally, here are some steps you can take to research and choose the right law school for you:

  1. Attend virtual or in-person information sessions, webinars, or open houses to gain greater insight into the law school and its faculty.

  2. Review the admission requirements and deadlines for each law school, as each school has its own individual requirements and deadlines.

  3. Thoroughly research law schools and faculty to ensure you choose a program with a strong reputation and experienced professors who can help you succeed in your chosen area of law.

By following these steps, you can make an informed decision and choose the law school that best fits your needs and goals.

Evaluating Program Formats (Online vs. On-Campus)

For finding the best fit for your needs and schedule, it’s vital to evaluate program formats, such as online or on-campus. Consider factors such as:

  • Accreditation

  • Curriculum and courses

  • Faculty and resources

  • Alumni network and reputation

  • Cost and financial aid

  • Flexibility and convenience

  • Student reviews and testimonials

By carefully considering these factors, you can ensure that you select the LLM program format that best aligns with your personal goals and circumstances.

Tips for Success in LLM Programs

Ensuring success in your LLM program necessitates the development of effective time management and study habits, building a professional network, and engaging in practical learning opportunities. By implementing these strategies, you can maximize your educational experience, enhance your legal expertise, and achieve your career goals.

Time Management and Study Habits

For balancing coursework, research, and personal commitments during your LLM program, it’s crucial to develop effective time management and study habits. Establish achievable objectives, segment tasks into smaller components, and devise a timeline to remain organized and focused.

Prioritize your health and well-being by ensuring adequate sleep, consuming nutritious meals, and engaging in regular physical activity. Lastly, create a dedicated study space and minimize distractions to maintain focus and productivity.

Building a Professional Network

For success in your LLM program and beyond, building a professional network is critical. Here are some strategies to help you:

  • Attend networking events

  • Join professional associations

  • Connect with alumni to establish lasting relationships and gain valuable insights about the legal field.

Leverage social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, to connect with other professionals in the legal sector and share your own insights and experiences.

Engaging in Practical Learning Opportunities

Engaging in practical learning opportunities, such as internships, clinics, and externships, can provide you with hands-on experience in your chosen area of law. These opportunities allow you to apply the knowledge and skills gained in your LLM program to real-world situations, giving you a competitive edge in the job market.

Additionally, practical learning experiences can help you establish connections with industry professionals and expand your professional network.


In conclusion, the Master of Laws (LLM) degree is a valuable investment for law professionals seeking to advance their careers and specialize in a specific area of law. By understanding the history, benefits, eligibility criteria, and popular specializations of LLM programs, you can make an informed decision about the best program for your needs. With effective time management, a strong professional network, and practical learning experiences, you can excel in your LLM program and achieve your career goals. Embrace the opportunity to broaden your legal expertise and become a highly sought-after professional in the ever-evolving world of law.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an LLM higher than a JD?

An LLM is an advanced law degree for lawyers who have already achieved their JD and passed the bar exam. While it provides a deeper understanding in a particular area of law, it does not qualify the holder to practice law, unlike a JD which prepares someone to practice law.

Are masters in law worth it?

Overall, a Masters in Law (MLS) is worth it for those looking to further their education and stand out from other job applicants. Additionally, MLS degrees are especially useful for people who work in fields that overlap or are closely related to law. Earning an MSL can also prove advantageous for those who work with lawyers or wish to move into industries that are highly regulated.

What masters degree is best for law?

For aspiring legal professionals, a legal studies master’s degree is an ideal choice to gain the relevant knowledge and experience necessary to stand out in the competitive job market.

What is the purpose of an LLM degree?

An LLM degree provides specialized knowledge in a particular area of law, and offers additional career opportunities and global legal perspectives to holders of a bachelor’s degree in law.

How do LLM and JD degrees differ?

LLM and JD degrees differ in that LLM is a specialized postgraduate degree, while JD is a general law degree necessary to practice law in the US.

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