LL.M. or J.D. ?

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LL.M. or J.D. ?

If you come to the U.S. for a law degree, you can choose a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Master of Laws (LL.M.) program.

The Juris Doctor (J.D.) is the standard law degree conferred in the United States that most US attorneys hold.  Increasingly, JD programs enroll international students, mainly those who have a first degree in law (although the degree could be in another subject). 


So what are the main differences between a J.D. and an LL.M. ?




The JD program is a three-year, full-time academic program that is offered by US and many Canadian law schools. An LL.M. program typically takes one year of full-time study, although part-time programs may be completed over a longer time frame (generally 24 to 36 months).  Students can also earn an LL.M. online.

The costs for a J.D. program are generally higher than those for an LLM program, especially taking into account the longer time commitment. Yet some US law schools offer foreign-attorneys the opportunity to complete the JD in two rather than the traditional three years (for instance Northwestern law school, Brooklyn law school, Arizona Law school, Vermont Law School, Regent University). Yet, missing one year may remove hiring opportunities..

Both a J.D. and an L.L.M. require that you complete an undergraduate degree. J.D. applicants are not required to major in a particular field of undergraduate study, but they do have to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test).

On the contrary, when you apply for an L.L.M. program, you won't have to take the LSAT, but you must finish law school before you can begin the program.

For international students whose native language is not English, most LL.M. programs also require an English proficiency test score.         

A J.D. allows you to sit for the bar in any of the US states.

The Master of Laws (LLM) degree is considered an advanced law certification that has global credibility. However, having an LLM does not qualify graduates to sit for the bar exam in every state.

If you are expecting to work in the United States, you should carefully research the requirements in your state of choice. Most LLM programs offer options to LLM students to tailor their academic track for bar preparation in major states.

It depends on your geographical situation and your career goals. If you intend to practice law in your home country, an one-year (or online) LLM is probably the best option. For those who wish to immigrate to the United States and practice law here on a long-term basis, however, a JD may be worth the investment. But keep in mind that in some states, you do not need more than an LL.M. to take the bar exam and obtain a license to practice in the United States.

You wan also start an LLM degree and then transfer to a JD program, as some LLM programs offer an LLM to JD transfer.

Guide to LL.M. rankings

Comment s’inscrire en LL.M. (French article)



Sources :

LSAC website

LLM info

LLM roadmap



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