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Master of laws

Master of laws

The Master of Laws, commonly abbreviated LL.M. (also LLM or LL.M) from its Latin name, Legum Magister; program is designed to provide advanced education with maximum flexibility to persons already possessing a law degree from a law school in the United States. Students can choose from a wealthy diversity of courses taught by distinguished full-time faculty—who bring experience from the bench, major law firms, government agencies, and advocacy groups. The LL.M. degree is usually earned in a course of specialized study in law.


LL.M. programs are generally only open to those students who have first obtained the professional law degree. Thus, it is an advanced degree for persons who are already lawyers. LL.M. programs are varied in their graduation requirements. Some programs require students to write a thesis, others do not. Some programs are research oriented with little classroom time, while others require students to take a set number of classes.

In the United States who obtains a LL.M. do so after they receive their Juris Doctor. Thus, they obtain a doctorate degree first and their Master of Law degree second. This is due to the fact that the professional law degree in the United States was originally called the Bachelor of Laws, abbreviated as LL.B. Though some U.S. law schools had granted the Juris Doctor to graduates holding a bachelor's degree, it wasn't until the late 1960's that the American Bar Association approved the change for all of its associated law schools to better represent the academic standing of those holding law degrees. However, the LL.M. name was never changed, resulting in a situation where a Master of Laws degree is actually a more advanced degree than a J.D. for U.S.-educated lawyers.

LL.M. degrees in the United States are often gained students wishing to develop more concentrated expertise in a specific area of law such as taxation. However a general LL.M. degree is often sought by foreign lawyers who wish to practice in the United States. Typically, these foreign applicants have previously obtained a foreign law degree abroad. U.S.-educated lawyers, before proceeding to obtain an LL.M., usually have a total of seven years of education: four as an undergraduate and three to obtain a J.D. Foreign lawyers (who may have been trained in undergraduate institutions, giving the traditional name for the basic law degree, the LL.B.) usually have a total of five years of education: four in their home country, and one in the United States as an LL.M. Although foreigners may obtain an LL.M. after fewer total years of academic training than their U.S. colleagues, it represents a greater degree of realization in legal education.

International situation

In many countries, lawyers are not required to possess an LL.M degree. In fact, the education systems of most countries did not conventionally include LL.M. programs.

Traditionally, the LL.M. degree is an element particular to the education system of English speaking countries, which is based on a difference between Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

Types of LL.M. degrees

There is a wide range of LL.M. programs available around the world, allowing students to focus on almost any area of the law. Most universities offer only a small number of LL.M. programs. One of the most popular LL.M. degrees in the United States is tax law. The program is offered in various universities around the country and even online. The field offers many opportunities in the job market and this is why is the most popular. This program is ideal for those who want to work for individual clients, to large firms. See special instructions on how to pursue your LL.M. (Master of Laws) in Taxation. Another developing area is bankruptcy law. Other frequent programs include environmental law, human rights law, commercial law, intellectual property law, information technology law, estate planning (as a sub-specialty of tax), international law and insurance law. Some LL.M. programs, particularly in the United States, focus on teaching foreign lawyers the basic legal principles of the host country (a "comparative law" degree). Also, some programs are conducted in more than one language. This degree may or may not qualify the foreign lawyer to practice in their host country. Some countries prohibit non-citizens from earning admission to the bar regardless of their educational background.

In the United States, there is a mixed case. Two states, New York and California, allow foreign lawyers to earn admission to the bar once they have completed their LL.M. The others need a J.D. in order to take the bar examination. It is interesting that most states definitely will not permit a lawyer with only an LL.M. to practice, because New York and California are usually viewed as having the most rigorous bar requirements. The prohibition on LL.M. practice applies even to lawyers who have practiced for years in New York or California and would therefore be knowledgeable of U.S. law. One probable explanation for the differential treatment between J.D. holders and LL.M. holders is xenophobia, as lawyers holding an LL.M. but not a J.D. generally are foreigners who received their first degree outside the United States.