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Which is right for you: A J.D. or LL.M.?

Published June 12, 2017

What’s the difference between a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M)? Which one should you pursue? Here’s how to tell which program you are eligible for and what best aligns with your interests.

The vast majority of law students in the United States will start their legal careers with a J.D. program. This is a program that covers the foundational legal doctrines as well as more specialized topics and practical skills. A Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited institution and an LSAT score are required to enter a J.D. program.

A J.D. from an accredited law school allows you to sit for the bar exam in the U.S., practice law in a U.S. jurisdiction, and is the preferred degree for most legal employers.

A J.D. is considered a terminal degree, but it’s also a prerequisite for the LL.M. degree. The LL.M. requires a first degree in law, and many internationally trained lawyers come to the U.S. and obtain an LL.M in order to sit for the bar exam in the U.S. While the J.D. program covers many topics, an LL.M. program is highly specialized in a topic of choice.

JD Program

  • Bachelor’s Degree and LSAT required
  • Covers a wide scope of legal topics
  • Large focus on legal analysis, writing, and research
  • 2-3 years of full-time study
  • Necessary to sit for the bar exam and practice law in the U.S.
  • May provide more opportunities for employment
  • Degree held by businesspeople, policymakers, academics, and other non-lawyer professionals

LLM Program

  • First degree in law and English proficiency required
  • LSAT not required
  • For both domestic and international lawyers
  • Does not permit international graduates to sit for the bar exam in all U.S. states or Canadian provinces
  • Does permit LL.M. students to sit for the New York bar exam
  • Highly individualized and specialized program
  • Secondary degree for J.D.s interested in advanced legal study
  • One year of full-time study
  • Holds global credibility

For further information on choosing the right degree program, visit the Academic Programs page or contact one of our Career Services counselors.

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Guest blogger Ashley Wilson-Rew is Content Strategist & SEM at protocol 80, Inc.


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