Many people interested in a legal career may not be aware of the LL.M., or Master of Laws degree, offered by the majority of U.S. law schools, even though it is likely common knowledge that law schools prepare students to become attorneys by putting them through three years of demanding study leading to a J.D. degree.
The LL.M. normally requires one year to complete and allows students to create a specialized legal education. Experts claim it’s intend for two different kinds of students. One is individuals with a J.D. who seek extra education in a particular field, such as tax or health care law. It helps them advance in their profession in a specific direction or, after some experience, may enable them to switch legal specialties.
Earning an LL.M. is an ordinary way for students who hold a law degree from a country other than the U.S. to enter the U.S. legal market and, in some cases, to increase their knowledge of American and global jurisprudence. This salary can sometimes triple or even quadruple what they would make in their home country.
Who Should Submit an LL.M. Application?
Applying for an LL.M. degree normally requires a J.D. or another main law degree, which outside of the U.S. could be an undergraduate law degree, such as the LL.B. or Bachelor of Laws. It is because it is intend for persons seeking more legal education. Many international nations, including Australia, Germany, Japan, Spain, and the United Kingdom, offer this degree as a regular option. In the past, an LL.B. program in the U.S. was a J.D. degree.
These degrees do not require applicants to U.S. law schools to submit LSAT results, but TOEFL scores are typically require for non-native English speakers.
Madhavi Sunder, the Georgetown University Law Center’s associate dean for graduate and international programs, “for foreign-trained lawyers, the LLM degree delivers training in the U.S. legal system, which is crucial for today’s globalized practice of law.” “Lawyers with interdisciplinary understanding and specialised training are necessary to address today’s complex issues, including global health and pandemics, national security and privacy, and climate change.”
With an annual enrolment of around 550 students and 13 specialties, including tax, global health, national security, and technology, Georgetown Law boasts one of the largest LL.M. programs in the country. The majority of its students—2/3—are international.
According to the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research’s Law School Survey of Student Engagement, about 80% of LL.M. students in American law schools are foreigners.
Motives for Pursuing an LL.M.
Area of focus is important for attorneys with U.S. training or recent J.D. graduates looking for an LL.M., according to Jacqueline Boker Lefebvre, managing director for the New York Associate Practice Group at the legal executive search company Major, Lindsey & Africa.
Lefebvre cites the tax LL.M. as having the greatest value and demand, particularly in the New York market. “A tax LL.M. often offers them a significant advantage in the legal market,” says one of my clients searching for tax specialists; lawyers who specialize in these specific areas include ERISA, executive compensation, and trust in estate experts.
The LL.M. has a comparable value for foreign nationals wishing to work in tax, whether in the United States or abroad, since they would meet concerns of U.S. tax law as part of international transactions, according to Caryn Voland, assistant dean for admissions at Georgetown Law.
According to Voland in an email, most international students who enroll in Georgetown’s tax L L.M. “already have experience outside the U.S., which contributes to those students’ marketability.”
International students frequently see an LL.M. program as a way to Americanize their legal careers, potentially leading to employment at a major law firm and a pay bonanza. Entering one of the top law schools—sometimes referred to as the T14—will therefore be essential; a top-five law school is preferable, according to experts.
However, even that does not ensure that you will land well-paying legal employment in the United States, caution officials at some of the best law schools in the country.
Some foreign students pursue LL.M.s to work at a significant U.S. legal firm, “Voland declares. “Although this is a potential conclusion and some of our students do take this route, we would like to be clear that the LL.M. is not intended to be a route into a U.S. law firm because the job market is extremely competitive.
According to some experts, international students frequently concentrate on the top law schools in the United States with an even better awareness of name-associated pedigree than their American counterparts, which could be seeking a law school in a certain region.
According to Peter Cramer, who oversees LL.M. and foreign admissions consulting at the law school counseling company The Spivey Consulting Group, “there is a brand name awareness all around.” “Go Harvard or bust,” is a general perception, in my opinion.
Selecting an LL.M. Program
Given the fierce competition to get into the best schools and the fact that most opt to pursue a more comprehensive international legal career rather than landing a high-paying law position, Cramer claims that international students’ perceptions of what constitutes a good school are frequently unduly limited.
He asserts, “sometimes you have to move outside the idea of T10, T14.” “Applicants for LL.M. programs can receive a top education without being constrain by the “brand name” issue.”
Cramer also advises considering intellectual property law, for which many prestigious programs are affiliat with law schools outside the top 14 in terms of rankings.
International law students can improve their chances of landing a high-paying job in the U.S., regardless of how well-regarded a law school is, by networking through the company they worked for in their home country, according to professionals. According to Cramer, a former assistant dean of the Washington University in St. Louis law school, networking is crucial and can begin even before applying to an LL.M program.
Fluency in highly sought-after foreign languages like Spanish and Portuguese, as well as legal knowledge of other countries’ legal systems, can be advantageous for LL.M degree candidates.
Cecilia Caldeira, the Fordham University School of Law’s assistant dean for international initiatives, says, “some of these huge U.S. law firms need people who have cross-border and comparative expertise.” “While employment is never guarante, it’s critical to position oneself effectively in your industry. Students may land outstanding roles outside the typical “Big Law.”