Online Master of Laws Degree (LL.M.)
An online Master of Laws degree program provides a unique opportunity for lawyers to earn an advanced degree in a specific area of law while continuing to work almost anywhere in the world. Typically, this degree is pursued by experienced lawyers who wish to gain more specialized knowledge in a field of law or by attorneys who earned their first law degree in a foreign country and want to learn more about the U.S. legal system.
The American Bar Association does not accredit LL.M. programs. However, several accredited ABA law schools that offer online LL.M. degrees have received consent from the ABA to operate these programs. Online Master of Laws programs are offered at dozens of law schools, including New York University, Northwestern University, Washington University in St. Louis and several other highly ranked law schools by U.S. News.
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Lawyers generally must have a Juris Doctor or its foreign equivalent to enroll in an LL.M. program.
Core course work varies based on a student’s specialization, which might include tax law, human rights law, estate planning or U.S. law for foreign lawyers. In a tax LL.M. program, for example, lawyers will complete course work in tax policy, corporate tax, international tax, intellectual property, and mergers and acquisitions.
A U.S. law LL.M. program is designed for lawyers who received their first law degree from a law school outside of the United States. In this program, students take courses in constitutional law, civil procedure, evidence, contracts and sales, torts, family law and criminal procedure. In California, lawyers from other countries who graduate from an LL.M. program in U.S. law from an ABA-approved law school are eligible to sit for the bar exam.
Typically employers do not give preference to lawyers who obtain an LL.M. degree. The credential also has no significant impact on salary. That said, an LL.M. degree in a highly specialized field, such as tax law, can enhance job prospects, experts told U.S. News.
Enterprising students may also be able to use the connections they make in the program to open doors down the road.
“Networking is one of the most underrated reasons why the LL.M. degree is so useful in today’s global legal environment. It is not the primary reason to get an LL.M., but it is a significant benefit when attending a large international law school,” Sandra Buteau, director of graduate career services and professional development at Georgetown Law Center, said in an interview with LLMGuide.com.
Employment for attorneys, while stable at a growth rate of 10 percent, can be competitive since there are sometimes more law school graduates each year than available positions for lawyers. The median salary for a lawyer is about $113,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Corporate attorneys make a median salary of $108,000 per year, while patent attorneys make $136,000, according to PayScale, an online salary database.