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Overview of Law Degrees in the US

If you are interested in studying law in the USA, you should know that there are three types of law degrees in the United States.

Overview of Law Degrees in the US

These are Doctor of Jurisprudence or Juris Doctor (JD), Master of Laws (LLM), and Doctor of Law. Now, let’s see what each one is about.

Juris Doctor

A Doctor of Jurisprudence or as it is commonly called, JD, is the degree that a person obtains when they successfully complete law school.

The degree is required in all states except California to practice law. California allows a person the option of a law firm degree in lieu of a Juris Doctor.

After completing law school and obtaining a law degree, the Juris Doctor, a person, can sit for the bar exam and obtain a license to become a lawyer and practice law within a state.

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There were many states that did not require an individual to obtain a law school degree to obtain a license to practice law until the 1930s and 1940s.

Most attorneys up to that point would obtain a license to practice law by working for an established attorney as an apprentice for a specified period of time.

Most states began requiring that a person have a law degree to practice law in the 1950s.

State legislatures made these requirements to raise standards for practicing attorneys and limit the number of attorneys.

After this legislation was passed, the title offered by most universities and colleges was the title of Master of Laws or LLM.

During the 1960s, universities and colleges increased the standard requirements for law degrees and the Juris Doctor replaced the master of a law degree and became the primary degree to be awarded by law schools.

Juris Doctor Requirements

Applicants for the JD program must first earn a bachelor’s degree as a minimum. A prospective Juris Doctor student does not have to have prior experience with the court system or take law courses as a college student.

During the application process, a law school will request a student’s score on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Additionally, a student will need to provide letters of recommendation and possibly a current resume.

While the first year of law school covers a core set of courses, students have the option of choosing a concentration and completing a fixed number of elective courses during their final two years.

Some of the optional courses may include public interest law, law and ethics, environmental law, patent law, federal litigation, legal drafting, constitutional law, and civil liability.

License to Practice Law

Once a person has passed a JD degree program, they will need to pass the bar exam before they can legally practice. Read more about what is the Bar exam is and how to pass it.

Each state has its own bar exam that they administer, but most states require a person to graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association.

Master of Laws (LLM)

The Master of Laws degree is the second-level law degree that a person earns, after a Juris physician. This title is earned by completing a full-time program for one year.

Typically, a law professional or law student will pursue a master of law degree to gain experience in a specific area of ​​law, for example, international law, business law, tax law, or family law.

Most law firms prefer candidates who have a master of law degree because it demonstrates that the attorney has obtained specialized advanced legal training and is qualified to work in a legal environment that is multinational.

According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the Master of Laws (LLM) degree is considered an advanced law certification that has global credibility.

LLM programs offered by US and Canadian law schools are desirable for both international students wanting global credentials and JD graduates wanting advanced legal studies.

Most countries do not require attorneys to have an LLM degree and many people choose not to obtain this degree, as the law master degree alone does not usually qualify a graduate to practice law.

Graduation Requirements

Requirements for graduating with a master of law degree will vary depending on the current program and university guidelines. There are some programs that are research-oriented and will require a student to prepare a thesis.

There are other programs that simply offer classes that a student must take and complete in order to earn their degree. There are some schools that offer LL.M. part-time programs that a student can complete while employed full-time.

The classes a person takes for a master of law program will depend on the type of LL.M. that is being persecuted.

There are core classes in the particular area of ​​law that must be completed. Some of the classes a law master’s student can take include corporate tax issues, estate planning, intellectual property law, local taxes, state taxes, and bankruptcy.

Degree and Application Requirements

While the number of doctoral programs is limited, the application requirements and degree requirements vary widely.

Almost all programs will require an individual to complete a Master of Laws program or a comparative program such as a Master of Comparative Law, Juris Master, or a Master of Jurisprudence.

There are some law schools that limit enrollment in their doctoral programs to only those who have completed an LL.M. program at your particular school.

This means that if you complete a master’s program at a law school, you may not be eligible for admission to a particular law school for your doctorate.

It is important to keep this limitation in mind in the decision-making process when considering law schools for your master’s program if you are considering a doctoral program afterward.

There are numerous doctoral programs that require individual applicants to obtain approval from a faculty member indicating that they are willing to be the applicant’s advisor and committee chair for their dissertation.

This must be accomplished before a person applies for the program.


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