by Robert S. Balan
If you’ve graduated a Bachelor’s in Law and you’re a practising lawyer looking for a new challenge, an LL.M. degree offered by a good international law school might be the right challenge for you. Why? Because a Master of Laws advances your legal expertise, allows you to earn more, and highlights your dedication to the legal profession.
What is an LL.M. degree?
An LL.M. (Legum Magister in Latin) or Master of Laws is a postgraduate Law degree recognised worldwide. LL.M. programmes specialise students in a certain branch of Law, such as International Law, Business Law, European Law, Tax Law, etc.
A Master of Laws doesn’t qualify you professionally. However, it expands your knowledge and makes you more valuable in the eyes of law firms or other potential employers.
What’s it like to study an LL.M.?
With a few exceptions, most LL.M.s are taught (not research) programmes. Law degree students need to complete a certain number of modules and participate in group-seminars, lectures, and workshops. Assignments usually focus on working with case studies and writing an individual analysis.
To graduate, you need to write an LL.M. dissertation based on individual research. You can approach any legal topic and propose innovative solutions, compare different judicial systems, or analyse case studies to support your ideas.
Types of LL.M. degrees
You’ll find over 750 Masters of Laws on Mastersportal, but don’t let the fact that they all have the same name fool you. LL.M. courses may focus on different topics and specialisations.
Some Masters of Laws are designed for qualified lawyers interested in advancing their skills and knowledge, while others are research programmes, approaching the field of academic legal theory.
Before choosing an LL.M. degree abroad, always check the programme description and see if it matches your study and career goals.
LL.M. vs J.D. degree
While researching your LL.M. degree options, you might find people talking about JD degrees as well. While they are both postgraduate degrees, the main difference between an LL.M. and a Juris Doctor (JD) programme is the academic purpose.
In the United States, the JD is a professional postgraduate degree, which you need to practise law. You still have to pass the bar exam to become a qualified lawyer. We encounter the same situation in the UK, but here you need a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) instead of a postgraduate JD degree.
LL.M. degrees don’t qualify you to practise law. They are usually taken by practising lawyers who want to become experts in a branch of Law to advance their career. Some lawyers who move abroad might enrol in LL.M. programmes to specialise in the Law from that country.
LL.M. degree admission requirements
These are the most common documents you’ll need to provide during the LL.M. application process. Some universities of Law even accept candidates without previous Law studies, as long as they have relevant experience in this field.
- Minimum English language test score: IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 80
- Minimum GPA
- Bachelor’s degree in Law
- Personal statement
- Letters of recommendation
Best Law schools abroad
According to rankings by Times Higher Education, these are the best law schools in the world:
- Stanford University, in the USA
- Duke University, in the USA
- University of Cambridge, in the UK
- Yale University, in the USA
- University of Oxford, in the UK
Tuition fees for LL.M. degrees
Tuition fees at the best universities in the world aren’t cheap. Law programmes start at 9,000 EUR and can reach 56,000 EUR/academic year. We can argue that as a lawyer, you already make enough money to afford it, or you will earn a lot more with an LL.M. diploma, which makes the investment worthwhile.
Still, if you’re interested in affordable LL.M. programmes, here are a few options:
For all international students
At these universities, tuition fees apply to all students regardless of their nationality:
- LL.M. degrees in Norway: 0 EUR/year
- LL.M. degrees in Germany: 0 – under 6,000 EUR/year
- LL.M. degrees in Canada: 1,500 – 6,000 EUR/year
For EU & EEA students
These universities offer free education only for students from the EU & EEA (European Economic Area):
You should also consider where you want to practise law after graduation. For instance, if you study Tax Law in Sweden and then move to the USA, you might find that you cannot apply what you’ve learned. Things are different if you do an LL.M. in European Law. In this case, you can settle in most European countries and your previous academic knowledge will serve you well.
LL.M. courses duration
Most LL.M. programmes only take one year of full-time study to graduate, with a small number taking two years. Part-time or online degrees normally take two years, but the schedule is more flexible.
Online LL.M. degrees
The main advantage of an online LL.M. programme is the ability to continue working while you study. You’ll keep earning money and invest a part of them in advancing your knowledge and career.
It’s a smart move if you manage to pull it off. It’s not easy to handle a full-time job and study requirements, such as assignments and tight deadlines. Still, with the right motivation and a few productivity apps, like a great calendar and a to-do list, you should be fine.
LL.M. careers and salaries
These are some of the most popular LL.M. jobs and annual salaries in the US, according to PayScale. Your career options aren’t limited to this list. You can work in various companies or institutions that rely on experts in Tax, Business, or other Law specialisations.
- Associate Attorney – 73,000 USD/year
- Legal Consultant – 75,500 USD/year
- Private Banker – 85,000 USD/year
- Judge – 161,000 USD/year
Is studying an LL.M. degree worth it?
Only if you know why you want to do it and what you plan to achieve after graduating.
You don’t need a Master of Laws to take on a legal profession. A Juris Doctor (JD) or Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) followed by the bar exam is enough. However, the LL.M. degree is the next step in your Law career if you already have work experience and want to become an expert in one branch of Law.
An LL.M. degree will increase your knowledge and make you stand out in the eyes of the employers, allowing you to charge more for your excellent legal services.