Top 5 Reasons Lawyers Earn an LL.M.

There are many reasons why lawyers decide to earn a Master of Laws degree (LL.M.). These reasons include everything from wanting to gain experience with the U.S. legal system to increasing knowledge in a legal specialty, such as taxation.

To help you better understand the main benefits behind earning an LL.M., we’ve outlined a few of the top reasons below:

Reason 1: Focus in a Specific Area of Law
While pursuing a J.D. or LL.B., students are given the opportunity to explore the practice of law as a whole. The curriculum for a first degree in law is broad and includes exposure to many substantive areas. It can be challenging, or impossible, to develop a specialty in any particular area. Once a student has earned an LL.B. or J.D., an LL.M. provides them with the unique opportunity to study a specific area of law or legal system including Taxation, Intellectual Property and Environmental Law (among others). This will allow them to begin to build expertise in a specific area.

Reason 2: Gain Knowledge of Legal Systems in Other Countries
Understanding other legal systems can be a valuable asset for a lawyer looking to practice law in another country or across international borders. As a result, there are a number of LL.M. programs that are dedicated to exposing lawyers to other legal systems. For example:

  • An LL.M. in U.S. Law allows lawyers who were trained outside the U.S. to obtain in depth knowledge of the U.S. legal system.
  • An LL.M. in International Law allows U.S. lawyers to gain knowledge and exposure to the body of law that governs nations and entities from different countries interacting with each other.

Using the knowledge they gain in their LL.M. program, lawyers are able to develop exciting and challenging careers across international borders.

Reason 3: Sit for a U.S. Bar Exam
Some states in the U.S. allow lawyers trained in other countries to take their bar exam after earning an LL.M. As a result, an LL.M. is a wonderful opportunity for foreign-trained lawyers to pursue a career in the U.S. Because lawyer licensing is handled on a state-by-state basis, foreign-trained, or international lawyers, who are interested in practicing law in the U.S. should carefully research the LL.M. program they are interested in and contact the state licensing agency to determine whether or not it will qualify them to take the bar exam in their desired state.

Reason 4: Transition into a New Practice Area
Many lawyers decide to pursue an LL.M. in an attempt to transition from one practice area to another. Without experience, many lawyers find it extremely difficult to move from one field to another, as jobs in the increasingly tight legal market often demand years of experience for a lawyer to be considered for an open position.

An LL.M. however, can often serve as a substitute for some experience requirements. For example, a lawyer who initially practiced personal injury law out of school but would like to travel more and work for an international law firm may find that an LL.M. in International Law will provide the education he needs to make the jump to a new firm.

Reason 5: Conduct Research and Get Published
LL.M. programs offer a unique opportunity for academically minded lawyers who wish to pursue legal research and publication. Many LL.M. programs require thesis projects or provide the support for interested lawyers to conduct in-depth research in nuanced areas of law. This support can be a great starting point for a career in legal academia.

Regardless of why they are pursued, LL.M.s can open doors and create new opportunities for professional success. We encourage you to keep researching and select the LL.M. program that helps you meet your goals. For more information on the LL.M. programs offered at Washington University School of Law visit our LL.M. and Graduate Programs page.