The Difference Between an LL.M. and a J.D.

Those interested in studying law or further developing their legal expertise will often explore earning either a Master of Laws (LL.M.) or a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Although the two degrees both focus on the law and its applications across a variety of industries, the career paths one can take after earning them differ greatly.

International lawyers who want to gain an advanced understanding of U.S. law and become a practicing attorney in the U.S. typically pursue an LL.M. such as the online LL.M. in U.S. Law from Washington University School of Law. On the other hand, domestic students will typically pursue a J.D. in order to sit for a state bar exam and become a practicing attorney. To find out which degree is right for you, further explore the differences and similarities between an LL.M. and a J.D.

What is an LL.M.?

An LL.M. is usually completed in one year of full-time study and is ideal for law school graduates and attorneys that need to gain expertise in a specific area of law. International attorneys that need to develop a fundamental understanding of U.S. law, for example, will pursue an LL.M. in U.S. Law to speed up the process of passing a state bar exam and becoming a practicing attorney in the United States.

LL.M. curriculums focus on different legal topics such as tax law, employment law, intellectual property, and international law to help prepare students to advance their career in the field of their choosing.

Skills Gained With an LL.M.

Both domestic and foreign attorneys can gain legal skills that are crucial to the advancement of their career by earning an LL.M. For domestic attorneys, gaining expertise in specialized areas of law can help give them a competitive edge in their industry. For foreign attorneys, developing a strong foundation in U.S. law can help them pass the bar exam and become a practicing attorney in the United States. Some of the skills that students can gain through an LL.M. include:

  • Analyzing laws and regulations in a specific area/field of law
  • Resolving conflict between two parties
  • Conveying complex legal concepts to clients
  • Advocating on behalf of clients

Career Paths With an LL.M.

An LL.M. can open up potential career paths that an attorney can take with the addition of practicing internationally. Career paths with an LL.M. can include:

  • Practicing law in the United States
  • Practicing law in a specialized area (international business, intellectual property, tax, etc.)
  • Consulting for international corporations
  • Working at international firms

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What is a J.D.?

Typically completed over the course of three years of full-time study, a J.D. program requires an LSAT score for admission and is designed specifically to prepare students to pass the bar exam and become a practicing attorney. Students earning their J.D. gain a strong understanding of a wide range of legal topics, such as constitutional law and civil procedure, to aid them in defending clients.

Skills Gained With a J.D.

With a focus on preparing students to become practicing attorneys, J.D. curriculums typically emphasize the importance of fundamental courtroom skills. Students learn how to properly conduct legal research, how to analyze and craft legal documents, and how to represent clients in the public or private sector. Topics that are typically covered include:

  • Civil procedure
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Contracts and property law
  • Legal writing
  • Tort law

Career Paths With a J.D.

Students pursuing their J.D. have a variety of careers in law available to them upon completing the program and passing the bar exam. Practicing lawyers within the private or public sector can pursue careers including:

  • Patent attorney
  • Compliance attorney
  • Immigration attorney
  • Real estate lawyer
  • Legal consultant
  • Lobbyist

Explore the LL.M. in U.S. Law From Washington University

If you want to develop specialized legal knowledge or pursue an international legal career, request more information about the online Master of Laws in U.S. Law today.