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What Can You Do With A Masters In Law

By David Krug 4 minute read

After graduating from college and law school, you’ve already completed quite a bit of formal post-secondary study. You want to be sure that pursuing a Master of Law degree is worth your time and money before you do so. 

Most attorneys don’t have to choose between a Master of Laws degree and a Juris Doctor (JD) degree, but rather, they must consider if the theory-heavy Master’s degree would enhance their future chances.

According to your goals for your legal profession, this question can be answered.

Difference Between a Master of Laws and a Doctor of Jurisprudence

A Juris Doctor degree was a critical step in becoming a lawyer, and maybe the most critical step. The cornerstone of this education is what qualifies you to practice law and take the bar test.

For those who are currently practicing law, a master’s degree in law holds a specific position in their preparation for the legal profession. Being a lawyer requires more than just a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. 

Instead, they can help you delve deeper into advanced study of the law. If you want to specialize in a particular area of law, you may choose to consider business and commercial law, intellectual property law, cybersecurity law, criminal justice, or civil litigation.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the focus of a Master of Laws degree is more on the theoretical underpinnings of law than the practical skills and knowledge required for professional practice.

Attorneys who are thinking about going back to school for a master’s degree in law or legal studies need to make sure they chose the right program for them.

According to the Law School Admission Council, experienced lawyers should consider a Master of Laws (LLM) program rather than a Juris Master (JM), Master of Science in Laws (MSL), or Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program. 

Legal studies non-LLM master’s programs are multidisciplinary programs designed to provide non-lawyers a basic understanding of the legal system.

Even non-lawyer master’s degrees in legal studies can be finished during a single full-time semester.

How a Master of Law Degree Can Benefit You

A master’s degree in law is not required in most cases. As a lawyer, you may have a successful career in many various disciplines and workplaces without ever feeling like you lost out on something because you didn’t earn a Master of Laws degree.

One exception is if you studied law and became a practicing lawyer outside of the United States and Canada but then wanted to move here. 

The LLM is the most common stage taken by foreign attorneys who wish to practice law in the United States and Canada. As long as you don’t find yourself in this circumstance, you’re free to pursue an LLM on your own terms.

With an LLM degree, you have a better chance of becoming a partner at a big international law firm in the United States and worldwide. 

In other cases, it can serve as a stepping stone to more competitive positions, such as government work, according to U.S. News & World Report.

It may appear that an LLM degree is all about advancing one’s career, but there are many more reasons to get an LLM degree. 

There are a number of academic advantages to earning an LLM, including the ability to do research that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to as a practicing lawyer.

Many LLM students are drawn in by the opportunity to focus on a particular area of study. You may decide to pursue a master’s degree in order to specialize in a new area of law that excites you or to improve your skills in your present area of law. Both options are valid reasons to do so.

The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes.” Is there any consensus on this issue? For example, PayScale reports that persons with an LLM earn an average annual income of $45,000 more than their counterparts who have a JD degree. 

Although the site estimates an average JD pay of $88,000, this is much lower than the median wage of $120,910 recorded by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (BLS).

With an LLM degree, you’ll have a better chance of getting into high-paying senior-level positions, rather than increasing your own earning potential.

You may use a non-lawyer degree like the Master of Legal Studies to progress into high-level positions in a variety of disciplines such as senior contract negotiator, HR manager, business analyst, and compliance director.

David Krug