The Master of Laws degree is the second level law degree a person earns, after a Juris doctor. This degree is earned by completing a full time program for one year. Typically, a legal professional or law student will pursue the master of laws degree in order to gain expertise in a specific area of the law, for example in international law, business law, tax law or family law. The majority of law firms prefers candidates that have masters of law degree because it shows that the lawyer 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 who wish to gain global credentials and for JD graduates who desire advanced legal study.
The majority of countries do not require lawyers to have an LL.M. degree and many individuals choose not to pursue this degree as the master of laws degree by itself does not usually qualify a graduate to practice law. A student must first obtain a Juris Doctor to practice law in the United States or a Bachelor of Laws degree to practice law in the United Kingdom. Other countries require that a bar examination be passed.
The general curriculum of the Bachelor of Law degree, Juris Doctor, and other law degrees required in other countries gives students the basic knowledge and skills necessary to practice law in the country, the law student that wants to specialize in a particular legal area can take continuing studies in that area in a master of laws program.
The requirements for graduating with a masters of law degree will vary depending on the program and the university guidelines that are in place. There are some LL.M. 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 obtain their degree. There are some schools that offer part time LL.M. programs that a student can complete while they are employed full time.
The classes that a person takes for a Masters of Law degree program will depend on the type of LL.M. that is being pursued. There are core classes in the particular area of the law that must be completed. Some of the classes that a masters of law student may take include corporate tax problems, estate planning, intellectual property law, local taxation, state taxation, and bankruptcy.
Students that are interested in earning a LL.M. should know that there is not a universal definition for a masters of law degree. This term is used by institutions around the world in a variety of ways. Many of the masters of law programs that are offered in the United States have been designed with foreign lawyers in mind as the programs teach these lawyers the basic principles of the laws of the host country.
For individuals that are seeking to relocate their legal practice to another country, the masters of law degree offers the best way to expand the law firm to deal with multinational issues. However, completing a LL.M. does not qualify a foreign student to automatically be eligible for the bar examination in a host country. For example, in the United States there are some states that allow a foreign lawyer to sit for a bar examination after completing the masters of law degree and in other states the person must complete a juris doctor program.