Do You Really Need an LLM to Practice Law in the US? Field Professionals Say Yes
When you’re looking for a job in law in California or say, Vermont, completing a legal apprenticeship is usually a sole requirement. In the rest of the US, however, the same position would require not one, but two law degrees - Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Laws (LLM).
Although a Master of Laws degree helps advance an individual’s career by obtaining an expertise in one specific area, most law students in the US decide not to invest their time, money, and intellectual resources into LLM programs. The majority simply stays at the JD level.
But do you actually need an LLM to (successfully) practice law in the US?
Law professors, practicing attornies, and LLM alumni say yes.
Employability-wise, an LLM is usually an optional degree, so why pursue it all? Apart from the fact that LLM programs offer a much broader range of theoretical legal knowledge, an LLM degree can also help new attorneys attract clients in fields where this credential is highly valued.
Getting a job in environmental law or in high-level government positions is, for instance, virtually impossible without an LLM. Because certain areas of law require a much deeper understanding of their theoretical notions, the employers from these areas usually demand an LLM degree.
Perhaps the largest advantage of an LLM degree is that it enables law students to focus on a single area. And, in legal practice, where only the best attorneys succeed, being specialized in a certain field means being an expert with unparalleled, applicable knowledge.
When it comes to employment, such level of expertise always tops basic or general legal skills.