A JD costs more than an LL.M., but it opens up career mobility across the US

Many overseas LL.M. students come to the US to practice law in the country on graduation, which usually means taking the bar exam, which each state conducts independently, sometimes with big variations in requirements for candidates.

An LL.M. degree is one of America’s most popular law programs, but it does not necessarily make one eligible to sit for a bar exam in a US state. In fact, only a handful of states accept the LL.M. degree for their bar exams, with many requiring that extra studying is done for the bar, beyond the extensive LL.M. syllabus.

An alternative for overseas students who want to practice in the US is a two-year JD degree, which makes graduates eligible to sit for the bar exam across America.

Katherine Barnes, associate dean in the James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona, explains: “The biggest difference between an LL.M. and a two-year JD degree is that with a JD, individuals are eligible to sit for a bar exam in any US state; with an LL.M., they are limited to only a few jurisdictions (New York, Texas, California, among others).”

If you know where you want to practice, then the LL.M. is the most viable option for you, says Barnes. On the other hand, JD degrees will give you more mobility across states, so they are better for people who don’t know where they plan to settle.

“When deciding which degree program to do, prospective students should really think about their future careers,” Barnes adds. “What state do they see themselves practicing in? Do they see themselves needing to be bar certified at all? Do they just need specialized knowledge for a job they already have?”

The other big difference between the courses is time, she says. “An LL.M. is generally a one-year degree. The second year of a JD allows students to learn a wider breadth of topics, and positions them well for an American bar.”

“JD degrees also greatly expand the job opportunities after graduation within the US,” she adds. “LL.M. […]

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