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Your LL.M. Guide From Cardozo Law

November 24, 2020
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What is an LL.M. degree and why is it an important credential for lawyers? An LL.M. is a very common degree for those who are already practicing law, but there is often confusion over who earns it, why you would pursue it, and how you can find the right program for your career.

Earning your LL.M. is an important decision, whether it has been a few years or a few decades since earning your J.D., LLB, or initial law degree. While an LL.M. is a great way to make a career change or hone in on a specialty, both the costs in finances and time need to be considered. At Cardozo, we know how challenging—and even overwhelming—it can feel when going back to school, so we’ve created an LL.M. guide to help you navigate this decision-making process.

What is an LL.M. degree?

LL.M. is an abbreviation for Legum Magister or Master of Laws.1 It’s a degree earned after you have completed your J.D. or your first law degree if you are an international student. An LL.M. is what’s known as a terminal degree, meaning it is the highest level or most advanced degree in the study of law.

Building from the legal fundamentals you have learned from your education and work experience, it is designed to give you a stronger foundation in the law and to challenge you to see its practice differently. General studies LL.M. are offered at many universities, or lawyers who want to focus a certain field of law can choose to specialize in practices as diverse as criminal law, dispute resolution and advocacy, as well as intellectual property law.

Often international lawyers who want to practice in the United States pursue this degree program. In addition to giving these students a thorough understanding of how U.S. law works, an LL.M. can allow them to sit for the bar exam.

How can an LL.M. impact my career?

An LL.M. can be what sets you apart. If you choose a program with a specialization, you will be able to gain the insights to present yourself as an expert in a specific practice. To firms and clients, it reads not only as a signifier of your commitment to the law but also a commitment to your career as a lawyer.

An LL.M. can also help broaden your professional network. You will be able to build strong relationships with both your classmates and instructors (and potentially their connections as well). After graduation, you will be able to tap into your institution’s alumni network and take advantage of dedicated career resources for graduates. When choosing an LL.M. program, be sure to research networking opportunities and career resources available to you.

How should I decide on LL.M. program?

There is actually a great deal to research before choosing an LL.M. First, identify why you want to earn an LL.M. and see if a program can help you meet those goals. Will the program help you move into a new region or marketplace? Do the faculty have the professional backgrounds and experience that would be helpful for your career? What does the coursework cover?

It is also important to decide what type of program fits within your personal life. Decide if a full-time or part-time course load would work better for you. Consider how much time you might spend commuting after work or whether the flexibility of online might be a better first for your work-life balance.

Depending on where you live, cost can also be a concern. If you decide to pursue a degree in a different region, you will need to figure in relocation costs and possibly a higher cost of living.

How do I apply?

When you do find the LL.M. program that fits your needs, it is important to carefully read through and understand the admissions process. That includes making sure you meet the experience requirements and pull together the necessary documents.

One of the first documents you should begin working on is the letter of recommendation. Some programs have requirements for who they want to hear from, but often it is a supervisor or a past professor. However, it is critical to identify and reach out to this person early in the application process. Other documents include the application form itself and a personal statement. Also note that if you have been practicing law for a number of years, your CV or law resume might not be up-to-date enough to reflect the full scope of the work you’ve accomplished.

During the application process, be sure to keep an eye out for financial aid, grants, and tuition reimbursement opportunities from the university, your firm or organization, or another group.

Ready to take the first step?

Using an LL.M. guide can help you as you decide when and where to earn your degree. It is critical to consider both the quality of the program as well as its ability to fit into your schedule.

At Cardozo School of Law, our online LL.M. in Intellectual Property is designed for working professionals who are ready to deepen their understanding of an exciting and in-demand field of law. Learn how earning a degree from the No. 13 IP law program in the country 2 can impact your career and how to start your application today.

  1. Retrieved on November 2, 2020, from indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/llm-vs-jd
  2. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from premium.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/yeshiva-university-03103