If you want to practice law in the United States, you will—in most cases—need a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. This degree is considered to be a first degree in law.
The LLM degree is an advanced law certification that has global credibility. A first degree in law is generally required.
Other law degree and certificate programs have varying requirements. Some of these programs require a graduate-level law degree for admission. Others may only require a bachelor's degree.
The JD degree is considered the first degree in law in the United States and is offered by American Bar Association (ABA)-approved law schools, by law schools that are not ABA-approved, and by many Canadian law schools. The LSAT is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. A bachelor’s degree is required for admission, and most programs are three-year, full-time programs.
Most LLM degree programs require a first degree in law and are typically one-year courses of full-time study or two years of part-time study. The LLM curriculum varies depending on the program. Many programs provide a broad curriculum in American law, the US or Canadian legal system, international law, and comparative law. Others provide more specialized courses in subfields such as taxation, intellectual property, human rights law, or international environmental law. Some programs incorporate required courses; some do not.
Note that the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is not required for admission to LLM programs in the United States.
Other Law Degrees and Certificates
There are many other types of law programs available with varying admission requirements and varying lengths of study.
- Doctor of Science of Law (JSD or SJD) – a research doctoral degree intended for legal scientists, legal education, and other scholars of law.
- Master of Legal Studies (MLS) or Master of Science in Law (MSL) – a master's degree offering graduate study in legal topics and law to individuals who are not seeking to become practicing attorneys.
- Legal Certificate Programs – courses of study that can be as general as offering basic legal knowledge and skills in advocacy or more specific by offering in-depth exploration in a singular area of interest.
At the minimum, a bachelor's degree is required for these types of programs, but you should always check with prospective law schools for their specific admission and application requirements.