Difference Between a Master of Law & a Juris Doctorate Degree

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In the study of law, the U.S. education system is a standout compared to much of the European model and other countries. This difference is noticed in how law degrees are awarded. Under the American Bar Association standards, the U.S. degree is known as Juris Doctor. In other countries, the same degree is referred to as a Bachelor of Laws or as an L.L.B. For higher level legal study that is specific to a given law topic, the Master of Laws becomes the degree to attain, also known as the L.L.M.

The Juris Doctor

  • The Juris Doctor or J.D. is the American standard of legal education as defined by the ABA. This degree generally requires a three-year legal education from an accredited law school with specific course requirements being met. The degree also provides a standard criteria by which state legal bars can screen applicants wishing to be licensed in the given state to practice law. Due to the commonality of criteria in ABA-approved schools, graduates can also practice law in all 50 states and are not restricted to just the state the school resides in.

The Master of Laws

  • The Juris Doctor or J.D. is the American standard of legal education as defined by the ABA. This degree generally requires a three year legal education from an accredited law school with specific course requirements being met. The degree also provides a standard criteria by which state legal bars can screen applicants wishing to be licensed in the given state to practice law. Due to the commonality of criteria in ABA-approved schools, graduates can also practice law in all 50 states and are not restricted to just the state the school resides in.

Types of Master of Laws

  • Two types of L.L.M. degree programs exist. The most commonly known, as referenced above, is advancement in a particular legal subject. The second course is specific to foreign students studying in the U.S. and is typically not used by U.S. law students. Many of the courses in this second category provide the same education as specific topics within the J.D. program, but upon graduation the foreign student is not eligible to automatically take a state’s bar exam.

    Foreign L.L.M. programs attract students in their respective countries when such persons hope to practice in the U.S. However, this simply gives the student an education basis. Many states still require a J.D. or equivalent before admission to take the bar exam for a lawyer license.

Purpose and Role

  • American standards on bar admission criteria have been longstanding and were first established back in 1878. In modern times, the ABA sets the operational criteria used by accredited law schools nationwide. Passing such a program sets a mark of educational quality and places such graduates above law schools who do not follow the same accreditation. While J.D. program generally last three academic years worth of courses, an L.L.M. course is not limited to just one year of training. Schools can tailor L.L.M. courses as they see fit. However, the school must be an ABA-accredited law school to teach an accepted L.L.M program.

    Most students intent on being practicing lawyers stick with the J.D. degree only. This is the fastest track to getting into the practice of law in educational terms. The L.L.M. degree for U.S. students is geared and marketed more for those students with aspirations of going to academia and university legal research fields.

References

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