The 2021 Guide to Online Master of Laws Programs (LLM)

One option for educational advancement for lawyers is a Master of Laws (LLM) degree. Online master’s in laws programs enable lawyers to study a legal specialty on their own schedule, from their own device.

Getting an online LLM degree may help lawyers move into a specialized field or expand their knowledge in a particular area, which could help them be more effective at work. Online Master of Laws programs are available in a variety of subjects. Whether a lawyer wants to grow their career in their current practice specialty or pursue work in a new area, there are LLM online programs that can help them gain expertise.

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What is a Master’s in Law Degree?

A master’s in law degree is designed for lawyers who have passed the bar exam and who want to study specialized courses or learn more about a particular law subject. An LLM degree can also help prepare international students who want to take the bar exam and practice law in the United States.

Some LLM programs allow students to customize their curriculum based on their career goals. Others have specific concentrations, such as:

  • Banking and finance law
  • Business law
  • Dispute resolution
  • Estate planning
  • Health law
  • Immigration law
  • Indigenous peoples law and policy
  • International law
  • Securities and financial regulation
  • Tax law

An online Master of Laws program typically takes full-time students around one year to complete 20 to 26 credits.

Master of Laws vs. J.D.

Beyond a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, there are other ways lawyers can advance their careers. An online master’s in laws program is for lawyers who have already passed the bar exam. Before lawyers can sit for the bar exam, they must get their J.D. degree.

A J.D. degree is a post-secondary law degree. It designates competence to practice law in the U.S. J.D. programs must meet American Bar Association (ABA) standards upheld by the Council and Accreditation Committee of the Section of Legal and Admissions to the Bar.

In a J.D. program, students will learn how the American legal system works. Concepts covered in a J.D. program include:

  • Civil procedures
  • Constitutional law
  • Contracts
  • Criminal law
  • Legal practices and methods
  • Torts

J.D. law school programs typically take full-time students three years to complete and part-time students about five years. During law school, students may be required to do pro bono work, which is legal work for the public good that is typically unpaid.

Master of Laws vs. Master of Legal Studies

While LLM online programs require that students have a J.D., Master of Legal Studies (MLS) programs are typically open to students from a variety of backgrounds, as long as they have at least a bachelor’s degree. MLS degree programs help students improve their understanding of legal matters like laws and regulations that may pertain to their line of work.

Often, subject matter in an MLS degree program will be similar but less in-depth compared to a J.D. program. Students learn about topics such as:

  • American common law
  • Civil litigation
  • Criminal procedures
  • International law
  • Legal writing

Students might be interested in MLS programs if they frequently work with lawyers and contracts. They might also want to increase their legal knowledge because they work in industries that are heavily regulated, like manufacturing or transportation. Or, they may work in roles that deal frequently with legal matters, like human resources.

MLS students may be able to choose a concentration that relates to their current job or the job they want to apply for. MLS concentrations may include:

  • Business
  • Conflict resolution
  • Construction law
  • Health care compliance
  • HR and employment law
  • Law and sustainability
  • Technology

Earning a master’s degree like an MLS may lead to career advancement. The 2019 median usual weekly earnings for those with a master’s degree was $249 more than for those with a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For professionals who want to advance their careers, an MLS can give them expanded legal knowledge that enables them to apply for new positions or gain more responsibility in their current roles.

MLS programs typically take full-time students one to two years to complete 24 to 40 credits.

Who is Eligible to Obtain an LLM?

If you are a U.S.-based law student, the Law School Admission Council reports you’ll need a J.D. to pursue an LLM.

For international students, LLM programs may require a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree or equivalent. An LLB degree originates outside the United States and Canada and enables a person to become a lawyer.

Can You Earn an LLM Degree Online?

Yes, there are more than 130 online LLM programs based in the U.S. There are both part-time and full-time programs available from schools all over the country.

With an online program, you won’t necessarily have to relocate to attend school. You can look into LLM online programs to find the program and school that appeals to you, then complete coursework from wherever you are.

Accredited Online Law Master’s Programs

Lawyers studying for an LLM degree likely seek reputable programs to ensure they get value from their degree. The ABA does not formally accredit non-J.D. programs, but it does offer a process of acquiescence. This means the ABA has no objection to the program.

The ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools states that ABA-approved law schools may not establish degree programs other than J.D. degree programs unless the school is already fully approved and the additional degree doesn’t detract from the school’s ability to maintain a sound J.D. program. Before starting an LLM program, a law school must obtain acquiescence from the ABA.

It helps to make sure that any LLM program you’re applying to has obtained acquiescence from the ABA, which ensures the legitimacy of the law school and the LLM program.

Online Master of Laws Programs Admissions Requirements

To apply for an online LLM, you’ll need a J.D. degree or equivalent, based on what the program accepts. Typically, you’ll also need to submit:

  • Resume
  • Personal statement
  • Law school transcripts
  • Writing sample
  • Letters of recommendation

International students may also need to submit TOEFL scores. LSAT scores are usually not required.

Most LLM schools will require that students are licensed to practice law. Having legal experience is also an advantage when applying for LLM programs.

Online Master’s in Law Programs with no GRE Required

One benefit to online LLM programs is that this type of master’s degree typically doesn’t require a GRE exam. Whatever online LLM programs you’re interested in, you usually won’t have to worry about taking this test to apply.

Master of Laws Online Program Curriculum

The LLM online program curriculum will be shaped by the focus of the degree. While some programs will allow you to customize the curriculum based on the courses you want to take, other programs will be focused on the concentration.

Typical general courses to expect in an LLM degree might include Legal Research and Introduction to the U.S. Legal System. Additional classes you might find in LLM online programs include:

  • Business Organizations
  • Business Principles in Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contemporary Issues in Human Resource Compliance
  • Contract Drafting and Strategy
  • Corporate Governance
  • Employment Discrimination Law
  • Employment Dispute Mediation
  • Entertainment Law and Industry
  • Financial Institution Regulation
  • Global Regulatory Compliance
  • Health Care Compliance
  • Health Care Law, Business and Finance
  • Health Law and Policy
  • Human Resource Compliance
  • Intellectual Property: Copyright
  • Intellectual Property: Trademark
  • Introduction to Litigation in U.S. Courts
  • Introduction to the U.S. Legal System
  • Legal Profession
  • Legal Research
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Patient Privacy Law
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Securities Regulation
  • Topics in American Law

There is a wide variety of subject matter you can study in an online LLM program. From entertainment law to human resources to health care, an LLM degree is a way to gain advanced knowledge of specific subjects like these.

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Law Degree?

A master’s in law degree may help lawyers grow their careers. For corporate lawyers, the advanced knowledge they gain can give them specialized information about their industry. An LLM degree can also help corporate lawyers switch industries. Some lawyers use an LLM degree to forge new careers in areas like politics or finance or to work with a new population of clients.

Lawyers who are interested in specializing in a new practice area or in moving to a new firm may benefit from an LLM degree. Some lawyers use an LLM degree to expand a practice they own or start their own firm. Others may pursue careers as judges.

Master of Laws Salary and Career Outlook

A Master of Laws salary and career outlook will vary depending on the position pursued. For lawyers, the BLS reports the 2019 median annual pay was $122,960. The highest-paid 10% earned more than $208,000.

Industry can also affect wages. The 2019 median annual wage for lawyers working in federal government was $144,300, and it was $123,620 for lawyers working in legal services.

From 2018 to 2028, there will be 50,100 new jobs for lawyers, the BLS projects, which is a 6% growth rate—about average for all jobs.

The median annual pay for judges and hearing officers was $120,090 in 2019, with the highest-paid 10% earning more than $172,010. The BLS expects job growth of 3% for these positions, about 1,200 new jobs by 2028.

Why Pursue an Online LLM Degree Program?

If you’re a lawyer, there are many potential benefits to expanding your education with an online LLM degree program.

  1. You want to prepare for the bar exam. If you’re an international student and haven’t taken the bar exam, an LLM degree can help prepare you for the test.
  2. You boost your expertise. You can apply what you learn in an LLM program to your current position if it’s related and do your job more efficiently. You may be able to contribute more to your organization in an expanded role. An LLM degree is a resume booster if you’re looking to move into a different field or find a job with a new firm or company.
  3. You add to your credentials. Gaining more prominent titles, whether it’s “judge” or “chief legal officer,” typically requires an educational background to back up the title. For example, the BLS reports most top executives have a master’s degree or law degree. If you feel stagnant in your career, an LLM may help you advance.
  4. You boost your earning power. Whenever you can add to your skill set and education, there are increased opportunities for job possibilities and upward mobility in the workplace.
  5. You can make your career more meaningful. An LLM may help those who aren’t engaged in their current role move into a more fulfilling field. The networking opportunities forged at school can also lead to job interviews and recommendations.

For lawyers who want to earn more, get a different job title and/or contribute more to their current firm or organization, an LLM teaches specialized skills that can help achieve these goals.

Online LLM Programs to Consider

Online LLM Programs to Consider
School Description Specialties
Washington University in St. Louis School of Law (sponsored) This program teaches legal expertise across public, private and nonprofit sectors.
  • General
  • Tax Law
Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law (sponsored) This online LLM in Dispute Resolution program empowers lawyers around the globe to solve pressing conflicts.
  • Dispute Resolution
Northeastern University This program allows you to specialize in a number of different areas of law or just prepare for the bar exam.
  • Intellectual Property and Technology Law
  • International Business Law
  • Bar Examination Preparation.
Southwestern Law School You can pursue an LLM in Entertainment and Media Law online from this school, focused in creative industries like film, television and sports.
  • Entertainment and Media Law
Texas A&M University School of Law The Wealth Management LLM teaches students how to specialize in advising and managing assets for wealthy clients.
  • Wealth Management
Thomas Jefferson School of Law Students in the online LLM program can choose from a number of concentrations.
  • Financial Compliance
  • Taxation of Financial Services
  • Wealth Management.
University of Arkansas In this LLM in Agricultural and Food Law program, students learn about laws applying to production, marketing and sale of food.
  • Agricultural and Food Law
University of Illinois Chicago John Marshall Law School The LLM in estate planning is designed for students who want to specialize in this field.
  • Estate Planning
University of Miami School of Law The LLM Real Property Development program is for students interested in legal aspects of real property development.
  • Property Development
University of Southern California Gould School of Law Build your own curriculum with two required classes and electives for the rest of the courses.
  • Varies

Advance a Law Career with an Online LLM

Online LLM programs can help lawyers study an advanced specialty from the convenience of wherever they are, without having to relocate. An online LLM degree gives lawyers expanded knowledge on particular law subjects, so they can grow an existing career or move into a new field. With dozens of programs to choose from, lawyers can find a program that covers the subjects they’re interested in.

Last Updated July 2020