Master of Law studies for overview of US legal system

By Amelia Gray

The Master of Law degree--also known as Master of Laws--offers graduate training for those who hold a degree in law or a related field. Often, these LL.M. programs are designed for international legal professionals with experience practicing law overseas, who are looking to add U.S. experience to their knowledge base. These programs are generally intended for students hoping to gain connections and leadership training that can come with advanced education, or a specialization in a subject such as intellectual property or financial law.

What is an online Master of Law degree?

From international attorneys to corporate bankers to management consultants, a number of legal professionals may seek training in an LL.M. program. Applicants to some programs need to have earned their first law degree outside the U.S., though some programs do not specify an international requirement. Some programs may require only a Bachelor of Laws among applicants.

At its broadest level, a Master of Law program covers the essentials of the U.S. legal system. Concentrations available in some programs might include financial services, taxation in the U.S. or internationally, wealth management, or bankruptcy. The degree tends to require about one year of full-time study, with students completing a required thesis and other coursework.

Other graduate degrees in legal studies

Some schools have a Master of Comparative Law program offering foreign law students an opportunity to gain familiarity with U.S. law and legal institutions. Coursework for foreign students may overlap with classes for the Juris Doctor program, which educates aspiring law students. Other legal studies degrees include these:

  • A Master of Legal Studies or Master of Science in Legal Studies is typically a non-professional degree for advanced graduate students who need knowledge of the judicial system and legal reasoning.
  • A Master of the Science of Law degree is often designed for business professionals and may offer specializations such as taxation or financial services.
  • A Master of Studies in Law degree usually teaches non-lawyers about the law and the legal process.

Online LL.M. coursework requirements

Online Master of Law degree programs offer students the benefit of flexible training, allowing many to continue building work experience while earning a degree. Though no two LL.M. degree programs are alike, students can look forward to similar coursework, which might include the following basic options:

  1. Constitutional law
  2. International law
  3. Federal taxation
  4. International business transactions
  5. Administrative process and civil rights

Most programs require that students complete a thesis, while some require students to pass at least one course outside the major. A minimum grade point average should be maintained over the course of enrollment. Individual degree programs may have different requirements regarding residency and research.

Careers for Master of Law degree graduates

Graduates of online LL.M. programs can enjoy the benefits of years of education and experience. International students may return to their home countries, taking positions where global experience is useful. Some use existing experience to move into politics or other high-level government positions. Some may remain in the U.S., pass the bar exam and work as lawyers, though this career path is less common. Here are some of the occupations that graduates of LL.M. degree programs may pursue:

  • Lawyers (international)
  • Management analysts
  • Chief executives
  • Politicians
  • Judiciary members

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that U.S. professionals in the occupations mentioned above earned mean salaries from $87,260 up to $173,350 in 2010. While no degree program can guarantee a particular career or salary, education can enhance career options. The targeted one-year training of an LL.M. degree can be applied to public or private industry, government, and other environments.

Notable LL.M. degree graduates

Graduates have gone on to notable careers, in the U.S. and internationally, including high-level police positions; local, state and national government; and private industry. Famous alumni of graduate law programs include the following:

  • Michele Bachmann, Minnesota House of Representatives
  • Senator Judd A. Gregg
  • Peter Guber, Hollywood producer and Former Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Raymond Kelly, New York City Police Commissioner
  • Charles O. Lorensen, Secretary of the Department of Revenue for West Virginia
  • Shari E. Redstone, Vice Chairman of CBS Corporation and Viacom
  • Leonard Wilf, real estate developer
  • Ma Ying-jeou, President of Taiwan

A Master of Law degree can prepare students for careers ranging from law to entertainment to politics. For anyone looking to add to their current education portfolio with targeted legal training--without some of the requirements of a J.D.--the online LL.M. offers a convenient option.

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