In the US, LLM students and JD students often study together and often both students need to take the LSAT or entrance exams to gain a place, making the distinction between them even more difficult to evaluate. But let’s take a look at the two qualifications and work out the distinctions between the two.
What is an LLM?
An LLM or Master of Laws, is a postgraduate qualification aimed at those who have already studied the law at undergraduate level or who have a substantial amount of experience in working in the law. It is often a way into specialisation for those already working as lawyers to move their careers forward.
What is a JD?
A JD is also a postgraduate qualification and stands for Juris Doctor. It is mainly studied in the United States and is the first step for US-based students to become lawyers.
What are the differences?
Most law schools around the world offer some sort of LLM course, it might be a general LLM or an LLM in a specialist area of the law. A JD is mostly only studied in the United States as part of the process to become a qualified practising lawyer and can be considered equivalent to an LLB in the UK, despite being a postgraduate course. Both LLM courses and JD courses in the US are offered at law schools, with both LLM and JD students usually attending the same lectures and classes.
Who studies them?
In the US, LLM courses are often aimed at foreign-trained lawyers to learn how to practice the law and pass the state Bar exam or those wishing to go on to academic study of the law, like the Harvard University’s LLM course.
LLM courses around the world are for those who have already qualified as lawyers and wish to gain more knowledge in a specialist area, or who wish to move into another area of the law. JD students will have just completed their first undergraduate degree and have not yet passed the Bar exam or qualified as lawyers.
How long do you study?
When students are studying their LLM full time it usually takes one year to complete, or two years on a part-time basis. A JD course is usually a three-year course, and in the US is usually undertaken on a full-time basis.
What do you study?
An LLM is often studied as a chance to focus on the detail and issues in one small area of the law. Students can specialise in lots of different areas including subjects such as Energy Law, Family Law or Intellectual Property Law. JD students will focus more generally on all the areas of the law they need to in order to become qualified lawyers.
Law School Students Enrolled In The United States
Here’s a table illustrating the numbers of law school students enrolled in the United States between 2015 and 2018.