LL.M. degrees are on the rise. The number conferred by ABA-approved law schools increased by 65% from 1999 to 2009, according to The National Law Journal. However, it is unclear how beneficial these advanced degrees truly are.
At this time, there is no specific data on LL.M. grads and the employment benefits of individual programs. Many law grads turn to these programs as a way to boost their resumes, especially after graduating from a lower-ranked school. Plus, with the tough job market, an advanced degree affords them an extra year to find a job and make them more hirable in the process.
Yet, do those with LL.M.s stand out from the pack when it comes to hiring decisions? In most cases, no. Tax LL.M.s are advantageous, as is hiring foreign attorneys with LL.M.s for overseas offices. Other than that, there is no indication that a master of laws will facilitate your job search. If you’re seeking a specialized practice, then a very specific LL.M. program might be profitable, but not necessarily for a job at a major firm.
Nevertheless, the ABA lists 295 LL.M. programs, not to mention new programs at NYU School of Law, Duke Law School, and Penn State Dickinson School of Law. At Fordham, the number of students pursuing LL.M.s has more then doubled in the last five years. And some schools are even trying distance learning, such as Boston University School of Law, Southwestern Law School, and Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Offering these programs brings in more tuition dollars without compromising their U.S. News & World Report rankings and ABA accreditation.
So is an LL.M. worthwhile? The jury’s still out on this one, but as with a J.D., think it through before jumping in.
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