Difference Between a JD and an LLM

Difference Between a JD and an LLM

Difference Between a JD and an LLM
Saru Niraula

For those interested in a legal career or seeking to deepen their knowledge in law, understanding the differences between a Juris Doctor (JD) and a Master of Laws (LLM) is essential. Both degrees are valuable in law, but they serve distinct purposes. This article aims to clarify the disparities between a JD and an LLM, including their admission requirements, curriculum, focus, and career opportunities.

Juris Doctor (JD)

The Juris Doctor (JD) is a professional degree that is the initial step towards becoming a practising attorney. It is a graduate-level program that provides comprehensive legal education and training. The JD curriculum focuses on developing analytical and critical thinking skills and providing a broad foundation in various areas of law. It is widely recognised in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Master of Laws (LLM)

The Master of Laws (LLM) is a postgraduate degree designed for individuals who have already obtained a JD or an equivalent law degree. It is an advanced program that allows students to specialise in specific areas of law or delve deeper into a particular field of interest. The LLM offers the opportunity to enhance legal knowledge, develop expertise, and engage in advanced legal research.

Admission Requirements

To pursue a Juris Doctor (JD), applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree in any discipline. Some law schools may also require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) as part of the admission process. Admission requirements can vary between law schools and countries.

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For a Master of Laws (LLM), the primary requirement is a prior law degree, such as a JD or an LLB. Some LLM programs may also consider applicants with extensive professional experience in the legal field. Additionally, proficiency in the English language may be required for international students.

Curriculum and Course Duration

A Juris Doctor (JD) program typically spans three years of full-time or equivalent part-time study. The curriculum covers various legal subjects, including constitutional law, criminal law, contract law, and more. Students also have the opportunity to choose elective courses based on their interests or desired specialisation.

On the other hand, a Master of Laws (LLM) program is generally completed in one year of full-time study. The curriculum is specialised and focuses on a particular area of law. Depending on their career goals and interests, students can choose from various LLM programs, such as International Law, Intellectual Property Law, Corporate Law, or Human Rights Law.

Focus and Purpose

The Juris Doctor (JD) degree primarily prepares students for law practice. It provides a comprehensive legal education that equips graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to become licensed attorneys. The JD program emphasises legal analysis, research, and practical training.

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Conversely, the Master of Laws (LLM) degree is more specialised and designed for individuals who wish to deepen their expertise in a specific legal area. It allows students to explore advanced legal topics, research, and better understand their chosen field. The LLM program benefits individuals seeking to specialise or pursue careers in academia, international law, or other specialised legal fields.

Career Opportunities

A Juris Doctor (JD) degree opens up various career opportunities in the legal field. JD graduates can work as attorneys in law firms, corporations, and government agencies or pursue careers in academia, public interest law, or advocacy. They can specialise in criminal, family, corporate, or intellectual property law.

With a Master of Laws (LLM) degree, graduates can further enhance their career prospects. An LLM degree can provide a competitive edge in the job market and open doors to advanced legal positions. LLM graduates often work in specialised roles, such as legal consultants, researchers, or professors. They may also pursue careers in international organisations, governmental institutions or pursue advanced legal research.

Advantages of Pursuing a JD

One advantage of pursuing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree is the comprehensive legal education it offers. JD programs provide a broad foundation in various areas of law, preparing graduates for diverse legal career paths. Additionally, a JD degree is often required to obtain a license to practice law in jurisdictions that follow the JD system.

Advantages of Pursuing an LLM

Pursuing a Master of Laws (LLM) degree offers several advantages. It allows individuals to specialise and develop expertise in a specific legal area. LLM programs often provide networking opportunities and exposure to leading professionals and scholars in the field. Moreover, an LLM degree can enhance career prospects, especially for those interested in specialised legal roles or academic careers.


In summary, the Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Laws (LLM) degrees serve different purposes and cater to distinct career goals. A JD degree suits those aspiring to become practising attorneys, providing a comprehensive legal education. 

Click here to learn about the Difference Between a Juris Doctor (JD) and a Master of Law (LLB)

An LLM degree is designed for individuals seeking advanced legal knowledge, specialisation, or pursuing academic careers. Understanding the differences between these degrees can help individuals make informed decisions regarding their legal education and career paths.


Can I pursue an LLM without a law degree?

Generally, an LLM program requires applicants to have a prior law degree, such as a Juris Doctor (JD) or an LLB. However, some universities may offer specialised LLM programs that accept applicants with relevant professional experience in the legal field.

Can I practice law with an LLM degree?

In most jurisdictions, an LLM degree alone does not qualify individuals to practice law. However, it can enhance career prospects, provide specialised knowledge, and open doors to advanced legal roles or academic careers.

Should I pursue a JD or an LLM to become a practising attorney?

A Juris Doctor (JD) degree is generally the appropriate path if you aspire to become a practising attorney. It provides the legal education and training required for licensure in many jurisdictions.

Can I pursue an LLM after completing a JD?

Many law graduates pursue an LLM degree after completing their JD to gain further specialization in a specific legal field or enhance their career prospects.

What are some popular specialisations in LLM programs?

Popular specialisations in LLM programs include International Law, Intellectual Property Law, Corporate Law, Human Rights Law, Environmental Law, and Tax Law, among others. The availability of specialisations may vary depending on the university and program.


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