A Juris Doctor (JD) is a foundational and terminal law degree program that is typically a prerequisite for a Master of Laws (LLM) degree program. JD degree programs are usually broader in their legal scope, while LLM degree programs are highly specialized. Compare and contrast other details of the two programs below.
Comparing a Juris Doctor to a Master of Laws
JD degree programs are law programs that prepare students to sit for the bar exam and cover a wide range of legal topics. These degree programs are usually 2 to 4 years long and are available on campus and online. Some JD programs may offer various areas of interest, such as general practice, criminal law, intellectual property law, public law, tax law, tribal law, constitutional law and more. Many also offer certificate programs, like an Advocacy Certificate, Elder Law Certificate, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Certificate and more, that students can earn in addition to their degree. Students in JD programs conduct a lot of legal research and are required to do a lot of writing as they take courses in topics like contracts, criminal law, civil procedure, legal analysis, property and more. Most graduates of a JD program take their state's bar exam and work as a licensed attorney, but may also work in other legal professions.
Master of Laws
LLM degree programs are specialized degree programs that are usually only 1 year in length. Some of these degree programs may offer a course-only or thesis track, while others may require students to complete an extensive writing project prior to graduation. Students are typically able to choose their own coursework in a specific topic that aligns with their career goals and may take some of these courses and seminars with upper-level JD students. LLM students still have to take courses that are heavy in legal research, writing and analysis, but may take specific courses like 'Common Law Contracts for Civil Lawyers', 'Labor Law', 'Gaming Law' and more. Graduates of an LLM degree program may also go on to work as lawyers in a specific area of law, but may also pursue careers as law professors, judges, government officials, diplomats and more.
Common Entrance Requirements
It is common for both JD and LLM degree programs to require students to submit their official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and/or a resume or CV with their application to the program. JD degree programs usually expect students to hold a bachelor's degree and may have a minimum GPA requirement of a 3.0 or higher. These degree programs also usually request students to submit their LSAT scores. As mentioned, LLM degree programs require applicants to hold a JD, but usually do not require LSAT scores. LLM degree programs may also expect applicants to have a few years of work experience beyond law school.
Some of the main differences between a JD and LLM degree are that a JD degree program is longer in length and broader in scope, while an LLM degree program is shorter, more specific and requires students to have a JD. Both degree programs are usually competitive and prepare students for legal careers.