We all know what a law degree is, but the Master of Laws degree is a little less commonly known. However, an LLM degree can be a major benefit to American lawyers who want specialized credentials; to international lawyers who want a grounding in American law; and for non-lawyers who need specialized legal knowledge for their careers. Employment in the American legal system has become more competitive than ever, with law school graduates vying for jobs and international business bringing lawyers from all over the world. A Master of Laws degree is a great way to set yourself apart.
Of course, working lawyers are some of the busiest people in the world, and giving up a growing career to go back to school isn’t an option for most young and early-career lawyers. That’s why online Master of Laws programs are becoming more and more common. It’s not just from fly-by-night law schools either; some of the best law schools in the US are offering online LLM programs today. To point prospective students to the right program, Online Paralegal Programs has ranked the Top 25 Online LLM Degree Programs for 2019.
Note: For non-lawyers who want to add legal knowledge to their current careers, a Master of Legal Studies is the right choice.
How We Ranked the Best Online LLM Programs in the USA
OPP editors are most concerned with helping students find the best value and the best return on investment for their pains, so the OPP ranking of the best online Master of Laws programs ranks programs based on three factors directly related to career success: Cost, Graduate Salary, and Reputation, with data from IPEDS, College Scorecard, and Niche.
1. Washington University at St. Louis
Washington University at St. Louis offers an LLM degree with specialties in US Law or Taxation. This program is unique primarily because of the taxation focus. Nearly every LLM program has a specialization in US law. In fact, this is the only track that many LLM programs offer. WUSTL taxation focus for its online Master of Laws degree makes it one of the best online LLM programs for lawyers that want to open a tax law practice.
WUSTL is one of the most prestigious universities in the country. It is ranked in the top 20 in many different rankings from major media outlets. The faculty are among the most accomplished of any university, especially in the Law School.
Degree: LLM – US Law or Taxation
2. Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University has a fully online LLM program with concentrations in Wealth Management or Risk Management. Both of these concentrations are rarely offered in LLM programs at other universities, making TAMU’s program stand out from the rest. Wealth management and risk management are both growing areas of law, and lawyers looking for online LLM programs in these areas should consider the online Master of Laws program at TAMU.
TAMU is known for its extensive and passionate alumni network. “Aggies,” as students and alumni are called, are known for helping each other out with various career opportunities. Prospective students in Texas especially could benefit from the many Aggies that have gone into the state’s legal industry.
Degree: LLM – Wealth Management or Risk Management
3. Villanova University
Villanova University has an Internet-based LLM degree program with a focus on Taxation. Villanova is one of only a couple of LLM programs in Pennsylvania to have a tax law focus, and one of few online programs in general to have this concentration (several of which are featured on this list). Tax law is a lucrative area of the law with many employment opportunities. Villanova is one of the best online LLM programs for prospective tax lawyers, making its online Master of Laws degree very valuable to those planning to enter this area of practice.
Villanova is known for having a relatively large endowment, meaning the university receives quite a few generous donations on a regular basis, including many gifts from alumni. These funds are often used for various scholarships, fellowships and grants, ensuring that students have access to many financial aid options. This may allow students to get their degrees at less expense than they could at other prestigious private universities.
Degree: LLM – Taxation
4. Northeastern University
Northeastern University has an LLM degree that can be completed over the Internet. The program at Northeastern is unique because it has a dual focus on American law and on international law, while most LLM degree programs concentrate only on American law. This makes the Northeastern online Master of Laws program perfect for lawyers who want to work in the area of international law after they graduate from Northeastern or another of the leading online LLM programs.
Northeastern is known for its focus on experiential learning, which allows students to get practical experience and classroom instruction. Students that learn more effectively by doing something themselves may find Northeastern a good choice, no matter which program they are interested in. Also, many employers prefer students who have more practical, hands-on experience.
5. Georgetown University
Georgetown University’s prestigious law school offers an online LLM program. This program offers a unique focus on financial securities that is offered by only a few other law schools. This is a prestigious and exceptionally lucrative area of law, making Georgetown’s online Master of Laws program one of the foremost online LLM programs for lawyers who want to go into this field.
Georgetown University is known throughout the country for having one of the best law schools in America. Georgetown was founded in 1789, making it one of the oldest universities in the country, and its deep connections to the power centers of Washington DC make it one of the best locations for prospective lawyers and leaders. It is constantly ranked at or near the top in this area. Employers in the legal industry will certainly recognize a degree from Georgetown as a mark of distinction.
6. Michigan State University
Michigan State University has a unique LLM program with a concentration in Global Food Law. Michigan State and the University of Arkansas (also on this list) are two of the few online LLM degrees that offer this focus. Lawyers that want to go into the growing niche area of global food law may want to pick Michigan State out of this ranking of online LLM programs.
Michigan State was originally a small agricultural university and has now grown to be one of the largest universities in the country, known as one of the best and most prestigious public universities in the nation. Students can get a high-quality education at public university tuition rates. This is especially important for graduate students, as graduate tuition at a private university can be prohibitively expensive.
Degree: LLM – Global Food Law
7. University of Nebraska
The University of Nebraska offers an online LLM program characterized by a very unique specialization that is the only program of its kind in the country. Nebraska offers an LLM degree with a concentration in Space, Cyber and Telecommunications law. Lawyers that want to go into this emerging area of practice should consider the online Master of Laws program at Nebraska, the only school out of many online LLM programs to offer this concentration.
Nebraska is known for its reasonably priced tuition, even by the standards of public universities. Post-graduate education in law, for example, can be extremely expensive. However, Nebraska offers students in such fields to complete their education in-person or online at reasonable tuition rates.
8. University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas’s law school has an Internet-based LLM degree program. This LLM degree can be completed with a unique Agricultural and Food Law specialization. The University of Arkansas is one of only a few online LLM programs to offer this concentration. This makes it one of the best online Master of Laws for students looking at online LLM programs.
Arkansas is known for offering a number of innovative programs in a large selection of fields of study. Employers in many different fields recognize this and make a point of looking for Arkansas grads. This is especially true of employers in Arkansas and the surrounding states.
Degree: LLM – Agricultural and Food Law
9. George Mason University
George Mason University offers an online LLM with a concentration in Global Antitrust Law & Economics from one of the country’s leading law schools. While many LLM programs offer specializations in American antitrust law and economics, few schools offer this specialization with an international focus. This makes the online Master of Laws Program at George Mason one of the best online LLM programs for students who want to go into the field of global anti-trust law.
George Mason University is one of the most prestigious public universities in the region. It is especially known for its economics programs. In fact, two alumni of George Mason have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. The namesake of George Mason University authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was the basis for the U.S. Bill of Rights.
Degree: LLM in Global Antitrust Law & Economics
10. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California offers an LLM degree that can be completed fully online or at the USC campus in Los Angeles. Most students complete this program fully online, as it is aimed at international attorneys who wish to work in U.S. law. It is one of the few online LLM programs of its type, making it perfect for lawyers from outside the U.S. who are looking for relevant online LLM programs.
The USC is known for having very generous alumni. These alumni fund many different scholarships, including many that are designed for international students. USC has one of the best financial aid programs of any private university, making it an attractive destination for students who want a high-quality education at public university prices.
11. University of Alabama
The University of Alabama has an LLM degree with a focus on Taxation or Business Transactions that can be completed totally online. This is another program with a unique concentration – Business Transactions. This is a highly lucrative area of corporate law, which is in and of itself the best-paid area of legal practice. Breaking into corporate law can actually be quite difficult due to the high level of competition. An online Master of Laws degree from the University of Arkansas is one of the few online LLM programs that may help lawyers break into corporate law.
The University of Alabama is one of the leading universities in the state, along with Auburn. In fact, it is considered to be one of the leading public universities in the South. Legal students who want to get a quality education and still save money may want to consider attending the University of Alabama for their LLM degrees.
Degree: LLM – Taxation or Business Transactions
12. University of Miami
The University of Miami offers an online LLM with specializations in Real Estate/Property Development or Cross-Border Transactions. While a few online LLM programs do offer a concentration in Cross-Border Transactions, the University of Miami is one of the only LLM programs to offer a concentration in property development. Real estate, especially property development, is one of the biggest industries in Florida. This makes the online Master of Laws program at the University of Miami one of the premier online LLM programs for Florida lawyers who want to work in the property development field.
The University of Miami is considered one of the most prestigious private universities in Florida. Of course, students from all 50 states are accepted. However, students who plan to seek employment in Florida may see the greatest benefit from the University of Miami’s considerable prestige.
Degree: LLM – Real Estate/Property Development or Cross-Border Transactions
13. Emory University
Emory University has a well-known LLM program with specializations in Business Law and Regulation or Health Care Law, Policy, and Regulation. Many LLM programs have concentrations in business law. However, a surprisingly small number of LLM programs offer a specialization in health care law. This is one of the fastest growing areas of law in the United States. Lawyers who are looking at attending one of the online LLM programs to move into this area would be perfectly suited to the online Master of Laws program at Emory University, specifically the specialization in Health Care Law, Policy, and Regulation.
Emory University is another extremely prestigious private university. It is considered among the finest private universities in the South. Emory is also known for having a well-connected alumni network that is always willing to help out recent graduates. As Emory’s main campus is in the Atlanta area, there are many alumni in Georgia that can assist graduates with career opportunities and advice. Finally, Emory also has a very large endowment. This enables it to offer extensive financial aid, which offsets a great deal of the tuition expense.
Degree: LLM – Business Law and Regulation or Health Care Law, Policy, and Regulation
14. New York University
New York University offers an Executive LLM in Tax that is quite different than most LLM programs. This program is geared specifically toward lawyers who have a great deal of experience in other areas of the law, and are now looking to move into the area of tax law. This unique focus makes the online Master of Laws program at New York University a great choice for students who are looking into online LLM programs.
New York University is very prestigious. It frequently ranks in the top 20 universities in the country. The law school at New York University is especially prestigious, and employers in the legal industry will certainly recognize a degree from New York University as a sign that you are a highly qualified lawyer.
Degree: Executive LLM in Tax
15. West Virginia University
West Virginia University has a fully online LLM program that is distinctive in a variety of ways. Primarily, this program is known for offering the country’s online specialization in White Collar Forensic Justice. Students that want to be prosecutors working in this area of law would struggle to find a better online Master of Laws program among all of the online LLM programs in the country.
West Virginia University is a well-regarded public university. However, the low tuition costs may be the biggest benefit that WVU offers to its students. Post-graduate law education, for example, can be prohibitively expensive for some students. West Virginia University’s relatively low tuition rates may allow students to attend a quality academic program when they otherwise would not be able to afford it.
16. University of Arizona
The University of Arizona has a well-known online LLM program. This program is unique in that it provides students with the opportunity to essentially create their own area of concentration by picking and choosing the classes they want to take. This makes the online Master of Laws program at the University of Arizona great for students who can’t find the concentration they want to pursue at the other online LLM programs.
The University of Arizona is known for being one of the most prestigious and well-respected universities in the area, and certainly in the state. Arizona-based students will likely see a significant boost to their career prospects with a degree from the University of Arizona, as it is something that employers in the state are known to look for.
17. Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago has an LLM degree with a concentration in Business and Compliance Law that can be completed totally over the Internet. As with many of the other programs on this list, the program at Loyola Chicago stands out because of its unique concentration. While many universities do offer LLM degrees with a focus on business law, the program at Loyola Chicago has a greater focus on compliance law. This is a growing and lucrative area of corporate law. Lawyers who are considering attending one of the many online LLM programs to get into the field of corporate law should consider doing an online Master of Laws degree at Loyola Chicago.
Loyola Chicago is an extremely prestigious private university. In addition to its prestige, Loyola Chicago is known for having a very low student-to-teacher ratio. This ensures that students in all of Loyola Chicago’s many programs can benefit from a greater degree of personal attention.
Degree: LLM in Business and Compliance Law
18. Pepperdine University
Pepperdine University offers a fully online LLM program with a unique concentration in Dispute Resolution. Few other LLM programs, especially online LL programs, offer this concentration. The online Master of Laws program at Pepperdine is perfect for students who are looking into online LLM programs with the plan of becoming legal arbitrators. Pepperdine is a pioneer in online legal programs, and has been widely acclaimed for the quality of its online instruction.
Pepperdine is known for its successful and helpful alumni network. This network is concentrated in the Los Angeles area, where Pepperdine has its main campus. However. Pepperdine alumni can be found throughout the country and even the world. Pepperdine is known for its focus on graduate education. It is one of the few universities whose graduate student enrollment exceeds its undergraduate student enrollment.
Degree: LLM in Dispute Resolution
19. Boston University
Boston University offers an online LLM with a rare focus in Tax and International Business Law. International students, or American lawyers who plan to work internationally, should consider this program due to its focus on international business law. There are some online LLM programs that have a focus in international law, but Boston University offers one of the only online Master of Laws programs with a specific focus in international business law.
Boston University can be a little underrated because of its location in a city with so many prestigious universities. However, it is a very prestigious university in its own right. Many different programs, such as various legal programs, are widely respected by employers in that field. As with some of the other very prestigious universities on this list, a degree from Boston University serves as a mark of distinction.
Degree: LLM – Tax and International Business Law
20. Samford University
The well-known Cumberland School of Law offers Samford University’s online LLM degree program that can be completed entirely over the Internet. The program at Samford is unique in that it offers students the opportunity to choose from many different concentrations. New lawyers that aren’t quite sure which area of the law they want to go into may want to consider the online Master of Laws program at Samford University above other online LLM programs.
Samford University is well-known for two things. Firstly, it is one of the most prestigious universities in Alabama and indeed in the entire South. Also, it is a Christian university. Students who practice this faith may find a good fit at Samford. Samford University is known for integrating internships into its degree programs, thus ensuring that students graduate with practical experience in their degree fields.
21. Drexel University
Drexel University offers an online LLM program with not one but two unique concentrations – Cybersecurity & Data Privacy or Health Care and Pharmaceutical Law. Both of these concentrations are in emerging areas of law that are projected to grow rapidly over the next few years. This makes the Drexel online Master of Laws program perfect for students who are looking to go into one of these areas after getting their degrees through online LLM programs.
Drexel is unique because all of its degree programs incorporate a great deal of real-world experience. Students who attend Drexel can graduate with over a year of paid experience in their fields. This really helps recent graduates of both undergraduate and graduate programs obtain employment after they finish their degree programs.
Degree: LLM – Cybersecurity & Data Privacy or Health Care and Pharmaceutical Law
22. Seton Hall University
Seton Hall University has an LLM degree program that can be fully completed over the Internet. This program offers concentrations in two of the most lucrative and fastest-growing areas of contemporary American law – Financial Services Compliance and Health Law. Students who plan to get an online Master of Laws degree in these areas should consider picking Seton Hall over the other available online LLM programs.
Seton Hall, like several of the other universities on this list, is known both for its prestige and for its small class sizes. The graduate programs at Seton Hall are especially notable for the personalized attention that the highly experienced faculty can offer the students. This one on one attention is very beneficial for students going into a complicated and challenging field like law.
Degree: LLM – Financial Services Compliance or Health Law
23. Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University has a popular online LLM program. This program is notable because of its various different available fields of concentration and for its brevity. The online LLM program can be completed in as little as 18 months. These factors make the online Master of Laws program at Western Michigan one of the best online LLM programs for students who want to get their legal careers jumpstarted in a hurry.
Western Michigan is known for its very reasonable tuition rates. Even graduate students, who are often charged exorbitant tuition fees, often find that Western Michigan is the most affordable option for them. Western Michigan makes career advancement possible for many students who may not otherwise be able to afford to further their educations.
24. Nova Southeastern University
Nova Southeastern University offers an online LLM program that can be completed in one year on a full-time schedule or two years on a part-time schedule. This degree program offers several different areas of specialization, so that students can choose the field of law they want to go into. The flexibility of Nova Southeastern’s online Master of Laws program makes it one of the best online LLM programs for students who want to be able to customize their educational experience.
Nova Southeastern is known for the variety of online degree programs it offers and for its focus on online education as a whole. This sets it apart from the majority of accredited and respected universities, most of which focus on in-person education. Students in all field who have chosen to purse a degree online can benefit from Nova Southeastern’s expertise in this mode of education.
25. Stetson University
Stetson University has an Internet-based LLM program with specializations in Advocacy or Elder Law. Elder law is a rapidly growing area of the law with a distinct shortage of qualified attorneys, and an LLM degree from Stetson would certainly help a young attorney break into this field. The online Master of Laws program at Stetson is perfect for students who want to go into elder law after getting degrees from online LLM programs.
Stetson University is a prestigious school that is especially known for its law programs. Its law school is often ranked as one of the top law schools in the state of Florida. Stetson is also known for various liberal arts programs. Stetson was formerly a religiously affiliated university with a connection to the Southern Baptist denomination, but it has not had a religious affiliation since 1995.
Degree: LLM – Advocacy or Elder Law
Can I Earn a Higher Salary with an LLM degree?
An LLM Degree is a graduate level degree that is typically sought after by attorneys who wish to specialize in a specific area of law. However, it is noted that LLM degree applicants are not required to hold a Juris Doctor (JD) degree when applying for admission to the program. There are many non-lawyer professionals who would greatly benefit from the razor-focused legal specialty available by successfully completing an LLM degree program.
A Master of Laws (LLM) degree program is typically offered with a large choice of specialty concentrations. These areas of focus (as it relates to the law) include, in part, the fields of –
Financial Services and/or Taxation
An LLM degree salary is likely to exceed the typical salary of a non-LLM degree holder. This is because an LLM degree holder has an elevated level of education that places them in a position of strong demand. A salary after LLM degree is earned reflects an individual’s specialized knowledge and their commitment to the direction of their career.
The anticipated change to one’s LLM degree salary will depend upon each individual’s experience, level of education, their employer, and of course, the focus they have chosen to earn their LLM degree.
Do Employers Trust an Online LLM Degree?
A Master of Laws degree (aka LLM degree) is offered as an on-campus program, a hybrid program or an online program; which are all viewed as academically legitimate graduate level degree programs. Some of the best LLM programs are available from renowned law schools sanctioned by the American Bar Association (ABA). Additionally, these fully accredited law schools offer a variety of LLM online distance learning options.
An LLM degree online program’s credibility equals that of its on-campus and hybrid counterpart programs. Although, education experts agree that employers prefer an LLM degree holder to have earned the LLM degree online from industry and regionally accredited program and school.
In fact, the United States Department of Education released a 75- page study (2009 P. 17) that confirmed that online education (either delivered as a hybrid course or an entirely online course) generates student outcomes — on average — at least, if not better than traditional classroom teaching methods.
As such, the United States Department of Education’s statistical analysis demonstrates that some of the best LLM programs available can be completed on an LLM online distance learning platform.
A Word Regarding Accreditation
In the world of higher education, accreditation acts as a stamp of approval. Generally speaking, accreditation is offered by third-party industry or government-approved organizations that are tasked with the responsibility of evaluating schools and degree programs. Accreditation ensures that the program described online is the program you have paid for.
Can I Get an LLM for Free?
The LLM degree is a graduate-level academic program. And while most students would prefer a free online LLM degree program, the reality is degree program offerings require the payment of tuition to attend classes to earn the LLM degree.
However, there are some viable ways to mitigate (or, hopefully, eliminate) the tuition costs generally associated with a standard LLM program. So, if it is not possible to earn a free online LLM degree, consider the many other options to help lower tuition and living costs while earning the LLM degree.
A partial list of potential help to reduce tuition includes:
- Request tuition Reimbursement from your Employer.
- Apply for many scholarship opportunities.
- Seek out work-study options.
- Explore military scholarships for active or veteran military members.
- Ask about tuition discounts for active or veteran military members.
- Use tuition waivers for Peace Corps, civil service members and teachers.
- Take advantage of reduced tuition rates during the summer session.
- Choose a school with a tuition rate that remains frozen while earning a graduate degree.