Should I Get an MLS, an LLM, or a JD?

For working adults who want a legal education that can provide a new direction for their current profession, but who do not want to become an attorney, there are several degrees that support a legal education, including a Master of Legal Studies. (which can also be earned as an online MSL) Each has a different focus to accommodate individuals with different goals. These can range from business and academia to specializing in a particular area of law. Discovering the differences between them helps individuals determine their path.

What Are the Differences Between an MSL, an LLM or a JD?

The Master of Studies in Law (MSL) is a graduate level program that explores legal topics and how they relate to other careers. This is a master in law for non lawyers who are not seeking to take the bar exam and becoming practicing attorneys. Rather, the focus is on subjects that are useful in other areas such as contracts, corporate compliance and intellectual property law. Topics such as civil procedure, constitutional law and arbitration are also offered. The LSAT is not required for these programs. It is also important to understand that an MSL does not prepare individuals for a JD program or to sit for the bar exam. The focus is for professionals who are seeking a multidisciplinary education to enhance their career outside of law. Programs are generally one academic year in length.

The Master of Laws (LLM) is an advanced study program for attorneys who are seeking more in-depth study in specific areas of the law. The individuals who are pursuing this degree have already earned their JD and passed the bar exam. This course of study is a more academic approach to developing expertise in a particular law topic. Students can also study international law. Foreign attorneys will pursue an LLM to develop their expertise in US law.

The curriculum is one-year, full time study. Consider the LLM vs JD as a specialization following the basic degree. The LLM degree for non lawyers is not suitable for those wanting to pursue law. The decision regarding an LLM to JD is a personal one based on an individual’s goals. As a more advanced legal degree, some schools allow you to pursue an LLM degree online. For professionals in banking who want to expand their legal knowledge as it related to regulatory laws, the added value of a Juris Masters worth it.

A Juris Doctorate (JD) is the program of study for a law degree. Individuals pursuing this degree intend to sit for the bar exam and practice law in the US. The LSAT and a bachelor’s degree are required parts of the admissions process. Most schools offer three-year, full time programs. The American Bar Association (ABA) certifies a number of schools in the US.

What You Can Do with Your Degree

The students who enter an MSL program are varied. They include business people, engineers, bankers and physicians who are seeking to expand their legal knowledge in a particular area such as contracts, regulatory or health law. Within JD programs, individuals are focused on sitting for the bar exam. They will be attorneys practicing law, whether as independent attorneys, as part of a law firm, or working for a corporate employer. With an LLM, professionals will be working in a specialized area of the law such as international law. When comparing the master of legal studies vs JD, it comes down to the professional’s goals and whether they want to practice law or simply need to understand the law as it relates to their profession.

Average Law Graduate Salary Expectations

For a legal studies graduate with an MSL, the average salary is around $56,000 per year, while the average LLM degree salary is $133,000 per year. For professionals working in law who hold a JD, the average law graduate salary is over $82,000 per year. The JD salary per hour may be as much as $48.

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