Overview of LL.M. and Post J.D. Programs

Standard 308 of the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools states that an ABA-approved law school may not establish a degree program in addition to its J.D. degree program unless the school is fully approved, and the additional degree program will not detract from a law school's ability to maintain a sound J.D. degree program. The school must obtain the Council's acquiescence prior to commencing such a program.  The ABA does not formally approve any program other than the first degree in law (J.D.). 

ABA accreditation does not extend to any program supporting any other degree granted by the law school. Rather the content and requirements of those degrees, such as an LL.M., are created by the law school itself and do not reflect any judgment by the ABA accrediting bodies regarding the quality of the program. Moreover, admission requirements for such programs, particularly with regard to foreign students, vary from school to school, and are not evaluated through the ABA accreditation process. The ABA reviews post-JD degree programs only to determine whether the offering of such post-JD program would have an adverse impact on the law school's ability to maintain its accreditation for the JD program. If no adverse impact is indicated, the ABA "acquiesces" in the law school's decision to offer the non-JD program and degree.

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has adopted a statement that no post J.D. or other graduate program is a substitute for the J.D. and should not be considered the equivalent of the J.D. for bar admission purposes.

Those interested in post J.D. programs of a law school should contact the school(s) directly. Persons who have not obtained a J.D. from an ABA-approved law school may wish to contact the bar admission authorities in the state(s) in which persons intend to practice for more information on whether graduation from a post-J.D. program will qualify a person to take the bar examination in that state.

Graduate Degrees Defined

While an individual law school's degree may differ slightly by name to similar programs elsewhere, most degrees offered through law schools fall into three general categories:

1) Academic masters degrees for nonlawyers, such as:

  • M.S.  Master of Science or Master of Studies
  • M.P.S.  Master of Professional Studies

2) Post-J.D. law degrees for practicing lawyers and/or foreign lawyers seeking to practice in the U.S., such as:

  • LL.M. Master of Laws
  • J.M. Juris Master
  • M.C.L. Master of Comparative Law
  • M.J. Master of Jurisprudence

3) Research and academic-based doctorate level degrees, such as:

  • J.S.D. Doctor of Jurisprudence
  • S.J.D. Doctor of Judicial Science
  • D.C.L. Doctor of Comparative Law

For questions regarding specific degree descriptions, contact the school directly.


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