Guide to Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs

As you progress through your legal career, you may come to a point where you want to further specialize. A Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree can equip you with the skills and relevant experience you need to apply your legal knowledge and work efficiently in your chosen subfield.

The program cards/tables featured on this page were last updated in November 2022. For the most current program information, please refer to the official website of the respective school.   

Pepperdine University

Caruso School of Law


Online LLM in Dispute Resolution

Online LLM in Dispute Resolution from ABA-accredited Straus Institute. Become an effective mediator in 12 months. JD required. 

  • JD degree or international equivalent required
  • No GMAT or GRE required
  • Complete in as few as 12 months

American University

Washington College of Law


Master of Legal Studies

American University’s online Master of Legal Studies program prepares students to apply legal concepts to their everyday role. The program can be completed in 12 months. No GRE/LSAT required to apply.

  • Complete in as few as 12 months 
  • No GRE/LSAT scores required to apply 
  • Four tracks available: General MLS, Business, Health Care Compliance, and Technology 
  • Three certificates available: Business, Health Care Compliance, and Technology


What is an LL.M.?

A Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree can give legal professionals the expertise and knowledge to specialize in a particular field of law. Some specializations include international law, human rights law, environmental law, cybersecurity and data privacy law, and criminal law and justice. Unlike a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or equivalent law degrees, an LL.M. is not required to practice law. However, it can serve as a bridge between your existing skills and your personal passions. 

Types of LL.M. 

A master of law program will fall into one of two categories: the general LL.M. or the specialized LL.M. In a general LL.M. program — also called an individualized study LL.M. — students can create a completely custom course schedule that aligns with their professional goals and interests. Students who enroll in a specialized LL.M. program will follow a predetermined class schedule that covers skills relevant to a particular law concentration.

Typical curriculum

Because of their specialized nature, LL.M. programs don’t have a typical curriculum. However, there are some core courses that can enhance all students’ understanding of major legal terminology and best practices, regardless of their focus. These may include:

  • Legal research, writing, and analysis
  • Constitutional law
  • Criminal law
  • Legal ethics
  • Legal theory

The electives available will depend on the program and school. Here are some LL.M. electives you may be able to choose from:

  • Tax audits, appeals, and litigation
  • Estate planning
  • Election law
  • Energy law
  • Corporate finance
  • Trade secrets
  • Counseling and legal strategy in the digital age

Some programs may also require you to complete an externship with a legal organization, government agency, nonprofit, or corporation where a lawyer serves as a direct supervisor. Through these multi-week immersive experiences, students have the opportunity to put the knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom into practice.

Program length

While the exact timeline will depend on the program and institution, a full-time LL.M. degree program takes around one year to complete. Students who prefer more flexibility may find part-time or online options to better fit their schedule, however, not all schools offer this option.

LL.M. requirements

As with most program specifics, the requirements for LL.M. program applicants will vary by program and institution. That being said, all LL.M. students must hold an undergraduate law degree, such as the J.D. in order to qualify for admission. Some programs may allow students with significant legal practice experience to bypass degree requirements.

International applicants with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or international equivalent to the J.D. who meet all other requirements may also be eligible for admission into LL.M. programs.

Online LL.M. programs

Online LL.M. programs give students the opportunity to gain the same education as traditional in-person experience while attending virtual classes. Not all universities offer this option and require students to participate in on-site lectures and group work. Research the university and program you’re interested in to determine whether they meet your needs and circumstances.

Fordham University

School of Law


Master of Studies in Law

Earn an MSL in Corporate Compliance online from Fordham Law School in as few as 12 months. Graduate prepared to handle compliance-related responsibilities in a variety of corporate industries. No GRE, GMAT, or LSAT scores required to apply.

  • GRE, GMAT, and LSAT scores not required to apply 
  • Complete in as few as 12 months 
  • Minimum two years’ compliance-related work experience recommended


If you are interested in earning your advanced law degree online, compare the online LL.M. programs offered by the law schools below.

This list of online LL.M. programs was last retrieved in November 2021.

Is an LL.M. worth it?

If you want to gain knowledge and experience that can set you apart from other legal professionals, an LL.M. can be worth the time and effort. With your LL.M. degree, you can pursue advanced career opportunities and competitive salary increases. Your LL.M. may also open doors outside of traditional legal settings, such as academia, private consulting, journalism, and more.

Curious about the expected pay for lawyers at the top of the field? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for lawyers with advanced degrees was $135,740 in 2022. The median annual wage for judges and hearing officers in the same year was $138,610.


What’s the main difference between an MLS and an LL.M.?

While the MLS and LL.M. are both masters degrees in law, they have some differences. An LL.M. degree requires a J.D. and offers the ability to specialize in a particular area. An MLS program gives students greater context around the law and how it interacts with their work. MLS applicants can come from a variety of professional and educational backgrounds, whereas LL.M. applicants must hold a law degree to qualify for admission.

Can I transfer credits from an MLS degree to an LL.M.?

Every university and law school will have its own policy about transferring credits between graduate-level degree programs. Contact the LL.M. program you are interested in to determine whether your credits or coursework will be accepted.

Can LL.M. graduates take the bar exam?

An LL.M. can provide a pathway to sit for the bar exam, however, it does not guarantee eligibility. Special cases may include international candidates actively practicing in their home country or those who have earned a non-accredited J.D. Review your state’s requirements to determine whether you qualify.

Do I have to declare a concentration for my LL.M.?

If you prefer a narrow scope of study during your LL.M. program, declaring a concentration is a great way to start your experience. For students who are unsure about a specialization or have diverse educational needs, a general LL.M. allows for exploration and more customized coursework relevant to a variety of fields.

Do I have to pass the bar exam to be accepted in LL.M.?

No, applying to an LL.M. program does not require students to have taken the bar exam. LL.M. programs allow current legal professionals to earn an advanced degree in their chosen specialty.

What can you do with a law degree besides becoming a lawyer?

Understanding legal concepts can be a useful skill in a variety of industries that may require legal advice and trained legal professionals. Some non-lawyer jobs that can benefit from a law degree include consultant, marketing executive, financial advisor, and law professor.

Last updated: January 2024