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Difference Between J.D. and LL.M.

law_balanceJ.D. vs. LL.M.

Juris Doctor (also known as J.D.) is professional doctorate and first professional degree in Law. It has the distinction of being the only American law degree intended for being the primary professional preparation for lawyers. It is also the only professional degree available in law. It is defined as a three year program in most jurisdictions. In order to acquire this distinction, the candidate is not required to complete a research dissertation or a thesis. It is a degree that is mostly prevalent in the United States; however, it has appeared in universities in different countries since 1997 –though the specifications and requirements differ from country to country.

Master of Laws (also known as LL.M.) is an advanced academic or research degree. It is not a professional degree in law. Though a J.D. is usually necessary in order to be able to practice law in the United States, one who is interested in gaining specialised knowledge through research in a particular area of law may continue his or her studies after having received his or her LL.B or J.D.

The J.D. originated as a concept in the United States during a movement to enhance the training necessary to achieve any distinction of mastery in the respective professions. The didactic approaches that have developed revolutionised university education and have gradually made impressions on university education outside of the United States. The creation of the J.D. came out of a desire of Christopher Columbus Langdell to reform the legal education process in the United States. His approach required a three year post-baccalaureate degree that included intensive legal training in two stages: the case study (which is literally the study of cases) and the Socratic Method (a way in which students were examined on the reasoning of the court in the cases that were studied).

The LL.M. is not required in most countries to become a lawyer and, in fact, most lawyers opt to never receive the distinction. However, there is a plethora of LL.M. degrees available all over the world. This program, of course, allows students to focus on any area of law they choose. Most universities do not offer many LL.M degree programs; however, the most popular LL.M degree in the United States is tax law. Another area in which many students have found interest is bankruptcy law and environmental law. There are a few universities that allow their students to design their LL.M program comprised of that university’s upper level courses and seminars (commercial and corporate, international, constitutional, and human rights law, to name a few).


1. The J.D. is a three year post baccalaureate degree that is required for any person to become a lawyer; the LL.M. is an optional degree that may be obtained if the student is interested in doing further research in a specific field of law.

2. The J.D. is a concept birthed in the US, but that is making its way to other countries; the LL.M. is not widely recognised in other countries.

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