What Can You Do with an LLM?
20 June, 2021
We live in a world of complex, globalized connections that affect every industry and institution, including the law. The legal profession has undergone dramatic changes in the 21st century and continues to evolve. From challenges like understanding an organization’s ethical responsibilities when handling customer data to considering the legal ramifications of international trade agreements, today’s lawyers must have a wide breadth of expertise to serve their clients.
Developing the latest knowledge and skills is especially vital as the employment market becomes more competitive: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 4% growth in positions for lawyers between 2019 and 2029 but cautioned that there are more law school graduates each year than jobs available.
A Master of Laws (LLM) degree is one way to keep your skills up-to-date and help you stand out among other professionals who have a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. This article will explain why an LLM can further your career and how earning this degree is different from a JD program.
What is an LLM?
The Master of Laws (LLM) degree is an internationally recognized postgraduate credential. These master’s programs are typically geared toward early- and mid-career lawyers who are interested in a specialized area of law. Professionals who have already earned their JD may want to expand their knowledge in a particular legal discipline. Many attorneys who were educated overseas also earn an LLM degree to familiarize themselves with the nuances of the U.S. legal system.
The Difference Between an LLM and a JD
To practice law in the U.S., you must be admitted to the bar in the jurisdiction where you plan to work. The JD is a prerequisite for sitting for a state’s bar exam. JD programs provide the knowledge necessary to become a lawyer, such as fundamental legal standards, concepts and theories.
In contrast to the JD, the LLM degree is a secondary degree geared toward current lawyers. The LLM may help you delve into areas of legal theory with greater depth than is possible in a JD program while gaining practical guidance to address real-world issues.
What are the Benefits of an LLM?
Stay Current on Your Legal Knowledge
The legal landscape evolves daily, placing high demands on lawyers to keep up with the latest precedents and leaps in technology. An LLM program can update your knowledge in major areas of the law like intellectual property, corporate compliance and international trade.
LLM students engage with legal questions that JD classes may touch on only broadly, enriching your education with additional training for the real world. You can choose to focus on a broad area of study like international law or a narrower field like arbitration, intellectual property or tax law. Courses in an LLM curriculum investigate the demands of advising corporate leaders as in-house counsel, the challenges of maintaining compliance and strategies for conducting international trade.
Expand Your Career Possibilities
A major factor that makes an LLM degree worth it is the competitive edge in the job market. The LLM can help you get your foot in the door at a law firm, corporate legal department or government agency.
If you have decided to shift your professional focus, this degree may lay the groundwork for new opportunities by helping you expand your knowledge into a different area of law. Earning an LLM degree can also be beneficial if you’re interested in business law and international trade, since these programs offer a global perspective on the relationships that drive our hyperconnected world.
Grow Your Network
An online LLM program gives you the chance to meet and collaborate with fellow legal professionals from across the country and around the world. Networking with fellow students, professors and industry professionals can open many doors to rewarding career opportunities.
For international students, an LLM can give you the chance to form invaluable connections while strengthening your proficiency in both conversational and professional English.
Prepare for the California Bar Exam
Each state in the U.S. has its own rules for admission to the bar and its own exam. Northeastern University School of Law offers an LLM focus area specifically to provide international attorneys with the grounding in legal principles needed to prepare for the California bar exam.
In this focus area, you’ll become familiar with California’s requirements in areas such as:
- A lawyer’s obligations to clients, the court and society
- Ethics rules and resolving conflicts of interest
- Advertising for legal services
- Areas of specialization
- Solicitation of clients
- Legal malpractice
Increase Your Earning Potential
An LLM may improve your salary potential by helping you develop in-demand expertise related to a specific area of law. An analysis of job posting data from Lightcast found that salary premiums are associated with skills in intellectual property law, drafting contracts, and mergers and acquisitions.
|Job Postings Requesting
Last 12 Months
|Mergers & Acquisitions
Source: Lightcast – March 2021
Northeastern University’s LLM program features an industry-informed curriculum, designed to give you practical experience in these high-demand areas and more. Request more information to find out how the online program can help you achieve your career goals.
LLM Career Options
Intellectual Property (IP) Lawyer
These attorneys counsel clients on how to build and protect their intellectual capital. As an IP lawyer, your day-to-day responsibilities may involve copyright registration, licensing deals, technology transfers, filing for patents and product distribution.
In an era of digital technology and globalization, intellectual property concerns have grown in both prominence and complexity. These legal considerations impact innovations in software and pharmaceuticals as well as works of art, making attorneys who specialize in IP essential to the operations and financial well-being of a variety of organizations.
Brook K. Baker, a professor of law at Northeastern University, applies his knowledge of IP rules to advocate for access to healthcare around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that meant arguing to maximize the availability of vaccines and treatments by changing the way pharmaceutical companies pursue research and protect their investments.
“Many people, myself included, wonder whether the current exclusive-rights system is the best way to incentivize research and pay for it,” Baker explained. “If [pharmaceutical companies] are focusing on a blockbuster, they’re not focusing, say, on pandemic preparedness. There are whole areas of research that are neglected because drug companies can turn most of their attention to the profit areas.”
International Business Lawyer
A business world of instant global communications and international supply chains demands legal experts who understand the laws, regulations, economic conditions and ethics policies of multiple countries. Lawyers who specialize in international business may represent their clients’ interests in a wide range of issues involving two or more sovereign countries.
Many of these attorneys deal mainly with matters involving trade law, securities and banking. Others focus on the regulatory regimes pertaining to specific industries or sectors like technology, energy, intellectual property or healthcare. In this field, you can leverage your knowledge and negotiation skills to enable organizations to grow and compete on a world stage.
Regulatory compliance is increasingly important for businesses that rely on digital tools to monitor operations and gain insights into their customers. As a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern, Woodrow Hartzog focuses his research on the risks to sensitive information and the need for clear, effectively enforced rules to govern corporate actions. He testified about these issues before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in February 2019.
“There are ways to balance utilizing data and protecting people, but it requires a framework that reimagines the relationship between people and the companies they interact with in a way that places trust at the center,” Hartzog said. “Being trustworthy in the digital age means companies must be discreet with our data, honest about the risk of data practices, protective of our personal information and, above all, loyal to us — the data subjects.”
Lawyers who work as compliance counsel are tasked with addressing just these types of questions. You could have duties such as conducting audits and leading internal investigations, advising and collaborating with management to promote transparency and accountability. Legal experts may also provide training on ethics and compliance for employees, ensuring everyone in the company has the information they need to align with regulations.
International Trade Lawyer
These professionals advise both domestic companies that conduct business abroad and foreign businesses operating in the United States. They may also negotiate and draft trade agreements for federal agencies and international organizations.
International trade lawyers provide guidance on international trade rules and compliance, prepare voluntary disclosures and conduct internal investigations. To work in this field, you need a thorough knowledge of variations in trade regulations and tax law across multiple nations and regions.
About the Online Master of Laws (LLM) from Northeastern University
Northeastern University’s online Master of Laws (LLM) program empowers lawyers trained in the United States and abroad for the U.S. legal environment and the global practice of law, both of which are constantly evolving. You can receive mentorship and advising from professionals who represent a wide range of fields such as finance, education, biomedical science, management and the U.S. military.
This LLM program features three specialized areas of focus:
- Intellectual Property and Technology Law
- International Business Law
- Bar Examination Preparation
As a student in this program, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in a legal immersion experience, connecting with practicing lawyers and industry leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area. Northeastern’s LLM program is rooted in real-world knowledge to help you succeed in the legal field of your choice.