For law students, this question comes up often: Is an
worth doing after a J.D.? Many students and professionals hold that except in tax practice, a student would be better off using the time for a fellowship or working for a Visiting Associate Professor program or PhD program. For many, an LL.M may provide a slight edge on a resume for candidates opting for the academia and not for real-world lawyers. But the answer to the question actually revolves around the perception and definition of what it means to be a real-world lawyer.
The question of bothering about an LL.M is more pertinent at this juncture of time because, as shown by industry reports and data, less than half of new law graduates are in
private law practice
, and the number of law graduates in a job that requires an attorney license – the basis of being a “real-world” lawyer – is the lowest since 1974. More than eighteen percent of employed law graduates are in non-lawyer jobs, and it is questionable today, of the worth of being a lawyer of the kind we fantasized about as kids.
Considering that less than 50% of law graduates are in private law practice, other options have gained importance for law students, and in most of those options including in-house positions, government positions, academia, businesses and other places of employment, an LL.M with a J.D. would count more. It would set you apart from the general run of candidates by proving that you are not out of breath to earn a living, and that you have the kind of mindset matching the personality of a long-term company asset, rather than a fleeting mercenary.
It's always been the nature of governments to know that mercenaries are more competent than the standing army, but mercenaries are hired only for war, and pushed to the frontline, they are not kept on pay when a nation is in peace. The same with businesses, subject experts who are known to be not loyal to the corporate entity are temporarily hired to do the job on hand, but subject experts who are ‘trusted' are kept on permanent pay to ‘keep watch' and supervise temporary hires.
An LL.M adds certain things to your appreciation as a candidate:
The difference and advantages between private law practice and
- It proves that you are not in a “get a job or go broke” situation
- It proves that you are of an academic bent of mind
- It proves that you have developed in-depth theoretical knowledge in certain subject matter, and in areas of law practice where in-depth theoretical knowledge is required like tax, environmental law, and human rights – it would give you an edge
- You can make up for your J.D. from a poorly ranked law school by topping it up with an LL.M from a prestigious law school
- In many countries like Canada, an LL.M is a necessary perquisite for a teaching job at law schools
are more emphasized today than ever before, and it is safe to say that if you are thinking of a stable in-house position, or of alternative careers to private law practice, an LL.M is going to bolster your chances. If you are fixed on private law practice, actually, a J.D. is sufficient, and after that it is your performance and mettle that would count, because everyone out there has a J.D.