There are two types of law degrees in the USA, both of which are only studied at the postgraduate level.
The Master of Laws (LLM) is usually a one-year degree, specialising in an area of law. It is recommended that British students apply for programmes that are relevant to their career in the UK, such as:
- International law
- Transnational arbitration
- International business law
- Tax law
- Legal theory
- Human rights law
The LLM does not automatically qualify you to practise law in the US or the UK.
The Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) is the traditional route to legal qualification in the USA, preparing students to sit the Bar Exam for the state in which they wish to practise. It is typically a three-year professional programme, with little scholarly or research content.
There are a few reasons why the JD is not recommended for British students without permanent residency in the USA:
- It does not qualify you practise law in the UK
- There is little non-loaned JD funding available to international students
- In order to practise law in the US, you will still need to sit the Bar Exam for the state in which you wish to practise
- After you complete the JD and sit a Bar Exam, there is no guarantee of a job and/or visa sponsorship
- You then have a qualification not valid in the UK, with a potentially large student debt
Additionally, some states, such as New York, will accept the British LLB for entrance to their Bar Exams.
Some states, such as California, will accept students with an LLB and a US-accredited LLM, or the LLB with the LPC/BPTC and successful completion of a training contract or pupillage.
For this reason, many British students prefer to study for an LLM in the USA in between their LLB/GDL and LPC/BPTC, or afterwards. Some solicitor training contracts will even allow you to defer training in order to complete an LLM.