What is a Master of Laws?

The LL.M. (Master of Laws) is available in the U.S. and many foreign countries. Lawyers frequently pursue this degree to gain additional knowledge in a specific area related to their practice. As examples, there are concentrations in health law, global securities law, and international criminal law. There is also a general LL.M. program for those who do not want to specialize.

The initials LL.M. are short for Legum Magister in Latin. Legum is the plural of the Latin word lex , which means law . Lawyers may take this to learn more about a particular area of law. Lawyers who earned their law degree outside the U.S. may take the LL.M. to learn about the American judicial system.

What is a Master of Studies in Law?

A Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.) is another graduate-level degree for lawyers and non-lawyers. Some schools may require that you have a year of law school before applying.  There is also the option of taking classes on a full-time or part-time basis. You may complete the latter in as few as twelve months. A one-year program saves a lot of time and expense versus the traditional three-year Juris Doctor degree. Similar to the LL.M., concentrations are also available.

The self-paced format of the master’s degree is not available in law school. Students must complete their law school program within three years.


Master of Studies in Law offers a large number of areas of specialization. For example, the University of Pittsburgh’s law school (PittLaw) offers nineteen specializations . Their list is one of the more prolific as far as choices are concerned. Whether your interest is in Sports and Entertainment, Disability Law, Estate Planning, Energy, or Corporate Law, you will probably find one of these to your liking.

Not all programs offer as many diverse areas of specialization. Some schools may have four to six choices.

Similarly, there are LL.M. programs that give you the opportunity to specialize in a field of law and develop expertise in a specific area. The list of choices may be more extensive in this degree than the M.S.L. degree. There are concentrations within areas of specialization. For example, under the category of Public Law is a concentration in Air and Space Law. The University of Mississippi offers an LL.M. program with courses covering U.S. Space Law, International Aviation Finance and Leasing Law, International Space Law, and Space Security Law.

The line between the M.S.L. and LL.M. degrees fade when both offer the same concentration. For example, if you are interested in the burgeoning profession of cybersecurity, you can study this in either degree.

The Cybersecurity & Data Privacy LL.M. Specialization at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, features professors and practitioners with expertise in cybercrime law enforcement and engineering. There are mandatory classes in subjects as internet law, cybersecurity compliance, risk management, and intellectual property crimes.

Loyola also offers an MLS program in Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Law. One difference is that there are eight required courses in this degree and five in the LL.M. degree. The school states that you can complete their MLS in one year of full-time study or two years part-time.

Online Format

Both degrees are available online for those who prefer to study from the convenience of home — a definite advantage for professionals who want to advance their career in one of the many specializations. In addition, there is a range of online tuition from which to make your selection. At the lower end is Arizona State University has one of the most affordable online masters of legal studies degrees. This program offers a variety of concentrations suitable for students and professionals who want to expand their expertise.

Several of the online LL.M. programs require a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or a foreign degree that qualifies you to practice law. Boston University School of Law, the University of Arizona, and the University of Southern California require applicants to have their J.D. There are also fewer choices for online LL.M. degrees than the MLS programs.


It seems logical if there is an LL.M. – there should be an undergraduate equivalent-LL.B. This degree originated in England. However, colleges in the U.S. and Canada do not offer it.

In summary, individuals who have a J.D. may pursue the LL.M. to expand their knowledge in a specific area and enhance their credentials. As mentioned, this degree has time limitations. You are not able to complete the coursework at your leisure.

Related Resources:

What degree do I need to be a Paralegal?

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