In the past decade, there has been tremendous growth in Americans legal education in the area of LLM degree. The intent of law schools offering the LLM is to enhance the skills and knowledge of individuals having their first degree in law. Essentially there are two principal variations of the LLM degree. The first are those related to advanced study of specific subjects such as taxation, international and comparative law, business law, intellectual property, natural resources and environmental law, health law, real estate law, labor law, dispute resolution, maritime law and bankruptcy law.
The second type of the LLM degree is one offered specifically for foreign trained lawyers. These programs usually consist of one or more required courses providing an introduction to American law and then a choice of various course topics usually from the courses offered in the J.D. curriculum.
The American Bar Association does not accredit or approve LLM degree programs; rather it acquiesces in their establishment. The accrediting body permits an approved law school to offer the program. It does not approve the program; rather it is an approved law school, which offers an LLM program about which the accrediting body has taken no action concerning the LLM program academic content or quality.
There are no rules by the accrediting authority as to the number of credit hours required for the LLM degree, whether there should be a substantial writing requirements associated with the degree or what specific courses should be taken to receive a LLM degree in a specific subject matter area. These matters are determined by the law school offering the degree. Many law school programs require a written thesis produced under the supervision of a full-time faculty member, but some do not. Some programs provide opportunities or even require an internship experience, but others do not. Generally schools require between 20 and 24 semester credit hours for the degree earned over a period in residence of one year with a cumulative grade point average of B. Part-time students usually are allowed two calendar years to complete their study. For Americans students seeking an LLM degree, most law schools require a J.D. from a law school, either approved by the Americans Bar Association, or a member of the Association of American Law Schools.