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Degree Overview

For most foreign-trained lawyers, it makes sense to start their legal studies in the United States by completing an LLM degree. Iowa Law has long offered a Masters of Law (LLM) program.  Consider how the Iowa LLM might meet your needs.

  • The LLM is a valuable degree in its own right as a graduate degree in law that shows the student has sufficient knowledge of the US legal system and competence in the English language to work with US attorneys at a professional level.
  • As a one-year program (24 academic credits), the LLM degree is the most affordable degree, especially at Iowa Law, where tuition costs have been substantially reduced in recent years.
  • Several states permit foreign-trained lawyers with an LLM degree to sit for their bar exam as long as the student has completed all required courses, all of which are available to you in the Iowa Law LLM program.  Please note that even for those who qualify for and pass the bar exam, visa rules are complicated and may limit long-term opportunities for employment in the United States for those without citizenship or permanent residency and a green card.  Foreigners are allowed to stay in the United States for up to 12 months after graduation for "Optional Professional Training" if they can arrange employment in the legal profession.
  • LSAT scores are not required for LLM admission.
  • The LLM degree is required for most SJD programs, including at Iowa Law.  The year of study in the Iowa LLM program gives the student the best opportunity to get to know the Iowa Law faculty and to write a successful thesis proposal for applying to the Iowa Law SJD program.
  • Successful completion of the LLM program demonstrates an ability to succeed in Iowa Law's Advanced Standing JD for Foreign-Trained Lawyers.  If you are accepted into the JD program, you can earn both the LLM and JD in three years at a lower cost than three years of JD study due to the fact that LLM tuition is lower.
  • If you apply directly to the Advanced Standing JD for Foreign-Trained Lawyers and your application is not successful, you can request to have your application considered for the LLM program, and reapply to the JD program upon successful completion of the LLM program.

To earn the LLM degree, each student must successfully complete a course of a minimum of 24 hours of academic credit, as approved by his or her faculty adviser.  Please note the College of Law reviews and develops its curriculum, including both mandatory and elective courses, on an ongoing basis.  Certain courses are specifically designed for foreign-trained law students.  It is possible that we will develop additional courses for our foreign-trained students, including versions of existing courses, that may be required to graduate with an LLM degree. The College of Law has two tracks for LLM students:

  • Practical Training and Path to Bar Admission (Legal Practice Track): This track is open to foreign-trained lawyers who do not have a JD from a law school that is a member of the Association of American Law Schools or approved by the American Bar Association and are interested in qualifying to take a bar examination.  It includes the LLM Orientation course, providing an introduction to US law for foreign-trained lawyers; Legal Analysis, Writing  and Research; and core courses including Contracts, Property, Torts, and Professional Responsibility.  In addition to the basics, students choose from our large variety of regularly offered JD courses, most of which are open to LLM candidates.  Students work with Iowa Law advisors to tailor each of their programs to meet the requirements of state bars that accept LLM graduates to sit for the bar exam (refer to the section on Foreign-Educated Applicants to the New York Bar for details).
  • In-depth Research Path (Research Track): This track is open to both foreign-trained lawyers and students holding a JD from a law school that is a member of the Association of American Law Schools or approved by the American Bar Association who seek to enter into an academic career or one involving primarily policy formulation or research, or who may wish to apply later to do doctoral work in the US.  For students interested in research the Iowa LLM provides a setting that encourages close collaboration with renowned experts in such fields as international and comparative law, anti-competition law, intellectual property, law and economics, law and society, law of war and peace and international criminal law, human rights, and international arbitration.  LLM students without a JD from a law school that is a member of the Association of American Law Schools or approved by the American Bar Association must take the LLM Orientation course to the US Legal System.  All LLM students in this track take the LLM Seminar, a research and writing course during which they will write a research paper qualifying for at least one credit on a topic approved by the instructor.  For each student, the LLM seminar paper is the culmination of research conducted in our world-class law library, which includes an extensive international and comparative law collection.

The Iowa LLM program offers many other advantages, including:

  •  A top-ranked law faculty whose members teach issues at the forefront of today's legal developments.
  • A small program that allows close interaction between faculty and students.
  • Taking most courses with JD students to ensure an effective comparative experience.
  • In the College of Law, being part of a major research university with a tradition of interdisciplinary work and academic excellence in fiction and non-fiction writing, liberal arts, business, engineering and health sciences.
  • Opportunities to participate in courses and activities with the Iowa Innovation, Business, and Law Center and the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights.
  • Special facilities for foreign and international work, including one of the largest law libraries in the country with extensive foreign and comparative law collections, and a Writing Resource Center for help with legal writing.
  • The availability of ESL assistance.
  • Tuition and living costs that are affordable and priced below peer institutions.
  • Reduced tuition for students employed by faculty as research assistants.
  • A comfortable, friendly university town that is a UNESCO City of Literature and famous for first-class cultural and sporting events.
  • Opportunities to focus on either practical training and the path to bar admission or conduct in-depth research to further one's understanding of a particular area of law.

To learn more about how to apply to the program, see our Application Process page for this program.