Foreign Lawyer Programs

Foreign lawyer programs introduce the U.S. legal system to international students who already possess a law degree from another nation. Read about master's and doctoral degree programs designed for foreign lawyers, and examine some of the topics covered in these programs. Learn about bar exam eligibility for foreign lawyers.

Are Foreign Lawyer Programs for Me?

Career Overview

Foreign lawyer programs are offered by U.S. law schools. Foreign lawyer programs aim to improve your understanding of the American legal system. You may enter a foreign lawyer program if you've already earned a law degree in another country. Foreign lawyer programs generally lead to a master's degree in law or a doctoral degree. You'll typically earn a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in a foreign lawyer program. Other postgraduate options sometimes offered in foreign lawyer programs include a Master of Comparative Law (M.C.L.) degree and a Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D.) degree.

Employment Information

While more jobs in the legal field may open up to you back in your home country, you might also be able to pursue a career in academia, depending on the advanced degree you obtain. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that jobs for lawyers would increase ten percent between 2012 and 2022 and that the median annual salary as of May 2013 was $114,300 (www.bls.gov). The ten percent growth is considered to be about as fast as the average growth for all other occupations and competition is likely to be stiff. It should also be noted that there are few openings for foreign-schooled lawyers in the United States. Foreign-trained lawyers who find work in America typically received top grades in LL.M. and M.C.L. programs and passed a bar exam.

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), graduates of foreign law schools are not eligible to take the bar exam in all states (www.americanbar.org). However, foreign lawyers who have earned an LL.M. or another graduate law degree in a U.S. school approved by the ABA can take the bar exam in some states. You can check with the a state's board of law examiners to learn more about bar admission eligibility for foreign lawyers.

What Can I Expect in Foreign Lawyer Programs?

Education

You'll generally complete an LL.M. foreign lawyer program over two semesters. You'll typically study topics such as fundamentals of American law, constitutional law, legal procedures, business contracts and legal research. Foreign lawyer programs generally include elective classes in areas of interest.

Some LL.M. programs for foreign attorneys let you earn a specialized certificate in addition to your degree. Areas of specialization could include corporate law, taxation or entertainment law. Foreign lawyer programs may include a certificate course to improve your English skills in relation to legal terminology and may also offer internship opportunities.

After earning an LL.M. degree, you might choose to continue your education and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, which typically last for three years. Some schools will let you apply some credits earned for LL.M. courses toward a J.D. degree. Another option after receiving an LL.M. degree is pursuing further studies and earning an S.J.D. degree, which may qualify you for positions in academia. You'll generally complete research and write a dissertation in an S.J.D. program. Upon receiving an LL.M. degree, you might also want to boost your knowledge about American and other legal systems by earning an M.C.L degree. M.C.L. degree programs typically last a year.

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