What are the degree and study opportunities for international students or foreign attorneys?

There are many opportunities for international students to study law in the U.S. Below is a list of the most common degrees and programs. I am sure there will be more in the future as law schools try to cater more to international students.


Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D. / J.S.D.) 

Doctor of Juridical Science, sometimes also referred to as a Doctor of Laws (S.J.D. or J.S.D.) is a research doctorate in law equivalent to the Ph.D. in other countries. It is offered primarily in the U.S., Canada and Australia. As a research doctorate, it follows a first law degree (LL.B. or J.D.) and often the LL.M. It is primarily designed for aspiring legal academics who wish to pursue independent study, research and writing. Candidates are expected to produce a dissertation that will constitute a substantial and valuable contribution to legal scholarship. These programs tend to be small and extremely selective.


Juris Doctor (J.D.)

The J.D. is a graduate-entry professional degree in law and usually required to practice law in the United States. It is earned by completing 3 years of law study at a U.S. law school. To be authorized to practice law in a U.S. state, graduates holding a J.D. degree must pass a state bar examination after graduating from the J.D. A bachelor’s degree is required for admission into a JD program and the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is an integral part of the law school admission process.


2-Year J.D. / Accelerated J.D.

A 2-year J.D., sometimes called an accelerated J.D., is a J.D. degree in a more condensed period. It is a fairly new development to save time and money for aspiring students. Some international LL.M. students choose to transition into an accelerated J.D. program after completion of their LL.M. degree to obtain both and LL.M. and a J.D. in just three years. Other schools allow foreign law graduates to take an accelerated J.D. without first holding an LL.M. Some schools will allow those with a foreign law degree to enter these programs without having to take the LSAT.



The LL.M. degree is the most common degree for international students who wish to gain global credentials. However, it is also used by J.D. graduates who desire advanced legal study in a specialized field, for example tax law. A first degree in law is required for admission into most LL.M. programs but it is not necessary to take the LSAT to apply for an LL.M. program. Most LL.M. programs require an English proficiency test score for international applicants whose native language is not English. The LL.M. program is generally a one-year, full-time academic program. Earning an LL.M. degree qualifies non J.D. holders to sit for the bar exam only in a few select U.S. states.


Double Degree LL.M.

Some law schools offer the opportunity to extend the one year LL.M. study by an additional semester to earn the LL.M. degree in two fields, for example and LL.M. in Intellectual Property and an LL.M. in Banking and Finance.


Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.)

The Master of Studies in Law is a degree program for those who do not hold a first degree in law and wish to complement their career with a legal perspective critical to their career fields. M.S.L. graduates are not able to take the bar exam in most states and, therefore, not able to practice law. 


Summer and other Short-Term Programs

Summer and other short-term programs do not offer a degree but allow international students to get acquainted with a certain legal field, improve their English language ability or try out the study experience in the U.S.  Many international students transition from a short-term program into one of those mentioned above. 


There are many opportunities for international students to study in the U.S. The challenge is not the lack of opportunity but rather to find the right one in the multitude of possibilities. Use this list as a guide to explore opportunities that interest you in more depth.