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Will an LLM or other law master’s degree really pay?
“How much does a lawyer make”? The answer to this question attracts a lot of people to this profession. The lure of high pay cheques tempts many to step into this field. But, are LLM lawyer salaries everything they’re reputed to be?
It all depends on the type of work you do, your level of education, and the area where you live.
What is an LLM degree?
LLM (Latin Legum Magister, meaning Master of Laws) is an internationally acclaimed postgraduate degree usually acquired following a year of full-time study in the field of law. Law enthusiasts pursue LLM to strengthen their legal expertise and, in turn, enhance their future career prospects.
Best universities to pursue an LLM degree
- New York University, School of Law
- University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law
- Columbia University - Columbia Law School (CLS)
- University of Oxford - Faculty of Law
- Harvard University - Harvard Law School (HLS)
- The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
- Georgetown University Law Center (GULC)
- King’s College London (KCL)
- University of California, Berkeley Law
- University College London (UCL)
Source: LLM Guide, August 2021
Why should you consider an LLM degree?
LLM degrees allow lawyers to specialise. It’s an opportunity to change direction as well as narrow your focus.
International masters students in the US can sit for American state bar examinations upon receipt of the LLM degree. It could mean a change of country – or just a new level of clientele when you return home.
If you can get into Harvard Law School, for example, you’ll be sitting with an alma mater that provides enormous cred anywhere in the world. And, that’s before mentioning the unbelievable network of colleagues and professors you’ll be able to call on when you have a complicated question.
If a judgeship is in your future, the varied understanding obtained during international masters study can be priceless – whether you plan to spend more time arguing in courtrooms or not.
And, of course, there is always the fact that masters degrees make it easier to rise through the ranks and add money to your paycheck. A lawyer’s salary after LLM is considerably higher.
How much do LLM lawyers earn?
An LLM degree salary ranges dramatically.
In the United Kingdom, a first-year trainee solicitor could expect to earn between £40,000 and £50,000 annually. And that’s just for training. A lawyer’s average salary in the UK lies in direct proportion to experience and education.
Qualified solicitors will start in the same pay range, though larger, commercial firms in the city may offer lawyer salaries between £70,000 and £1,30,000.
Barristers with a few years of experience under their belt are more likely to earn in the double digits, but there is an incredible range between £50,000 on the low-end and £200,000 on the higher end of the scale.
*data as at September 2021
A quick look at the average salary of solicitors in the UK
Starting salary for solicitors in small firms
£27,000 - 60,000
Starting salary for solicitors in city firms
£50,000 - 70,000
Starting salary for solicitors in large firms
£60,000 - 90,000
Partner salary for solicitors
Senior partner salary for solicitors
*data as at February 2021
The American legal system doesn’t work with the same divisions; the terms solicitor and barrister don’t equate in the United States. But, the salaries are still impressive – even with an undergraduate legal degree.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earn a median salary of $126,930 annually – and keep in mind, that’s the median, plenty of lawyers bring in more.
Plus, no matter where you are in the world, the higher your level of legal education, the higher any lawyer salary will be.
Will an LLM or other law masters degree really pay?
- With an LLM degree in the United States, you can expect to see a starting salary of $66,964… if you work for the government.
- If you head into corporate law, the annual average lawyer salary is closer to $163,510 (that’s across all levels of work experience).
Planning to accept a job with a private firm?
You can expect to bring home the equivalent of a second-year associate as a first-year associate… as long as you have an LLM degree. You might also be interested to know that second-year associates earn a median of $130,000.
And, if the Big Apple calls your name, you can expect a healthy lawyer salary. The average pay of a lawyer in New York City is currently $158,092 with some firms offering average salaries above $200,000.
And, that’s only 18% more than the national average. In Washington DC, salaries are 38% higher than the national average lawyer salary.
LLM lawyer salaries in the UK and the US are considerable. It’s little wonder that LLM degrees are on the rise. It’s worth studying an LLM because of the substantial salary increase you can expect. The LLM course duration is two years, and the trade-off between time invested and salary increase is generally considered favourable for most candidates.
A quick look at US attorney salaries
Average early career salary (1-5 years)
Average mid-career salary (5-10 years)
Average experienced lawyer salary (10-20 years)
Average late-career salary (20+ years)
After an LLM degree
If you have completed your LLM, you have quite a few sectors to choose from to practice law:
- Consulting bodies
- UN and UNICEF
- International Organisations
- Publishing and advertising firms
- Companies dealing with legal matters
- Real estates
Here are some other careers you can take up following your LLM completion:
- A judge
- Legal Advisor
- Law Examiner
- Oath Commissioner
It’s hard work to get your LLM degree, and you’ll certainly reap the rewards of your effort in the near future. There are many high-paying career opportunities for LLM graduates. An LLM degree makes it easier to rise up the ranks and the paycheck is a cherry on top!
Interested in pursuing your LLM?
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Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 28, 2019. Originally published on January 16, 2017.