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The Ultimate Law Degree Guide for International Students

Thinking about getting a Law degree? This guide will tell you everything you need to know on how to get a Law degree as an international student.

Dec 7, 2023
  • Student Tips
  • Education
Law students on law school campus

✨ 5-second summary

  • Law degrees prepare you for professions such as lawyers, attorneys, barristers, judges and legal consultants.
  • The cost of law school varies by country, $28,264-$41,726 per year for the U.S., and no tuition fees in Germany.
  • Law degrees lead to lucrative career opportunities, with lawyers in the U.S. averaging a salary of $95,297.

This complete guide will take you through the step-by-step process of pursuing a law degree abroad.

While the degrees and procedures may vary depending on the location and institution, our goal remains the same - to give you a carefully crafted resource that helps you in every aspect, from choosing the right program to exploring career opportunities after graduation.

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What is a law degree?

📌 KEY TAKEAWAYS

Law degrees are offered at various levels, such as:

  • Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and Juris Doctor (JD)
  • Master of Laws (LLM)
  • Doctor of Juridical Science (LL.D. or SJD).

The duration of law programs varies by country and educational system, typically involving classroom learning, practical training, and for advanced degrees, the completion of a thesis.

A law degree, in most countries, is a graduate-level or postgraduate academic degree awarded upon completion of law school. It is designed to prepare individuals for a career in the legal profession, whether it be as a lawyer, attorney, or barrister. In some jurisdictions, it can also lead to various other legal professions such as legal consultants, judges, among others.

Types of law degrees

Typically, this journey begins with a graduate-level program, such as a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD) program. Upon obtaining one of these degrees, students have the freedom to specialize in a specific area of law through postgraduate studies:

LLB (Bachelor of Laws): An undergraduate degree that provides students with a strong foundation in legal principles and practices.

JD (Juris Doctor): A professional graduate degree mainly offered in the US. It is designed to prepare students for the practice of law. The JD program focuses on developing critical thinking, legal analysis, and advocacy skills.

LLM (Master of Laws): Typically for individuals who already hold a first degree in law and wish to specialize in a particular area of law.
This postgraduate degree allows students to delve deeper into a specific legal field. LLM programs often involve intensive research, coursework, and the completion of a master's thesis.

MLS (Master of Legal Studies): For non-lawyers who want a deeper understanding of the law without becoming practicing attorneys. It is particularly beneficial for professionals working in fields that intersect with the law, such as business, healthcare, or government.

LL.D. or SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science or Doctor of Laws): The highest level of academic achievement in law, akin to a PhD in other fields, typically pursued by those interested in teaching law or doing legal research.

💡 Pro tip: Areas of law

There are as many areas of law as there are legal issues and disputes in society. Law is a broad concept that encompasses various fields of study, each with its own set of rules, principles and regulations.

To learn more about the different types of specializations and areas of law, check out our complete Law School Glossary of law terms.

How long does it take to get a law degree?

The duration of these programs may vary depending on factors such as the degree pursued, the country, and the educational system:

LLB3-6 years
JD3 years
LLM1-2 years
MLS1-2 years
SJD3-5 years

How do you get a law degree?

The process varies by country and institution, but typically includes:

Classroom-based learning
Practical training
Thesis

Classroom-based learning: Law students generally explore fundamental areas of law, gaining a strong grasp of legal principles, theories, and concepts. Acquiring the necessary study skills is crucial for success in legal education.

Practical training: This may involve participating in moot court sessions, where students simulate court proceedings to develop their advocacy and argumentation skills. Internships or clerkships at law firms, courts, or other legal organizations can also provide valuable practical experience and exposure to the legal profession.

Thesis: For those pursuing advanced degrees like the LLM (Master of Laws), the completion of a thesis or dissertation is often required. This involves conducting in-depth research on a specific legal topic and presenting findings in a scholarly manner.

How to choose a law school

📌 KEY TAKEAWAYS

When choosing a law school, consider:

  • Cost of living
  • Job opportunities
  • Proximity to family and friends
  • School curriculum
  • Tuition costs
  • Available scholarships and other financial aid
  • Job prospects
  • Faculty's credentials and school resources
  • The school's bar passage rates

Here's a breakdown of all things you should consider when you're choosing a law school:

Location

Factors such as:

  • Cost of living
  • Availability of job opportunities
  • Proximity to family and friends

Additionally, some law schools have strong connections to specific areas of legal practice, so choosing a school located in a city with opportunities in your desired field may benefit you.

Curriculum

The curriculum offered by the law school is another important factor to consider. Some schools may specialize in certain areas of law or offer unique programs that align with your interests. It is important to research the curriculum and see if it aligns with your career goals.

Cost of tuition

Law school can be expensive, so it is crucial to factor in the cost of tuition when choosing a law school. Compare tuition costs between different schools and consider scholarships, financial aid, and potential job opportunities during and after law school.

Faculty and resources

The faculty at a law school can greatly impact your education. Look into the backgrounds and credentials of professors, as well as opportunities for mentorship, networking, and extracurricular activities.

Career services

Law school is ultimately a stepping stone to your legal career. Look into the career services offered by the law schools, such as job placement and networking opportunities, to ensure you have the support you need after graduation.

The passage rates of the Bar exam

The Bar exam, which holds significant importance, especially for those aspiring to practice law in countries like the United States.

The Bar exam is a standardized test that evaluates the legal knowledge and skills of aspiring lawyers.

It is essential to consider the bar passage rate of a law school because:

  • It reflects the quality of education and preparation provided by the school.
  • A high bar passage rate can also increase your chances of passing the exam on your first attempt.

This chart shows the bar passage rates per law school in the United States in 2020, providing valuable insights to help you anticipate what to expect.

How to get into law school: law school requirements

📌 KEY TAKEAWAYS

Most law school programs require the following:

  • Academic transcripts of your diploma(s) and grades
  • A personal statement and letters of recommendation
  • Standardized tests like the LSAT
  • Proof of language proficiency

The specific law school requirements may differ based on the program and country, but the following are typically the most prevalent ones:

Law school requirements - checklist
  • Academic transcripts: Having good undergraduate grades significantly boosts your chances of getting into law school. Admissions committees often consider your academic performance as an indicator of your ability to handle the rigorous coursework in law school.
  • Personal statement: Your personal statement is an opportunity to showcase your passion for law and any relevant experiences that have shaped your desire to pursue a legal career. It allows you to convey your unique perspective and demonstrate your commitment and dedication to the field.
  • Letter(s) of recommendation: Strong letters of recommendation from professionals who can attest to your aptitude for a legal career can greatly enhance your application. These letters provide insights into your character, work ethic, and potential as a law student.
  • LSAT or other entrance exams: The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is a common standardized test for law school applicants, especially in North America. Your performance on this exam is often a crucial factor in the admissions decision. Other entrance exams may also be required by certain law schools.
  • Language proficiency: For international students, proof of language proficiency may be required. This ensures that you have the necessary language skills to succeed in a law school program taught in English or another specific language.
  • Additional requirements: In addition to the core requirements, some law schools may require you to submit a CV (Curriculum Vitae), writing samples, or participate in interviews. These additional components allow the admissions committee to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your qualifications and potential as a law school candidate.

💡 Tips for successful law school applications

  • Understand the prerequisites for your chosen program.
  • Start preparing early for the LSAT or other required standardized tests.
  • Highlight any legal internships or related experiences in your application.
  • Proofread application materials meticulously.

Read even more law school application tips

Why study law? Is law school worth it?

📌 KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Law degrees offer diverse and rewarding career opportunities, including legal professions, roles in the public sector, academia, corporate positions, and international organizations.
  • Studying law can lead to lucrative careers, with lawyers in the U.S. averaging a salary of $95,297.
  • Lawyers play a critical role in upholding justice and advocating for societal rights, from individual civil rights to public policy formation.

Law is a field known for its prestige and lucrative career opportunities. Here are some compelling reasons on why studying law is a great choice:

Why study law? Is a law degree worth it?

Choose from a broad spectrum of careers

A law degree opens up a broad spectrum of exciting and rewarding legal careers. Law degree jobs span across many industries and sectors:

  • Legal professions: Law graduates can pursue careers as solicitors, barristers, or paralegals. These professionals play crucial roles in providing legal advice, representing clients in court, and ensuring the proper functioning of the legal system.
  • Public sector: Law graduates can contribute to the administration of justice by becoming judges, prosecutors, or public defenders. These roles involve upholding the law, safeguarding the rights of individuals, and ensuring fair trials.
  • Academia: Law professors and researchers have the opportunity to shape the future of the legal profession through teaching, conducting in-depth legal research, and contributing to the development of legal theories and concepts.
  • Corporate: In-house counsel and compliance officers play essential roles within corporations, ensuring legal compliance, providing legal advice to businesses, and managing legal risks.
    • International: Law graduates can make a global impact by working as legal advisors in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations (UN) bodies, and other international institutions. These roles involve addressing legal issues on an international scale and promoting justice and human rights worldwide.

Pursue a lucrative career

It’s no secret that lawyers earn a lot of money. The average salary for a lawyer in the US is $95,297. While money shouldn't be the sole reason for studying law, it's certainly a nice perk to have.

Check out the full list of law graduate salaries, including lawyer salary and other professions, in the last section of the guide.

Develop transferrable skills

Developing transferable skills is crucial for personal and professional growth in the field of law. Some examples include:

  • Critical thinking: Legal education sharpens a student's ability to think critically and analyze complex issues. You’ll learn how to dissect situations, understand different perspectives, and formulate informed conclusions.
  • Argumentation: Another key element of law is the art of crafting compelling arguments and presenting them in a clear and effective manner. This is true both in written form, such as legal documents, and orally, as in court proceedings or negotiations.
  • Problem-solving: The nature of legal challenges often requires intricate problem-solving. Lawyers frequently navigate complex transactions or find resolutions to disputes, honing their ability to devise creative and effective solutions.
  • Resilience: Law students are often exposed to a wide range of legal topics and issues. This exposure not only broadens one's knowledge base but also fosters adaptability and resilience.
  • Organization: Law school also hones time management and organization skills. Juggling multiple courses, assignments, and extracurricular activities requires students to develop efficient study habits and prioritize tasks effectively.

Have a direct impact on society

At its core, the legal profession is about upholding justice. Lawyers often serve as advocates for those who might not otherwise have a voice, ensuring that justice is accessible to all.

Lawyers also play a pivotal role in ensuring that individual and collective rights are safeguarded. This includes everything from civil rights to property rights, and from free speech to ensuring a fair trial.

Beyond the courtroom, legal professionals often engage in public policy work. They shape the laws that govern societies, advise policymakers, draft legislation, or lobby for changes that they believe are in the public's best interest.

Lawyers often collaborate with non-profit organizations or volunteer their time to provide pro bono legal services to those in need. This allows them to use their skills and knowledge to give back to the community and make a positive impact on people's lives.

How much does law school cost?

📌 KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • US: Public law school costs average $28,264 per year for in-state, and $41,726 for out-of-state students
  • UK: £9,000 per year for domestic students, around double that for international students
  • Germany: no tuition fees, only €250 in administrative fees per semester
  • France: €2,770 per year for Bachelor’s and €3,770 per year for Master’s programs​​
  • Sweden: SEK 90,000 per academic year for international students (free for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens and Swedish residents)

The cost of attending law school varies significantly depending on the country. Here's a breakdown for the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Sweden:

United States:

  • The average annual tuition and fees at a private law school are approximately $49,458.
  • Public law school costs average $28,264 for in-state tuition and $41,726 for out-of-state tuition.
  • For example, the cost of each year of law school at Harvard is around $64,978, plus $24,508 for room and board, totaling $89,486 per year​​.

United Kingdom:

  • The average cost of tuition for law school in the UK is around £9,000 per year, so the average cost of a three-year law degree at a university in England and Wales is approximately £27,000.
  • If you choose to study for a postgraduate law degree, such as the Legal Practice Course (LPC), it can cost an additional £10,000-15,000​​​​.

Germany:

  • Public universities in Germany offer tuition-free education at the undergraduate level, requiring only around €250 in administrative fees per semester.
  • Students pursuing law at public universities in the state of Baden-Württemberg pay approximately €3,000 per year in tuition fees.
  • Private universities in Germany can charge up to €20,000 in tuition fees per year​​.

France:

International students in France are charged €2,770 per year for Bachelor’s (Licence) programs and €3,770 per year for Master’s programs​​.

Sweden:

The tuition fee for law studies at Stockholm University, for example, is SEK 90,000 per academic year for programs within the Humanities/Social Sciences/Law​​.

These costs are subject to change and may vary depending on the specific institution and program. Make sure to check the latest fees for the exact universities you're interested in.

Law school scholarships: scholarships for law students

  • The Gates Scholarship: Selects 300 high school seniors from low-income, minority backgrounds for full funding of remaining law school costs​
  • Marshall-Motley Scholars Program (MMSP): Offers full funding for law school expenses and career opportunities for 50 aspiring civil rights lawyers each year​​.
  • Rizio Lipinsky Lawyer Scholarship: A $5,000 award requiring an essay on pursuing a legal profession and advocating for justice.
  • 7Sage 7K Scholarship: A $7,000 scholarship for incoming first-year law students, with additional perks like LSAT prep and admissions consulting.
  • One Lawyer Can Change the World Scholarship: A $10,000 award for incoming first-year students, with an essay on using a law degree for positive change.
  • Blueprint LSAT Law School Scholarship: A unique $20,000 scholarship awarded randomly to students planning to take the LSAT and enroll in an ABA-approved law school​

Law graduate salary: lawyer salary and more

Law is a lucrative career field. Here are some examples of law degree jobs, and how much they pay:

Job titleAverage salary in the USAverage salary in the UK
Attorney / Lawyer$95,297£53,253
Paralegal$52,546£20,360
Entry-level attorney$65,180£35,000
Corporate lawyer$114,279£66,300
Prosecutor$72,582£52,728
Criminal defence lawyer$84,338£39,287
Legal analyst $62,972 £27,646
Legal assistant$48,139£19,661

Data source: Payscale, 2023

Keystone Team

Author

The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.