Biglaw, Education / Schools, Job Searches, Law Schools, LLMs, Student Loans, Tax Law

The Value of the LL.M. Degree? Still Low

Every so often, people ask us about the “value” of getting an LL.M. degree. Our answer has remained pretty consistent. Is it a tax LL.M. from Georgetown or NYU? No? Then save your money and buy something valuable like gold or drugs. See this graphic (click to enlarge):

Photo credit: some dude on TLS.

But still, people ask: “Is it worth it to get an LL.M. degree?” And obviously, there are a bunch of people who put down good money chasing an extra credential that has little to no impact on their job prospects.

Why? Well, the simplest answer is that LL.M.s are extremely valuable to law school budgets. LL.M.s are so lucrative for law schools that law school deans are willing to lie or become willfully ignorant as to the employment opportunities generated by an expensive post-law school degree.

The National Law Journal made that EXTREMELY OBVIOUS point yesterday (again)….

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal reported on a panel at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting last week, during which a recruiter from the prominent firm of Major, Lindsey & Africa told the room that not only do LL.M.s have a limited value to job seekers, but listing the degree may actually hurt job applicants:

In fact, [Steven John, a managing director at Major Lindsey] said, advanced degrees in law — with the exception of LL.M.s for foreign-trained attorneys and tax LL.M.s — can actually hurt job candidates, because they may signal uncertainty about their career paths or attempts to avoid the reality of a difficult job search. Also suspect is when candidates study in areas that do not dovetail with their practice experience.

John said he asked his fellow recruiters at Major Lindsey whether they ever had a client specifically request candidates with advanced degrees — with the exception of tax LL.M.s — or whether a candidate ever secured a job because of an advanced degree.

The answer to both questions was no.

“The market has never demanded it,” he said during a panel discussion. “Advanced degrees never come into the conversation.” In fact, he added, some of his colleagues advise job seekers to leave LL.M.s off their resumes.

What more needs to be said? Honestly, what more needs to be said about the value of the LL.M. degree?

I feel bad for people seriously considering most LL.M. programs. They’re in a tough spot. They’ve spent three years and who knows how much money pursuing a career in law, and now they can’t get a job. They’re hoping that somewhere there is some magic bullet that can turn everything around. There is not. They got into this position by placing hopes and dreams over reality and research. Now they’re trying to wish their way to success again. Watching a kid get an LL.M. degree is like watching a recovering drug addict fall off the wagon after a personal setback.

And in that passion play, law schools are the pushers. From the NLJ:

The programs were not without their defenders. Several panelists argued that they can help graduates get a leg up in the job market outside the large law firms that Major Lindsey serves. They also can help mid-career attorneys trying to break into new areas of law, or help attorneys enter new geographic markets, said New York Law School professor Marshall Tracht, who runs an LL.M. program in real estate law. Students can complete a J.D. and real estate LL.M. in seven semesters, paying a discounted price for the advanced degree. “It’s been effective in getting people job interviews and some job opportunities,” he said.

People I spoke to at AALS could not stop talking about their LL.M. programs. More than one law school administrator pointed to LL.M. programs as revenue sources that helped their school keep the cost of a J.D. degree down.

But where is the evidence showing that LL.M. programs actually lead to positive outcomes for the students? Where are the studies showing that LL.M. programs (especially non-tax LL.M. programs) lead to increased salaries for participants? Don’t charge students tens of thousands of dollars on anecdotal evidence — defend your programs in real economic terms.

Whatever, they won’t because they can’t, because LL.M. programs aren’t selling real economic benefits. They’re selling hope. They market to the desperate. Having already put students on the hook for $100,000 or more, law schools are banking that an extra $10,000 in debt won’t seem too outrageous. Schools want law students to feel “pot committed”: like they’ve invested so much money into the pot that, even with crappy cards, it’s no longer worth it to fold.

But don’t believe it. FOLD! Live to fight another day! Don’t give these nimrods all the money in your wallet. Your job prospects, crappy though they may be, are not materially helped by getting another useless credential.

(Unless you are a foreign law student or seeking a tax LL.M. from a respected program. But you already knew that.)

Big law firms don’t care about your LL.M., recruiter warns [National Law Journal]
Benefits of LLM degree [Top-Law-Schools]

Earlier: What Is the Value of an LLM Degree?

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