Law programs in the US are very different from those in the Netherlands. After high school, future law students have to take a four year long pre-law program at a college or university. Many students pick English, history, political science, or journalism as their major. Once you have obtained your pre-law Bachelor’s, you may attend Law School at a postgraduate level. This program will take three years to complete and offers the title of JD (Juris Doctor), similar to the Dutch Meester in de Rechten. Once you have acquired your JD, you can take the American State Bar Examination. Your education is only completed once you have passed this exam.

Options for international students

International students who do not have an American Bachelor’s degree in pre-law are rarely accepted into a JD-program at an American Law School. If you have obtained a law degree in your home country, you will be able to enroll in a graduate law program such as the Master of Laws (LLM) program.


Master of Laws (LLM)

The Master of Laws program is a nine month long graduate program that is accessible to American students who have completed their JD-program. International students can apply to enroll through a law degree from their home country. Certain universities only allow students who attained a law degree in an Anglo-American country (common law lawyers) to enroll in their LLM program. Most universities, however, are also open to applicants with degrees from countries that use different systems of law, such as the Netherlands.

Alongside these more general LLM programs, some universities also offer specialized programs in fields such as Corporate Law, Taxation, Intellectual Property, or International Law. Every LLM program is different, depending on the university. Some require their students to stick to a very rigid course program, while others allow their students a certain degree of flexibility in choosing their courses. It can be a disadvantage to be unfamiliar with the American law system before starting an LLM program. There are options – or requirements – to fill these knowledge gaps through pre-Master’s courses before starting the LLM program, or by taking one or more courses in American Law during the LLM program.


Master of Comparative Law (MCL) and Master of Jurisprudence (MCJ)

The MCL/MCJ program is also a nine months long graduate program, catered towards people who obtained a degree in civil law. The program focuses on the American law system compared to several other law systems. You are also allowed to take courses with a different focus during the program, such as Contract and Property Law. These courses could be useful if you intend to do an internship in the US. The second semester offers room for specialization.

Because many lawyers from outside of the US enroll in this program, it is not a disadvantage to be unfamiliar with American law. MCL/MCJ programs have a much stronger international focus.


Gaining work experience in law

The LLM does not automatically qualify you to practice law in the US. First, you will have to take the bar exam. Some states, such as New York, only allow lawyers from outside the US to sit this exam after obtaining an LLM degree.

It is possible, however, to do an internship in the US after completing an LLM or MCL/MCJ program. Most law schools require you to submit your resume at the Placement Office. You might receive an invitation to talk to representatives of law offices. You can start this process in advance from the Netherlands by contacting law offices that have international affiliates in the US. This will improve your chances of finding a paid internship in America.


Getting a PhD in law

Graduates who are considering a PhD in law can look into the JSD (Doctor of Juridical Science). You can apply for this degree once you have completed the LLM or MCL/J program, and it will take an additional three to five years to complete. This program is specifically geared towards academic research and teaching.


Useful websites

LLM International Law Programs

an overview of schools in the US that offer LL.M. programs, listed by specialization.

ABA-Approved Law Schools

An overview of all 206 programs approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).


An overview of members of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).