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L.L.M. in Employee Benefits


Guest ERISA_kid
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Guest ERISA_kid

I'm graduating Seton Hall Law School this May and considering going for my L.L.M. in Employee Benefits at John Marshall Law School in Chicago (the only L.L.M. program for Employee Benefits in the country). However, I would like to know whether an L.L.M. from this program is going to be meaningful or just another abbreviation on my resume. More specifically, I want to know how much an L.L.M. from this program really increases my marketability in this legal niche. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

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I would look at a Tax LLM from Georgetown with a employee benefit "certificate" see the following:

http://www.law.georgetown.edu/graduate/emp_benefits.cfm

Look a the course offerings and faculty. They use adjuncts who are some of the leaders in the field and not just "academics"

I am not sure about John Marshall, but I have always viewed the LLM from Georgetown with the employee benefits certificate as putting you a step ahead in marketability (and I did not even go there).

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It's my understanding that Golden Gate University also offers an LLM in tax with specialization in employee benefits. I didn't get my LLM but know some who did. One individual in particular was working for a law firm at the time he returned to get his LLM (not in employee benefits). The firm paid for his education and continued his salary all the time he was in school. In return, he committed to working for the firm for two years for every year he was in school. He regretted the decision. His comment to me was that he could have earned a whole lot more by paying for the education himself and making himself available in the open market after graduation.

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I have an LLM in tax from Georgetown. (Technically, it is a MLT, Masters of Laws of Taxation.) I got it over twenty years ago and thought it was an invaluable experience. The program has gotten even better since then, offering even more courses in ERISA. I would strongly recommend that you consider trying Georgetown.

All but one of my professors was an attorney in private practice, and the other one worked on tax matters in the government. The program is very practical; much different than your J.D. level courses. Thus, the program is oriented towards teaching you the things that you need to know to actually practice tax law, rather than spending a lot of time pontificating about what the law should really be. As a result, I found it much more valuable than my J.D. level courses, but correspondingly, much more challenging.

Kirk Maldonado

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Ditto to Kirk - about my experience in the L.L.M. program (Tax) at Case Western Reserve University. Interestingly, a "name brand" L.L.M. may open a door for you, but what you do once you get there will determine whether you get to stay, or whether the door hits you in the hind-quarters on the way out. As you go through multiple employers through your career, the "name" becomes less and less important, and the "what have you done lately" becomes more and more important. CWRU's L.L.M. was also a very different (and more rewarding) experience than my J.D. program - but part of that was I had 10 years between finishing the J.D. and starting the L.L.M. - so part of the difference wasn't just the more practical aspects of the program, but rather my better appreciation of education as "training" rather than as a credential for marketability (and "big bucks" - or so I thought). Personally, I would opt for the best educational opportunity, rather than the credential. That's not to say that isn't what you have planned, but it may be a different approach in your evaluation.

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A little off the track here, but…what’s your POV on a JD combined with a QPA or CPC from ASPA or comparable certification? Would you say an employer looking for employee benefits expertise would place equal weight on the QPA and LLM?

Life and Death Planning for Retirement Benefits by Natalie B. Choate
https://www.ataxplan.com/life-and-death-planning-for-retirement-benefits/

www.DeniseAppleby.com

 

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I agree with Kirk - to a law firm, an ASPA designation is worth little or nothing. To most other organizations, it would be a complement (i.e. if you work internally with service provider, fund company, consulting organization, etc.). I think the L.L.M. and the QPA differ significantly on focus, as well. The L.L.M. would be much more concerned with the legal issues involved, and pay little or no attention to the practical aspects of plan operation/administration and employer goal attainment. Having both,in a consulting environment (whether for a consulting firm, or a vendor, etc.) wouldn't be a bad idea.

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Guest ERISA_kid

I appreciate all of your feedback on this topic. I will definitely consider the Georgetown LLM in my future academic endeavors.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I also found that earning the CFP® certification was helpful. It provides a good continuum of experience and exposure that allows you to fit in with and gain respect from both lawyers and financial planners. It also provides a different vantage from which to advise clients, since most lawyers in the area focus on big corporate clients and financial planners are more typically advising executives, owners, and other individuals. The certification also is increasingly valuable as more and more planners are expected to become certified, despite the low pass rate. Further, the Es of being certified--education, experience, ethics, and examination are well respected.

Theresa Lynn

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Whoa! Having earned a Master's Degree in Washingon, DC, I can appreciate a healthy East Coast bias, as well as the view that Georgetown is a fabulous place to study.

But I have to put in a good word for John Marshall's LLM program, to balance out the scales here.

I am familiar with the location and library of John Marshall, having earned my J.D. down the street at another Chicago law school.

I keep tabs on the interesting Employee Benefits LLM program at John Marshall, and am on their mailing list. I've had contact with two of the main faculty in the program, and have been impressed with both.

I am in my second year of ERISA practice (J.D. only) in Milwaukee, and know that I would have hit the ground at a much greater speed had I chosen the John Marshall program. (Actually, I didn't focus on ERISA practice until some time after graduation).

ERISA Kid, if you know that you're interested in Employee Benefits, and are sure that you want additional training, an LLM from John Marshall would serve you quite well, I am sure.

Just follow the EB Attorney job postings on BenefitsLink. There is always an open position somewhere, in this field, and any additional training - from a "name school" or otherwise - will put you ahead of the not so large pack.

Feel free to contact me directly (from my profile page) if you have further questions or comments about the relative pros/cons (in my view) of Washington D.C. versus Chicago living/studying.

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