Law schools earn significant revenues from LL.M. programs, and law schools may be eager to devote resources to the LL.M. program. If the school earns more profit LL.M. student enrollment than J.D. student enrollment, the school may seek to bolster LL.M. resources at the expense of the J.D. program. In such a case, LL.M. creep may threaten the J.D. program.
The American Bar Association (ABA) which oversees and accredits law school J.D. programs. Generally, the ABA permits a law school to fund its LL.M., J.D. or other degree programs at whatever levels the school desires. However, the ABA insists that LL.M. programs not interfere with J.D. programs.
The ABA specifically requires that LL.M. programs “may not detract from a law school’s ability to maintain a J.D. degree program that meets the requirements of the Standards”. Thus, if an LL.M. program at a U.S. law school detracts from or
LL.M. program stakeholders might be advised to take caution of LL.M. creep. The ABA will view it negatively if a law school’s LL.M. program adversely impacts a J.D. program.
The LL.M. program could suffer directly if LL.M. creep is present. The ABA could withdraw permission from the law school to offer the LL.M. program, and the law school would be forced to take corrective action. Law schools do not want to lose ABA “permission”, which is known as “acquiescence”, because this would threaten the school’s LL.M. program, and the law school, including the law school’s reputation.
“To creep” is defined as “To move in a stealthy or secret or cautious manner; to move imperceptibly or clandestinely; to steal in; to insinuate itself or one's self”.
However, LL.M. creep need not be stealthy or secretive. In fact, LL.M. creep may be inadvertent, almost accidental! The law school in question may not even realize that its actions to expand or improve the LL.M. program may have such a devastating, adverse impact long-standing J.D. programs. But, once the law school is made aware that the LL.M. program is adversely affecting the J.D. program, the law school is on notice to correct the problem!
By the way, the word “creep” also means “an annoying person”!
For more information on the ABA Standards relevant to LL.M. creep, see:
ABA Standard 303: Degree Programs in Addition to J.D.
Statement of the Council Concerning LL.M. and Other Post-J.D. Degrees