Rules for the LL.M. Degree

LL.M. Rules as of July 2021.

Professional Responsibility

Legal education is generally a passageway to careers of service in law, either in private practice or in a public capacity. The standards of responsibility for that service are high and exacting. In part, the appreciation of these responsibilities is gained by habit and example; the Law School helps to form these professional attitudes as an integral part of the education it provides. The responsibilities of law students are of course different from those of lawyers. Yet in a real sense professional responsibility begins upon entering law school. Students are regarded, and should regard themselves, as committed to integrity and effectiveness in the legal profession. That commitment requires consideration, honesty, and fair dealing in academic enterprises, in the law school community, and in personal and professional relations outside the law school. The Columbia Law School demands this rigorously of faculty and students alike.

The following contains detailed requirements for the LL.M. degree. Each candidate is responsible for a thorough knowledge of them. However, students must measure their conduct not only by these specifics but also by a general standard of ethical professional behavior.

To earn the LL.M. degree, candidates must:

  1. Earn 24 points of academic credit (and a minimum of 11 credits per term). Academic point credit is earned by satisfactory completion of a course, seminar or other academic activity with a grade of C or better, or with a grade of CR in courses or activities permitting or requiring grading on a credit/fail (CR/F) or pass/fail (P/F) scale, such as Introduction to American Law (IAL) and Legal Research and Writing (LRW). Of the 24 points of academic credit required for the degree,
  • Up to eight points can be earned through supervised research, and

Up to six points can be earned in graduate level courses outside the Law School (see Instruction and Research in Other Schools).

  1. Satisfactorily complete IAL and LRW, except those who have earned a J.D. from a U.S. law school or those who waive or opt out of the courses pursuant to the program’s rules for waiving or opting out.
  2. Complete the LL.M. Writing Project requirement. (See LL.M. Writing Project Requirement and Supervised Research.)
  3. Complete the LL.M. Experiential Credit Requirement (See LL.M. Experiential Credit Requirement)
  4. Earn a grade point average (GPA) of 2.67 (B-) or better, or a preponderance of B-or-better grades.  Grades earned in courses taken outside of the Law School, either in another division of Columbia University or as part of the CLS/NYU Law Exchange, as well as Law School courses graded on a CR/F or P/F basis, will not be factored into either calculation. If an LL.M. candidate fails more than one course or seminar, the student's candidacy will be terminated automatically and the student will not earn the degree.

Dates for award of the LL.M. degree fall in May, October, and February. LL.M. candidates who expect to receive the degree in May must file a degree application by December 1. The deadline to apply for the October degree is August 1, and November 15 for the February degree. Students who do not complete the requirements for the degree are responsible for applying for the next degree conferral date. More information on degree applications is available through The Office of Registration Services.

No LL.M. candidacy will be extended or renewed beyond the second award date subsequent to the termination of the candidate’s period of residence, i.e., February for candidates going out of residence in May. Of course, every candidate registered for the LL.M. degree is strongly urged to complete all work in time to receive the degree in May of the year of residence.

The due date for completion of all fall semester work for LL.M. candidates is normally the last day of the final exam period, unless the instructor assigns an earlier due date. LL.M. candidates who receive a grade of incomplete (IN) in the fall semester must complete and submit the work by April 1. The due date for completion of all spring semester work is the last day of spring classes, unless the instructor specifies an earlier due date. October degree candidates must complete and submit all work by September 1, and February degree candidates must complete and submit all work by December 31.

The LL.M. Program is a full-time, academic year (August-May) program. LL.M. students must take a minimum of 11 points per term to be in full-time status at the Law School (the Law School’s minimum credit point requirement replaces the requirement set by the University). Because of the full-time residency requirement, degree candidates are not permitted to accept or continue employment, other than on-campus work, during the LL.M. Program.

LL.M. students may take a maximum of 15 points per term (fall and spring). In rare circumstances, a student may have a compelling reason to take 16 credit points in one term. In such instances, the student must obtain approval from an advisor of The Office of Graduate Degree Programs (OGP) by completing a Petition Form before the end of the Add/Drop period for that term.

While LL.M. candidates are not admitted on a part-time basis, an exception to this rule may be made for students who for personal reasons may spread their studies over a three-semester period, taking eight points per term. Students who opt to complete their program over three semesters are charged tuition on a per-credit basis instead of a per-semester basis, thus resulting in a greater overall tuition charge. This option is only available to students who do not require a student visa to study at Columbia, as the total credit points per term fall below the University’s minimum requirement to qualify as a full-time student for visa purposes. LL.M. students seeking such accommodation must submit a formal written petition to the Office of Graduate Degree Programs.

While there are no joint degrees at the LL.M. degree level, LL.M. students are permitted to register for up to six points of graduate level courses in other departments of the University when such work is deemed appropriate and relevant to their academic programs, and subject to the following limitations:

  • Credits earned in foreign language courses, even if offered by the Law School or listed on the law school’s curriculum schedule, do not count toward the 24 points required to earn the LL.M. degree.
  • The LL.M. Writing Project requirement cannot be fulfilled in courses taken outside of the Law School.
  • All courses taken outside the Law School must be graded on the A-B-C-F scale. Grades lower than C will not be accepted for credit toward the LL.M.
  • The number of academic credits awarded for courses taken at another school or division of Columbia is limited to the actual number of hours a class meets per week, irrespective of the number of credits listed in that school’s catalogue (e.g., a three-credit course which meets for two hours each week yields two credits, not three).  An exception to this rule occurs when the other school assigns fewer credits than the number of hours the course meets each week; in that case, the student will earn the number of credits assigned to that course by the school (e.g., a two-credit course which meets for three hours each week yields two credits, not three).
  • Grades earned in courses taken outside Columbia Law School,either in another division of Columbia University or as part of the CLS/NYU Law Exchange, will not be factored into honors GPA calculations.

If a student chooses to take a course at a school outside Columbia University in the absence of an agreement between that school and Columbia, the student does so with the understanding that payment for such a course will not be deducted from any tuition owed to Columbia University, nor will any credits earned at the other institution supplant any of the credits required for the Columbia University degree.

Visit the Columbia University website for a listing of other Columbia University schools and for a complete directory of classes.

LL.M. candidates are subject to the same attendance rules as J.D. candidates. See Class Attendance for the complete policy on class attendance.

To earn the LL.M. degree, candidates must complete the LL.M. Writing Project—a research paper based on a student’s original legal research, which must meet the following criteria:

  1. The paper must be worth at least two points of academic credit.

    A two-point paper, whether written as a seminar requirement or as supervised research, generally represents about 140 hours of work, or 10 hours per week, and is usually 20 to 25 pages or 6,500 to 8,000 words, although individual professors may have different requirements.
     
  2. The paper must be graded on the A-B-C-F scale.

    Credit (Pass)/Fail or other non-evaluative grades are not permitted.

The following will not satisfy the LL.M. Writing Project requirement:

  1. Reaction papers, opinion papers, journal entries, or critiques.
  2. A series of shorter research papers whose total equals 20 to 25 pages.
  3. Non-research based writing projects.
  4. Papers for which the research is based entirely or mostly on reading materials (cases, articles, commentaries, etc.) assigned by a professor for the course or seminar.
  5. Papers written for courses taken outside the Law School, absent approval of the Law School Rules Committee.
  6. Assignments written for LL.M. Legal Research and Writing.
  7. Student journal articles, notes, or research assistant assignments unless the student writes a paper that meets the LL.M. Writing Project standards as supervised research (see below for details on supervised research).

The Writing Project requirement can be completed in several ways:

  1. Seminars

    If a student is enrolled in a seminar that requires a 20 to 25 page research paper and that seminar is worth at least two points of academic credit, then the seminar paper will fulfill the Writing Project requirement.

    If a seminar requires a research paper of fewer than 20 pages, a student may seek the instructor’s permission to write a longer research paper (20 to 25 pages or 6,500 to 8,000 words) in order to satisfy the Writing Project requirement. In such cases, if the student writes at least 10-15 additional pages, the student may be entitled to earn one additional point of academic credit. The student must register the additional point by completing the LL.M. Supervised Research Form, and selecting Supervised Research: Course Related, L6689. In the case of a two-credit seminar, the student will thus earn a total of three points of academic credit—two for the seminar and one for the additional work done on the paper. If a seminar provides the option of a final examination or a research paper, a student who opts to write the research paper will fulfill the Writing Project requirement provided the final work product meets the standards set forth above. Supervised Research: Course Related credits do not count towards the 24-credit requirement to sit for the New York Bar Exam as a foreign-trained lawyer.

It is not permitted to register Supervised Research: Course Related in conjunction with an externship.


If a seminar has a final examination or a final project (e.g., Negotiation Workshop or Deals Workshop), instead of a research paper, a student may seek the instructor’s permission to write a research paper worth at least two points of academic credit (20 to 25 pages) in addition to the final exam or final project, in order to fulfill the Writing Project requirement. The student must register the additional two-point paper by completing the LL.M. Supervised Research Form, and selecting Research for the LL.M. Degree, L6691.
 

  1. Supervised Research

    See LL.M. Supervised Research for more details.
     
  2. LL.M. Essay

    See LL.M. Essay for more details.

Registering Your LL.M. Writing Project

All LL.M. candidates must complete the LL.M. Writing Project Registration Form. Candidates must obtain the signature of both the professor and an advisor of OGP, and include on the form a brief description of the type of paper to be written. The form is due October 1 for writing projects to be completed during the fall term and February 1 for writing projects to be completed during the spring term.

Please note: the LL.M. Writing Project should not be submitted to OGP, nor must it meet the requirements of the LL.M. Essay.

 

Supervised research entails writing a research paper independently of any course under the supervision of a Columbia Law School faculty member (including clinical, visiting and adjunct faculty) who agrees to supervise the work and grade it on the A-B-C-F scale. The paper must be worth at least two points of academic credit and 20 pages in length.  Students can earn an additional point for each additional 10-15 pages written. LL.M. students register for supervised research by completing the LL.M. Supervised Research Form and selecting the category Research for the LL.M. Degree, L6691.

A student is expected to communicate regularly with the Faculty Supervisor, and depending on the agreement with the supervisor, may proceed through any or all of the following stages:

  1. Topic selection:
    The student and supervisor agree on a subject matter area, and discuss possible research topics within that general area.
     
  2. Preliminary research:
    Following selection of a topic, the student conducts research aimed at narrowing and refining the project and the supervisor provides feedback that assists the student in formulating a research and writing plan.
     
  3. Project outline:
    The student prepares and submits a written outline of the research project and the supervisor responds with substantive feedback.
     
  4. Paper draft:
    The student submits a preliminary draft of the paper or its equivalent and the supervisor provides written or oral comments on the draft.
     

Final paper:
The student submits the final paper for the professor's evaluation.

The LL.M. Essay represents a larger undertaking than supervised research.  Students who select this option typically are seeking to produce a work of publishable quality, more along the lines of a Master’s thesis. The principal difference between the two options lies in the formality of presentation required for an LL.M. Essay. The LL.M. Essay must be placed before the Faculty Supervisor well in advance of the final due date so that it can be reviewed and revised before it is finally submitted. A copy of the final LL.M. Essay is deposited in the Law School library, and its title appears on the student’s transcript.  By agreeing to deposit the LL.M. Essay with the Law Library, the student consents to its being made available for library use, reproduction, distribution, and display in any regularly employed format, which may include electronic forms. Other uses, such as derivative work use, remain the sole property of the student.

An LL.M. Essay must fulfill all of the following conditions:

  1. It must be a substantial and rigorous piece of legal writing based on research on a topic approved in advance by a faculty member (including clinical, visiting and adjunct faculty) who has agreed to act as Faculty Supervisor. The Faculty Supervisor must approve the scope and title of the LL.M. Essay;
  2. It must be submitted in draft form to the Faculty Supervisor, who will provide comments on the draft, and a further version of the paper which responds to the Faculty Supervisor’s comments must be produced; and
  3. It must earn a B or better grade.

The length of the LL.M. Essay must be determined in advance of registration by the student and the Faculty Supervisor, and is typically worth between 2 and 8 points. LL.M. students register for the LL.M. Essay in consultation with an advisor of OGP. The due date for the final, approved LL.M. Essay is specified on the Law School’s Academic Calendar.  

Additional LL.M. Essay information:

  1. One pdf copy in final form and one release form must be deposited by May 1 with OGP for submission to the Law School Library.
  2. The LL.M. Essay should be double-spaced, using a font conventional for formal presentations. All text must be kept within margins of one-and-a-half inches at left and top and one inch at right and bottom.
  3. The title page should contain only the following information in the following order:

Title of LL.M. Essay centered in upper one-third of page.

Full name of author (two spaces below title).

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements

for the degree of Master of Laws in the

School of Law

Columbia University

(Do not include the month, year, or other information.)

The LL.M. Essay should include a Table of Contents with page references at the front; an abstract; keywords; a Table of Cases at the end; and, in some instances, a Table of Statutes or Bibliography at the end.

All pages, including tables, bibliography, and appendices, should be numbered consecutively in Arabic numbers in the upper right hand corner (outside of the margin at the top). Prefatory pages, however, should be numbered in small Roman numerals.

Footnotes and references may appear at the bottom of the page to which they refer, at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the Essay. Citations should conform to the style of the Columbia Law Review.

Each LL.M. candidate must satisfy the LL.M. Experiential Requirement ("Experiential Requirement") by completing at least 1 credit of experiential learning.

LL.M. candidates can fulfill the Experiential Requirement in one of two ways:

  1. “Experiential learning category” course 
    1. Students who enroll in one course in the “Experiential learning category” will satisfy this requirement.  Note that LRW is in this category of courses. 
  2. LL.M. Experiential Study
    1. Under a faculty member’s supervision, LL.M. students may undertake a substantial project through a field placement that requires the exercise of professional skills. This offering is subject to a limit of two points of credit that may be counted towards the 24 points of credit required for the LL.M. degree, and will be graded on a CR/F basis. 
    2. To register LL.M. Experiential Study, you must complete the LL.M. Supervised Experiential Study Registration Form.
    3. LL.M. Experiential Study credits do not count towards the 24-credit requirement to sit for the New York Bar Exam as a foreign-trained lawyer.

Under a faculty member’s supervision, LL.M. students may serve as research assistants, and in this capacity perform legal research and writing in aid of scholarly investigations.  In the case of unpaid research assistance, this offering is subject to a limit of one point of credit that may be counted towards the 24 points of credit required for the LL.M. degree, and will be graded on a CR/F basis.  A student may elect to serve as a paid research assistant instead of earning one point of credit (or in addition to earning one point of credit).  Research Assistant credits do not count towards the 24-credit requirement to sit for the New York Bar Exam as a foreign-trained lawyer.

To register Research Assistance credit, a student must complete the Research Assistant / Teaching Fellow Registration Form.

Under a faculty member’s supervision, LL.M. students may serve as teaching fellows, without pay, and in this capacity perform teaching assistance. This offering is subject to a limit of three points of credit that may be counted towards the 24 points of credit required for the LL.M. degree, and will be graded on a CR/F basis.  Teaching Fellow credits do not count towards the 24-credit requirement to sit for the New York Bar Exam as a foreign-trained lawyer.

To register Teaching Fellow credit, a student must complete the Research Assistant / Teaching Fellow Registration Form.

 Instruction and Research in Other Schools

While there are no joint degree options for LL.M. students, LL.M. students are permitted to register for up to six points of graduate level courses in other departments of the University or as part of the CLS/NYU Law Exchange  when such work is deemed appropriate and relevant to their academic programs, and subject to the following limitations:

  • Credits earned in foreign language courses, even if offered by the Law School or listed on the law school’s curriculum schedule, do not count toward the 24 points required to earn the LL.M. degree.
  • The LL.M. Writing Project requirement cannot be fulfilled in courses taken outside of the Law School, absent approval of the Law School Rules Committee. 
  • All courses taken outside the Law School must be graded on the A-B-C-F scale. Grades lower than C will not be accepted for credit toward the LL.M.
  • The number of academic credits awarded for courses taken at another school or division of Columbia is limited to the actual number of hours a class meets per week, irrespective of the number of credits listed in that school’s catalogue (e.g., a three-credit course which meets for two hours each week yields two credits, not three).  An exception to this rule occurs when the other school assigns fewer credits than the number of hours the course meets each week; in that case, the student will earn the number of credits assigned to that course by the school (e.g., a two-credit course which meets for three hours each week yields two credits, not three).
  • Grades earned in courses taken outside Columbia Law School, either in another division of Columbia University or as part of the CLS/NYU Law Exchange, will not be factored into honors GPA calculations.

Visit the Columbia University website for a listing of other Columbia University schools and for a complete directory of classes.

LL.M. candidates are subject to the same examination rules as J.D. candidates. See Academic Procedures for complete rules, including rules for rescheduling exams due to conflicts.

The performance of LL.M. candidates in courses, seminars, and research papers is indicated by the letters A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C and F, unless the course is designed to be graded on a CR/F or P/F scale. Information on grading practices can be found here.  A candidate failing a single course or seminar may obtain credit: (i) by reexamination, but he or she will not receive a grade higher than C the second time, and the transcript will include a notation that this grade is the result of re-examination; or (ii) by successful completion of a substitute offering, in which case the failing grade will remain on the candidate’s record.  To qualify for the degree, LL.M. candidates must earn a grade point average of 2.67 (B-) or better, or a preponderance of B or better grades, and may not fail more than one course or seminar.  

LL.M. candidates who complete a minimum of 15 letter graded points in courses taken at Columbia Law School are eligible for academic honors.

J-term courses do not count towards the 11 credit minimum for the spring term, and do not count against the 15 credit maximum for the spring term.  If a student registers for a J-term course, the student is still required to take an additional 11 credits in the spring, at a minimum (and will therefore earn 12 credits, at a minimum, in the spring). J-term course credits count toward the 24 required for the NY Bar.

Any course listed in the online curriculum guide whose course number begins with “EL” is only available to Executive LL.M. students, and these courses do not count towards the LL.M. degree.

Columbia Law School and Columbia University use email as a primary means of communicating with students. All students are responsible for all messages sent to their Columbia email account, and all messages sent there will be considered received and read by each student.  

An enrollment/academic certification is an official document provided by the University Registrar verifying dates of attendance, award of degree, and student status (full-time or part-time) by term. It is typically requested for health insurance, visa, employment and credit verification purposes, or by a third-party financial sponsor (such as a loan or scholarship organization). There is no fee for this service. Please visit the Academic Certification section of the University Registrar website for more information.

Employers and insurers who wish to verify enrollment or degree completion of a student/alumnus should follow the instructions on the Third Party Ordering section of the University Registrar website.