Columbia Law School’s seasoned advisers in the Office of Graduate Legal Studies help you design an individualized program of study to meet your academic and professional goals, whether you are expanding your general knowledge, specializing in a particular area of study, or deepening your understanding of a particular legal system.
LL.M. Advising Team:
Sylvia T. Polo, Dean of Graduate Legal Studies
Jill M. Casal, Director of Graduate Legal Studies
Alison P. Sherwin, Associate Director of Graduate Legal Studies
Marissa L. Zalk, Associate Director of Graduate Legal Studies
Before you arrive on campus, the Office of Graduate Legal Studies will send you a series of emails, host webinars, and share information about the curricular and extra-curricular opportunities available to you during your LL.M. year. Should you choose to, you will have ample opportunity to speak with one of the four advisers in GLS—Sylvia, Jill, Marissa, or Alison. Pre-registration for fall term courses will take place in July, and GLS will send detailed information on this process in June to all incoming students.
During Orientation (the last three weeks of August), each LL.M. student will be required to meet individually with an adviser to discuss your course lottery results, proposed changes, degree requirements, possible extracurricular and academic activities (including experiential learning, research assistantship opportunities, journal work, and student organization work), and how all of the above fit into your overall academic and professional plans (including whether you plan to sit for a bar exam after the LL.M. Program).
After your initial meeting, you are welcome, but not required, to meet with any of the advisers at any time ; our doors are always open to LL.M. students.
Individual meetings are supplemented by regular emails (“Tuesday Tips”), which help you focus your academics throughout each semester; programming, such as workshops with the Columbia University Writing Center, sessions on outlining and exam preparation, and information on qualifying for the New York bar examination; and self-care workshops and opportunities sponsored by our collective student affairs teams and other university departments, including on mindfulness, procrastination, and maintaining emotional and physical well-being.
The Law School uses a lottery system as part of the course pre-registration process for each term. When you “pre-register,” your selections are entered into the lottery for that term.
- All students are divided into one of three categories (2Ls, 3Ls, and LL.M.s), and within each category are randomly assigned a lottery number.
- Students may select a primary choice for each numbered slot in their pre-registration forms.
- Students may also select an alternate choice for each numbered slot. (If a choice is listed as an alternate, it may not later be listed as a primary choice.) The lottery system will “pre-register” you for a total of up to 15 points.
- The lottery system runs through the pre-registration forms based on a lottery number. For each choice, the lottery system attempts to assign the student to their primary choice. If that is not available, then the system waitlists the student for the primary choice and attempts to assign the student to their alternate choice if one has been entered. (If your alternate choice is full, you will not be assigned to a waitlist for the alternate choice.)
- The system first gives each LL.M. student two choices (numbers one and two on their pre-registration form). However, unless the instructor has designated otherwise, no more than one-third of seats in a class may be filled by LL.M.s.
- Then, each 3L gets two choices, followed by each 2L getting one choice.
- Next, in order, LL.M.s get a third choice, 3Ls get a third choice, LL.M.s get a fourth choice, 3Ls get a fourth choice, and 2Ls get a second, third, and fourth choice.
We are here to help you select and register for classes. Careful planning is recommended in the course selection, as the lottery system does not guarantee that you will be placed in courses of your choice.
Review the Registration Services Handbook for more detailed information about the lottery and registering for classes.
Here’s the good news—it is hard to make bad choices. The life of the law tends to be broad and encompasses many different areas of knowledge. You will learn something from each of your classes, and you may find that you excel in courses you did not expect to like. Try not to overthink the process.
1. Do some writing. Take several courses during your upper years that involve significant pieces of writing. Taking a course that requires legal writing is a good opportunity to:
- Think through a particular legal issue in-depth and sharpen your legal analytical skills.
- Get to know and interact with a faculty member.
- Produce a writing sample for later use.
- Work on a student journal.
In general, writing providies excellent practice for a wide range of careers.
2. Balance exams with writing. Most courses will use either an exam or a long paper to evaluate you. Think about this ahead of time when planning your course load—you probably do not want to write five long papers or take five exams at once.
3. Do something experiential. Look into experiential courses, which range from clinics and externships to skills-based courses. These include the Negotiation Workshop and Deals Workshop, and many seminars where you’ll practice legal skills and think about the law in a new way. Learning about the theoretical framework of the law is important, but getting a firsthand look at the work that lawyers actually do will enrich your educational experience and help prepare you for life in practice.
4. Build relationships with faculty members. Faculty members can provide valuable advice and a useful perspective on the world beyond law school. Focus on building relationships with full-time and clinical faculty, who often teach multiple classes in related areas and are doing research and writing in interesting areas. Take small classes (such as seminars or colloquia) in a faculty member’s area of interest, follow up with visits to their office hours, and offer to do research or writing in their area.
5. Take a course (or two) that piques your interest. If something sounds enticing but is not a focus or something you will use “practically,” take it anyway. Intellectual exploration in law school is vital. Many students have also found that taking a class with a wonderful teacher, regardless of subject matter, was one of the wisest decisions they made in choosing courses.
6. Value perspectives from adjunct faculty. Practitioners bring a unique perspective to their areas of expertise, and it can be especially useful to take a course with an adjunct professor in an area you could see yourself pursuing professionally. Adjunct professors can also provide helpful advice as you continue to navigate your career choices.