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:
- 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.
- 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:
- Reaction papers, opinion papers, journal entries, or critiques.
- A series of shorter research papers whose total equals 20 to 25 pages.
- Non-research based writing projects.
- 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.
- Papers written for courses taken outside the Law School.
- Assignments written for LL.M. Legal Research and Writing.
- 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:
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.
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.
- Supervised Research
See LL.M. Supervised Research for more details.
- 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 either the dean, director or associate director of Graduate Legal Studies, and include on the form a full 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 the Office of Graduate Legal Studies, nor must it meet the requirements of the LL.M. Essay [link to new page].
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 her Faculty Supervisor, and depending on the agreement with the supervisor, may proceed through any or all of the following stages:
- Topic selection:
The student and supervisor agree on a subject matter area, and discuss possible research topics within that general area.
- 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.
- Project outline:
The student prepares and submits a written outline of the research project and the supervisor responds with substantive feedback.
- 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.
The student submits the final paper for the professor's evaluation.
A student enrolled in a seminar, which is graded on the A-B-C-F scale, that requires a research paper may seek the instructor’s permission to write 10-15 additional pages for one additional point of academic credit. In the case of a 2-credit seminar, the student will earn a total of three points of academic credit—two for the seminar and one for the additional work done on the paper. The student must register the additional point by completing the LL.M. Supervised Research Form and selecting the category Supervised Research: Course Related, L6689. The additional credit will receive a separate letter grade.
It is not permitted to register Supervised Research: Course Related in conjunction with an externship.
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 microfiche or 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:
- 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;
- 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
- 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 the Dean of Graduate Legal Studies. The due date for the final, approved LL.M. Essay is specified on the Law School’s Academic Calendar.
Additional LL.M. Essay information:
One unbound printed copy in final form and one extra copy of the title page must be deposited by May 1 with the Office of Graduate Legal Studies for submission to the Law School Library.
- 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.
- 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
(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; 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.
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, you 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 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. Teaching Fellow credits do not count towards the the 24-credit requirement to sit for the New York Bar Exam as a foreign-trained lawyer.
To register Teaching Fellow credit, you must complete the Research Assistant / Teaching Fellow Registration Form.
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 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.
To register LL.M. Experiential Study, you must complete the LL.M. Supervised Experiential Study Registration Form.