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LL.M. Course and Writing Requirements, Recommendations, and Options

Note: Information in this section relates specifically to requirements for HLS degree completion. It does not relate to qualification for any bar examination or other professional licensing.


To obtain the LL.M. degree, students must spend the entire academic year in full-time residence and satisfactorily complete a course of study consisting of a minimum of 23 credits and a maximum of 27 credits in one academic year. The foregoing minimum and maximum include the one credit assigned for completion of the portion of the Legal Research, Writing and Analysis course that takes place during Orientation. As an academic matter, all LL.M. degree candidates must register for at least nine to 10 credits in the fall term, at least eight to 10 credits in the spring term, and at least two credits in the winter term. In some cases, different minimums may apply for visa purposes. Students typically enroll in nine to 11 credits in each of the fall and spring terms and two to three credits in the winter term. Any questions about academic requirements should be directed to the Graduate Program Office.

The typical study program consists of a balanced arrangement of courses and seminar work, subject to the approval of Jeanne Tai, the Assistant Dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies or Nancy Pinn, the Director of Administration and Student Affairs for the Graduate Program. Graduate students normally enroll in from seven to nine courses/seminars in an academic year. A course ordinarily requires a written examination. Most courses at the Law School carry two or three credits; some courses, such as Corporations, Constitutional Law, Commercial Transactions, and Taxation, carry four credits. A seminar typically requires assigned written work, such as a series of reaction papers or a research paper, and generally carries two credits. A reading group carries one credit and does not require an exam. It should be noted that Law School classroom offerings—courses, seminars, and reading groups—are frequently referred to simply as “courses”.

All degree candidates must register for a full-time load of course and/or seminar credits in each term and regularly attend all class sessions. Failure to register for a full-time load of credits for any term or to attend classes on a regular basis will preclude eligibility for graduation. Please refer to the online Course Catalog for course information and requirements.

Additional course requirements for LL.M. students are described below. The written work requirement is described below. The cross-registration process and guidelines for courses outside of the Law School are described in Section IV.


LL.M. candidates who do not hold a J.D. degree from a law school in the United States (including Puerto Rico) are required to take one core course in American law from the following list of “primary”courses:

Antitrust Law and Economics – U.S.
Civil Procedure*
Constitutional Law: First Amendment
Constitutional Law: Separation of Powers, Federalism, and the Fourteenth Amendment
Criminal Law*
Family Law
Legislation and Regulation*
Separation of Powers

Courses marked with an asterisk (*) are first-year courses in the J.D. curriculum. The remaining courses on the list above are part of the upper-level curriculum. Descriptions of these courses can be found in the Course Catalog.

The Committee on Graduate Studies will consider petitions to substitute another substantive course in U.S. law. Petitions will be considered from students who have significant grounding in U.S. law or in a substantially similar common law equivalent (as determined by the Committee on Graduate Studies). Candidates may consult with the Graduate Program for suggestions on which courses might qualify as appropriate substitutions.


The Committee on Graduate Studies strongly recommends that each LL.M. candidate also take at least one course focusing on legal history, legal theory, policy analysis, or legal process. In addition, students who hold a J.D. degree from a school in the United States (including Puerto Rico), and who are hoping to embark on a law teaching career, are strongly encouraged to take at least one course that is primarily focused on legal theory or jurisprudence. Students are invited to consult with Jeanne Tai or Nancy Pinn for further discussion of possible course selections in these areas.


Students who are interested in the fields of corporate law, finance and governance, international human rights, or taxation may pursue a concentration in one of these fields. Each concentration consists of a series of requirements, as follows:


  • Comparative Corporate Law, Finance and Governance (fall) (Professor Reinier Kraakman and Professor Christopher Nicholls)
  • Capstone Seminar for the LL.M. Concentration in Comparative Law, Finance, and Corporate Governance (fall-spring) (Professor Reinier Kraakman)
  • Corporations (any section)
  • At least four credits combined from a list of designated courses in corporate law, finance and governance, provided to concentration applicants and on file in the Graduate Program Office

Students who are admitted to and elect to proceed with this concentration will be granted spaces in the Comparative Corporate Law, Finance and Governance course (if not already enrolled) and in the Capstone Seminar for the LL.M. Concentration in Comparative Law, Finance, and Corporate Governance. Students pursuing this concentration must register separately for all other concentration requirements.


  • Human Rights in the UN Treaty Bodies seminar (fall-spring) (Professor Gerald Neuman)
  • International Human Rights (fall) (Professor Samuel Moyn)
  • At least seven credits combined from a list of designated courses in international human rights, provided to concentration applicants and on file in the Graduate Program Office

Students who are admitted to and elect to proceed with this concentration will be granted spaces in the International Human Rights course (if not already enrolled) and in the Human Rights in the UN Treaty Bodies seminar. Students pursuing this concentration must register separately for all other concentration requirements.


  • Taxation (fall)
  • Tax Law, Finance, and Strategic Planning Seminar (spring) (Professor Thomas Brennan)
  • At least six credits combined from a list of designated courses in taxation, provided to concentration applicants and on file with the Graduate Program.

Students who are admitted to and elect to proceed with this concentration will be granted spaces in a fall-term Taxation course (if not already enrolled) and in the Tax Law, Finance, and Strategic Planning seminar.

Further information about each of these concentrations is available from the Graduate Program Office.

An LL.M. student may not participate in more than one of the three available concentrations. Work successfully completed in conjunction with a concentration counts towards the requirements for the LL.M. degree. However, the concentrations will not, in themselves, satisfy the minimum credit requirements for the LL.M. degree. During course counseling, students should confirm that they are enrolled in a course of study designed to meet degree requirements. For international students pursuing a concentration, the requirement for a core course in U.S. law is satisfied by the course in Corporations (Corporate Law, Finance and Governance concentration), or Taxation (Taxation concentration). Students participating in the International Human Rights concentration will need to select at least one core course in U.S. law outside of the concentration requirements.

All of the concentrations provide opportunities for students to satisfy the written work requirement for the LL.M. degree. Students enrolling in one of these concentrations whose primary law degrees are from the United States (including Puerto Rico) must do so by writing the 50-page paper, described below.


1. Description

All LL.M. candidates must register for and successfully complete a paper that involves independent reflection, formulation of a sustained argument, and, in many cases, in-depth research. The paper written to satisfy the Written Work Requirement must be an individual effort: group projects, works of joint authorship, and the like do not qualify for the Written Work Requirement. The paper may be written in conjunction with a Law School course or seminar, or as an independent paper supervised by a member of the Law School faculty (including instructors with Law School teaching appointments). Where there is no course or seminar in the field in which a student wants to work, candidates generally will be able to find a faculty member who will be available to guide research in the particular field.

Students who hold J.D. degrees from a law school in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) must write a 50-page paper (see description below). LL.M. students whose primary law degrees are from schools other than those in the U.S. may select either of the two options described below.

The parameters for paper length and credits earned are as follows:

  • 25-page paper: one credit if written independently; no credit (beyond the associated course credit) if written in conjunction with a course that requires a paper
  • 50-page paper: two credits if written independently; one credit if written in conjunction with a course that requires a paper

The requirement cannot be satisfied with a series of shorter papers or journal entries, moot court briefs, clinical work product, or papers written for Independent Clinicals. As the foregoing list of exclusions is not exhaustive, students should confirm with the Graduate Program that the proposed format for their required written work meets the requirement.

2. Registration for Required Written Work

All LL.M. students must formally register for the Written Work requirement by submitting the LL.M. Written Work Requirement Registration and Proposal Form to the proposed faculty supervisor for signature and, once reviewed and signed, submitting the completed paperwork to the Graduate Program Office by no later than the published dates set forth in the HLS Handbook of Academic Policies, and as also specified below. Details about the proposal will be provided by the Graduate Program. Faculty members may require additional preliminary information, such as a discussion of the subject matter, an outline, or a longer description. A student should submit the Registration and Proposal form, as well as any other material requested, to the faculty member well in advance of the published deadlines since faculty members may require additional preliminary work before accepting a proposal. Students writing the 50-Page Paper or the 25-Page Paper in the fall term must submit the signed Registration and Proposal Form to the Graduate Program Office by October 17, 2016. Students writing the 25-Page Paper in the spring term must submit the signed Registration and Proposal Form to the Graduate Program Office by February 3, 2017. Students who fail to register for the LL.M. Written Work Requirement by February 3, 2017 may be removed from the May 2017 degree list.

3. Supervision of Required Written Work

Students may ask any Law School faculty member or instructor with a Law School teaching appointment to supervise written work. Faculty on certain types of leave may not be available in a given term.

Writing credits under the supervision of visiting faculty ordinarily must be registered for and completed during the term(s) of the visitor’s appointment. Note that many visitors have Law School appointments for only one term. Students who are contemplating supervision by visiting faculty for projects that might fall outside of that faculty member’s term of appointment should contact the Graduate Program staff for guidance on this point.

4. Prohibition Against Compensation

Students may not receive academic credit for written work for which they also receive compensation.

5. Multiple Use of Papers

Occasionally students seek to submit one paper for two or more courses or seminars. In such cases, the paper must be of sufficiently greater scope or depth to warrant such multiple credit. In order to assure compliance with this requirement, any student planning to submit the same or similar written work in more than one academic offering must first get the approval of the Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs by submitting a memo that documents the project plan. The instructors involved should discuss appropriate ways to make sure that the submitted work meets this greater burden. This memo must be signed by the instructors for both courses and must set forth the way in which the paper will meet the added requirement described in this paragraph.

6. Human Subject Research

Law School projects involving human subjects are reviewed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Institutional Review Board (IRB). Students considering research projects including surveys or interviews should review the University’s policies on use of human subjects in research available on the IRB Website and discuss their work with the Law School officer on the FAS IRB. Note that students should allow sufficient time for IRB review; late requests for review may not be granted.


Students who wish to devote the winter term exclusively to pursuing their research and writing on a single piece of written work worth at least two credits, while in residence in Cambridge, instead of doing course work, may apply to the Winter Term Writing Program (“WWP”). Information and applications will be available through the Graduate Program Office in October. Regardless of whether they plan to apply for the WWP, all students should register for a winter course since submitting an application does not guarantee admittance to the Winter Term Writing Program. If admitted, students will then have the opportunity to drop the winter-term course for which they had previously enrolled enrolled in order to take part in the WWP instead of taking a course. The WWP itself does not confer credit.  Hence, the work done during the winter term must be part of a 50-Page Paper for which the credits are assigned to the winter term. Participants in the WWP are expected to structure their own time and efforts during the term. However, there will be a mandatory group session on writing issues before the end of the first week of the term, and each participant will meet with a senior member of the Graduate Program administration in mid-January in order to share insights, discuss research objectives, and identify areas where additional assistance may be needed.

Optional Graduate Academic Offerings

The Graduate Program organizes several optional academic offerings for graduate students throughout the year. These offerings, which have come to play a central role in the intellectual and community life of Graduate Program students, include the LL.M. Writers’ Workshop, the Workshop for Short Writing Projects, the Byse Workshops, a year-long Law Teaching Colloquium, the Empirical Legal Studies Series, and the Graduate Forum. Participation is optional, and does not result in academic credit. Dates, times, and locations for fall-term workshops and colloquia will be provided in early September.

Schedules and information for such programs throughout the year will be announced on the HLS Administrative Updates site and forwarded through the Graduate Program Listservs (see Section VII).


Writers’ Workshop. Students writing the 50-Page Paper are strongly encouraged to participate in this extremely useful workshop designed to support students engaged in complex writing projects. This Writers’ Workshop helps students identify a topic and research question, develop a research design, formulate a proposal, and structure the research and writing phases of their projects. Students also receive help in identifying resources from Harvard Law School, Harvard University, and the greater Boston area that may enrich their projects. The Workshop is organized in small groups on the basis of participants’ research interests. Peer learning through regular group attendance and oral presentation is strongly encouraged. The Writers’ Workshop is different from the Winter Term Writing Program (WWP). However, the teaching assistants for the workshop’s small groups provide support for students who wish to apply for the WWP, the application for which requires a more elaborate research proposal than the one submitted in October in conjunction with registration for the 50-Page Paper.

Workshop for Short Writing Projects. Students writing the 25-Page Paper are strongly encouraged to take part in the programming presented through the Workshop for Short Writing Projects. This Workshop offers guidance to students in such areas as choosing topics and supervisors, writing research proposals, addressing methodological and organizational issues, and the like.


The Byse Workshops, offered in academic areas of particular relevance to graduate students, provide in-depth treatment of the scholarship in their fields. The Workshops, led by the Byse Fellows, meet approximately every one or two weeks during the course of a semester. Discussion is generally organized around reading materials and/or an exposition by a workshop participant or guest speaker. The Workshops are offered on a noncredit basis. Participants who wish to write an independent paper based on the subject matter of a particular workshop may be eligible for one credit for the paper provided that the paper is at least 25 pages long and a faculty member serves as the supervisor of the paper.

The following Byse Workshops will be offered during 2015-2016:

Fall 2016
Touching the Policy Void: Experts, Rule of Law Reform, and the Politics of the Law/Politics Divide
Mr. Deval Desai

Spring 2017
Death and Justice: Comparative Perspectives on the Right to Die
Mr. Konstantin Tretyakov

International Investment Law in a Post-Neoliberal Economic Order
Mr. Mohammad Hamdy

Detailed descriptions, meeting schedules, and related information will be provided in early September.


Offered in the fall and spring on a noncredit basis, this Colloquium is a series of information sessions highlighting various aspects of law teaching. In the past the Colloquium has drawn on the pedagogic expertise of faculty at Harvard Law School and other institutions to discuss issues such as pedagogical methods, how to develop research agendas, and various aspects of a career in law teaching. Topics may range from cutting-edge legal scholarship to internationalization to legal publishing to curricular issues. The Colloquium is designed for S.J.D., LL.M., and J.D. students who are contemplating a career in teaching, and has traditionally served as an interactive forum for students from the various Law School degree programs.


The Graduate Forum, coordinated by two Graduate Program Fellows, offers graduate students an opportunity to express their views on legal and other issues outside the formal boundaries of the classroom. The Graduate Forum also coordinates social and integrative events for all graduate students and serves as a clearinghouse for ideas and suggestions. In the past, the Graduate Forum has taken different formats and directions; the unifying themes of these different formats have been to draw on the experience of all HLS students, to bring a comparative perspective to the matters discussed, and to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas.