The Cambridge LL.M. program offers a wide range of courses that cover a diversity of subject matter, ranging from corporate law to human rights. Many courses have a British or European focus and provide a way to study law from a unique perspective that is quite different from studying at law schools in the United States.
Classes at Cambridge are year-long and involve lectures as opposed to a Socratic method of teaching. Students are often given extensive reading lists and are responsible for locating the materials needed. Casebooks are generally not used and although cases are studied, they are not the sole focus of classes. At the LL.M. Subject Forum, held at the beginning of the academic year, the “head faculty” member for each course gives a ten-minute overview of the course which can be helpful to students in choosing classes. However, courses can be taught by a variety of instructors throughout the year, so students should bear this in mind. Students should expect exams that are closed book and hand-written.
The following are examples of courses taken by HLS students participating in the program:
“This form of education, based on self-motivated studying and personal research, taught me to study more selectively and delve more deeply into specific areas, to go beyond points addressed in class and interact with the material from a different angle.”
— Chrystel Marincich ’15
Cambridge LL.M. students are given the opportunity to do a considerable amount of independent study and research. HLS students who participate in the joint-degree program report finding the academic structure at Cambridge different from their experience at HLS, in a complementary and rewarding manner.
The Cambridge library system is three tiered: there is a University library for all of Cambridge; there are Faculty libraries (in this case the Faculty of Law); and there are libraries for each College. Each library has its own lending policies. The University Library is one of the six legal deposit libraries in the British Isles. See the University Library website for further information.
Credits and Course Load Requirements
One purpose of spending a year abroad is for students to take courses that are significantly different from those offered at HLS.
Students must take four courses (or “read for” four “papers”). Students may not take courses at Cambridge that duplicate or significantly overlap with courses they have taken at HLS.
HLS will award 11-13 ungraded credits to students successfully completing four courses and providing appropriate documentation to HLS about tutorials, supplementary lectures, and independent structured research.
According to the American Bar Association, “Law schools on a conventional semester system typically require 700 minutes of instruction time per ‘credit,’ exclusive of time for an examination.” HLS calculates credit equivalencies by totaling the classroom minutes for courses taken abroad and dividing by 700.
Please note that HLS credits are based on classroom hours; the credits that a course carries at Cambridge may not be comparable. Prior to finalizing his/her enrollment at Cambridge, a student must confirm with Sara Zucker that his/her proposed course load will allow Harvard to award the ungraded 13 credits (or fewer, if so determined).
These credits will be awarded if students fulfill the following conditions:
(a) receive a passing grade for each of the four courses in which they are enrolled
(b) provide a one-page written statement as to how they used the academic time that supplemented course work, including additional lecture series, substantive presentations and “Vacation periods, and the period between the end of lectures and the examination” which Cambridge views “as integral and important parts of the course.” The one-page statement should describe how the students used these both for their own “personal research and reflection”, as set out in the Cambridge catalog (from which these quotations are taken), and for working “through the assigned material, on your own initiative, in tandem with the lectures – thereby maximizing the benefit of both the lectures and the assigned material.” Students may provide this one-page statement to Sara Zucker after completing exams, but no later than June 15.
If a student successfully completes these requirements, his/her Harvard transcript will reflect 11 to 13 credits (depending on the course load), graded “credit,” for study abroad work. These credits will be considered classroom credits and therefore not count against the HLS allowable maximum of non-classroom credits. The particular courses taken at Cambridge will not appear on the student’s Harvard transcript, nor will the grades for those courses. No credit for the Cambridge coursework will appear until the student submits and receives approval on the statement referred to above and his/her Cambridge transcript is received. It is the student’s responsibility to submit his/her foreign transcript to Sara Zucker, who will forward it to the Registrar’s Office. If a student fails any of his/her courses overseas, the number of credits received for studies abroad will be reduced proportionately.
The number of credits a student has to complete in the fall semester upon return to HLS will depend entirely on the number of credits earned to date. The HLS J.D. degree requires a minimum of 52 credits across 2L and 3L years, and the credits earned while at Cambridge will be counted as classroom credits toward the 52-credit minimum.
Written Work Requirement
Students are typically required to fulfill the HLS “Written Work Requirement” (see HLS Handbook of Academic Policies) while in residence at HLS. Permission to register for written work while studying abroad is granted only in special circumstances and approval must be requested from Sara Zucker in advance of enrollment at Cambridge.