About this course
The philosophy of the LL.M. program is to offer our students a broad platform to design their own course of study within parameters set by the Harvard Law School faculty. Those parameters include some exposure to U.S. law, some writing experience, and, in the case of students who hold a J.D. degree from a school in the U.S. or Puerto Rico, some exposure to legal theory. See Degree Requirements. Within this framework, LL.M. students have enormous latitude in planning their year. Interested faculty, the Graduate Program staff, and special student advisors work hard throughout the year to help students identify and refine their study objectives, then develop an appropriate sequence of courses and other work.
Most of a student's program will be drawn from the regular Harvard Law School curriculum - some 250 courses and seminars each year, offered to J.D. and graduate students alike. Students also have the opportunity to pursue a limited number of credits at other faculties within Harvard and other area schools and a variety of writing projects. About half of the LL.M. class each year write a 75- to 100-page paper (called the "LL.M. paper") on a topic the student develops in consultation with his or her faculty supervisor. We also offer the more extensive LL.M. thesis, an option designed for students who already have significant research and writing experience and plan careers in law teaching. Other students write shorter papers, whether independently or in conjunction with a course or seminar.
International LL.M. students are required to take at least one of the following courses in American Law: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Corporations, Criminal Law, Property, Taxation, and Torts. International students also must write either the 75- to 100-page LL.M. paper, the more extensive LL.M. thesis, or a paper of 25 or more pages that involves independent reflection, formulation of a sustained argument and, in many cases, outside research. Both types of papers may be written either independently or in conjunction with a seminar. Finally, we urge students to take at least one course focusing on legal history, legal theory, policy analysis or legal process.
For students who hold a J.D. from a law school in the United States or Puerto Rico, the emphasis is slightly different. For these students, the LL.M. degree is designed as preparation for a career in law teaching. These students are provided the opportunity to take a step back and relate the doctrinal areas in which they previously concentrated to broader intellectual, social and cultural traditions; and pursue an extended writing project. Thus students from the United States and Puerto Rico must take at least one course in legal theory or jurisprudence and write either the LL.M. paper or the LL.M. thesis.