JD/LLM in International & Comparative Law

Since 1985, Duke has offered select JD students the opportunity to pursue a dual degree in international and comparative law in three years and three summers. THe duke law jd/llm prepares students for the increasingly global practice of law by combining a rigorous legal curriculum with opportunities to work and study abroad, develop foreign language fluency, and network with duke's vibrant international llm student and alumni community.

Students in the JD/LLM program commence their studies in the summer, undertaking part of the regular first-year curriculum with other dual-degree students. During the remaining six semesters of law study and in a four-week period at one of Duke's summer programs, JD/LLM students complete requirements for both degrees, which includes twenty credit hours of approved classes specifically for the LLM degree. These courses must include International Law, Comparative Law, Research Methodology in International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, and course work or an independent study for which a significant piece of writing is required.

The courses may also include up to six hours taken in the Graduate School or in an upper-level undergraduate class, including advanced language study. The Duke University Area Studies Program is particularly rich in courses dealing with Canada, China, Germany, and Japan, and the Political Science Department provides one of the world’s strongest programs in international relations. Candidates must maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.5 in these courses and must also show competency in at least one foreign language.

To apply for the JD/LLM program, candidates complete the regular JD application and indicate their intent to enroll in the JD/LLM program.

Additional information

  • Summer start

    JD/LLM students (along with JD/MA and JD/MS students) get a head start on their JD classmates by taking two of the first year law school courses during the summer before their official first year of law school. This allows them to begin their international and comparative law coursework during the fall and spring, and complete both degrees in three years. The summer start is also a great way to begin law school in small-class setting and form a close bond with your dual-degree classmates.
    Learn more about the summer start View the Summer Speaker Series

  • Summer Institute

    Following the first full year of law school, JD/LLM students attend one of Duke's Institutes in Transnational Law, either in Geneva or Hong Kong. Duke faculty and guest faculty from around the world live in residential quarters with students and teach small, rigorous courses in areas such as emerging markets, terrorism and humanitarian law, comparative constitutional law, and international business law. During the other five weeks of the summer, JD/LLM students work overseas for a law firm, nonprofit organization, or business.
    Learn more about the summer institutes

Students who matriculated before summer 2013 as JD-LLM in International, Comparative & Foreign Law candidates are required to earn 84 credits for the JD degree and an additional 20 credits in international, foreign or comparative law for the LLM degree, for a total of 104 credits. Students who matriculated on or after summer 2013 in the JD-LLM program in International, Comparative & Foreign Law must earn 87 credits for the JD degree and an additional 20 credits in international, foreign or comparative law for the LLM degree, for a total of 107 credits. The following sample curricula apply to a student who matriculated prior to summer 2013.

JD-LLM First-Year Curriculum

JD-LLM candidates begin their course of study in the summer before the 1L fall semester in order to complete all academic requirements within three (3) academic years plus the summer start. The required courses for the JD/LLM student in the first year of the program are as follows:

Courses Required for 1L JD Students:

  • Civil Procedure (LAW 110)
  • Constitutional Law (LAW 120)
  • Contract Law (LAW 130)
  • Criminal Law (LAW 140)
  • Legal Analysis, Research & Writing (LAW 160)
  • Property Law (LAW 170)
  • Tort Law (LAW 180)

Additional Courses Required for 1L JD/LLM Students:

  • Comparative Law (LAW 218)
  • International Law (LAW 275)
  • Research Methods in International, Foreign & Comparative Law (LAW 380)

JD-LLM Upper-Level Curriculum

After completing the first-year 1L curriculum, JD-LLM students must fulfill the following requirements:

Upper-level requirements for JD curriculum

  • Legal Ethics (at least 2 credits)
  • JD Upper-Level Writing (2 credits)*
  • Professional Skills Requirement

Upper-level requirements for JD/LLM curriculum

  • Duke Summer Institute in Transnational Law (Geneva or Hong Kong)
  • JD-LLM Upper-Level Writing (4 credits) *
  • Foreign Language Competency (see Rule 2-2(7))

* The “JD” and “JD-LLM” upper-level writing requirements are separate graduation requirements (see Rule 3-31 and Rule 2-2(3)(b) and (8). However, a student may satisfy some or all of the JD-LLM writing requirement while satisfying the JD writing requirement if the student writes a paper on an international, foreign or comparative law topic that also meets the requirements of Rule 3-31 (the “upper-level writing requirement”). Note that the student will not earn “double credit” for the paper.

Additional Opportunities for JD-LLM Candidates

As dual degree students, JD-LLM candidates have additional opportunities within the curriculum:

Courses outside the Law School: JD-LLM students may take up to nine (9) credits in other Duke University schools or departments. Six (6) of the nine (9) credits must involve international, foreign or comparative fields of study. See Rule 2-2(4) and Rule 3-13.

International Externships: JD-LLM students may earn up to fourteen (14) credits for one semester of unpaid work at an international organization. This program is principally designed to complement the curriculum of the JD-LLM Program in International & Comparative Law, with the purpose of enhancing a student’s educational experience and career opportunities through intellectually stimulating placements with international legal organizations. A list of pre-approved organizations is provided on the International Studies web page. See Rule 3-25(B). Domestic Externships are also available for students interested in working for a US-based organization or agency. See Rule 3-25(A).

Ad Hoc Seminars: As early as spring semester of 1L year, JD-LLM students may team with a group of five (5) to ten (10) classmates to design a one (1) or two (2) credit course based on the students’ specific interests (an “ad hoc seminar”). See Rule 3-12(2).

Independent Study: JD-LLM candidates may earn up to four (4) credits through independent study. See Rule 3-12(1).

The Capstone Project Program: After the second year of law school, students may receive academic credit for designing and completing an advanced project to pursue a subject area in which the student has developed a special interest. The intent of the Capstone Project Program is to enable a student to develop foundational skills, including complex problem-solving skills, to aid the transition between law school and the beginning of the student's professional career. See Rule 3-32.

Sample Schedule for First-Year JD-LLM

As a first-year student, your classes are selected for you and your schedule is based on the small section to which you are assigned. Following is a sample schedule for a 1L JD/LLM:

Summer Start

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

Contract Law (4.5 credits)
Civil Procedure (4.5)
Total: 9 credits

Property (4.5 credits)
Tort Law (4.5)
Legal Analysis, Research & Writing*
†International Law (3)
Dean's Lecture*
Total: 12 credits

Constitutional Law (4.5 credits)
Criminal Law (4.5)
Legal Analysis, Research & Writing
†Comparative Law (3)
†Research Methods in International, Foreign & Comparative Law (1)
Dean's Lecture (.5)
Total: 16.5 credits

37.5 credits earned in 1L JD/LLM example (†7 credits of international, foreign or comparative law courses)

*Legal Analysis, Research & Writing and the Dean’s Lecture are year-long courses. Credit for these courses appears on the transcript in the spring semester.

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Sample JD-LLM Upper-Level Schedules

The requirements of the JD-LLM curriculum can be fulfilled in a variety of ways. Following is a sample schedule for an upper-class JD-LLM student with an emphasis on international law coursework:

Student A: Second-Year JD-LLM Schedule

Summer Institute

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

†Geneva (6 credits)
Total: 6 Credits

Business Associations (4 credits)
Ethics & the Law of Lawyering (3)
Federal Income Tax (4)
†European Union Law (3)
Total: 14 credits

†*Intermediate Chinese (3 credits)
Evidence (4)
Intellectual Property (4)
†International Human Rights (3)
†Dispute Resolution in the WTO (2)
Total: 16 credits

36 credits earned in Student A’s 2L year († 17 credits in international, foreign or comparative law); 73.5 total credits earned in 1L –plus- Student A 2L († 24 credits in international, foreign or comparative law)

* An intermediate level foreign language class at Duke represents one way to satisfy the foreign language requirement.

Student A: Third-Year JD-LLM Schedule

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

†Study Abroad: University of Cape Town (14 credits)
Total: 14 credits

†International Trade Law (3 credits)
Negotiation (3)
AIDS Legal Assistance Project (6)
†International Intellectual Property (3)
†Chinese Legal History (2)
Total: 17 credits

31 credits earned in Student A’s 3L (†22 credits in international, foreign or comparative law); Total credits earned in this example: 104.5 credits (46 credits in international, foreign or comparative law)

In the following sample upper-class schedule, Student B fulfills the JD-LLM program requirements with a schedule that includes far fewer international law credits than Student A:

Student B: Second-Year JD-LLM Schedule

Summer Institute

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

†Hong Kong (6 credits)
Total: 6 Credits

Evidence (4 credits)
Ethics & the Law of Lawyering (3)
Business Association (4)
†*Spanish for Legal Studies (2)
Total: 13 credits

Intellectual Property (4)
Law and Literature: Race and Gender (3)
Trial practice (3)
†Independent Study (2)
Federal Income Tax (4)
Total: 16 credits

35 credits earned in Student B’s 2L († 10 credits in international, foreign or comparative law); 72.5 total credits earned in 1L –plus- Student B’s 2L († 17 credits in international, foreign or comparative law)

* Duke offers a number of “language for legal studies” courses for students with intermediate-level foreign language skills; these classes do not fulfill the foreign language requirement.

Student B: Third-Year JD-LLM Schedule

Fall Semester


Spring Semester

Appellate Practice (3 credits)
Administrative Law (3)
Federal Courts (4)
Negotiation (3)
Analytical Methods (2)
Readings in Ethics (.5)
Total: 15.5 credits

†Doing Business in China (.5 credits)
†Human Rights Case Study (.5)
Total: 1 credit

†National Security Law (3 credits)
Trusts and Estates (3)
Community Enterprise Law Clinic (5)
Commercial Transactions (4)
Readings in Ethics (.5)
Total: 15.5 credits

32 credits earned in Student B’s 3L († 4 credits in international, foreign or comparative law); Total credits earned in this example: 104.5 († 21 credits in international, foreign or comparative law)

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JD-LLM Program Contacts and Resources

Rule 2-2

Candidates for the JD/LLM in International and Comparative Law do not need to apply separately to any school or program at Duke other than the Law School. Complete the regular JD application, but indicate that you wish to be considered for the dual degree. You may apply to only one dual degree program.

You must be able to start law school in late May to enroll in the JD/LLMprogram.

JD application information

Application Review Process

JD/LLM applications are reviewed through the regular Law School process. Although there are no specific prerequisites or admission requirements, the admissions committee pays particular attention to applicants with prior international experience and foreign language study. In rare instances where the applicant is a strong candidate for the JD program but lacks international experience, the admissions committee may offer admission to the JD only.

Additional Application Materials

JD/LLM candidates are not required to submit a statement of purpose for the LLM; however, we encourage applicants to address their interest in international and comparative law, either in their personal statement or include the JD/LLM Addendum attachment.

Standardized Testing

The LSAT is required for all Law School dual degree applicants. No additional testing is required for the JD/LLM.

"I spent the first seven weeks of my 1L summer in Cape Town, South Africa, working for the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, a nonprofit NGO. ... I attended Parliamentary sessions twice a week, engaged with high-level politicians, and recorded policy debates on a variety of topics, including economic development, international trade, and future infrastructure projects. Given my goal of working for the federal government in international development, this internship offered me a unique opportunity to witness the lawmaking process of a newly emerging global power in its efforts to advance domestic and regional development. "
Elias Parisca JD/LLM'14 attended Duke's summer institute in Hong Kong after completing his internship in Cape Town. Click here to learn more about JD/LLM summer work abroad.


James Pearce JD/LLM '11

James Pearce"What makes Duke an attractive place to pursue a legal education is not only the diverse class offerings and available and encouraging faculty, but also the opportunity to engage with motivated and curious individuals both within and outside the Law School."

Read more


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