Below are frequently asked questions relating to the LLM degree for international lawyers. For information about other LLM programs at Duke Law, please see our JD/LLM, Law and Entrepreneurship LLM, and Master's of Judicial Studies web sites.
Application Procedures and Requirements
Degree Requirements and Studying at Duke
Living in Durham
Employment and Bar Admission
Does Duke Law School offer specialized LLM degrees?
Yes. The general LLM introduces students to U.S. law and legal process, but also allows them to select from courses in areas of interest to them. Duke is particularly known for its business, intellectual property, public and international, and environmental law curriculum. The general LL.M. degree also has a certificate program – the Certificate in Environmental Law for students who complete certain environmental law course requirements. For more information, see /internat/certificate
How long is Duke’s LLM degree?
Most students receive the LLM degree in one academic year, which begins in mid-August and ends in mid-May. Students may extend the LLM program by one or two semesters. The extended LLM program allows students to broaden their understanding of U.S. law, as well as add a larger number of advanced, specialized, and interdisciplinary courses. Students seeking to fulfill the Skills Competency Requirement of the New York bar might be able to do so by taking an additional semester of practice-based experiential courses. Government lawyers, in particular, take advantage of the two-year LLM option to take courses in their areas of expertise, as well as take courses in other graduate and professional schools at Duke, including the Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy.
Can Americans apply to the LLM program?
The Duke LLM program for foreign law graduates is available only to applicants who have completed their law studies in a non-American university or comparable institution.
What is the JD/LLM program?
The JD/LLM Program in International and Comparative Law is designed for students to study for both the JD degree and the LLM degree at the same time. This is a dual degree program that differs from the LLM program for foreign lawyers and uses a different application form. To learn more about applying to the JD/LLM Program in International and Comparative Law visit /internat/comparative
Do I need a law degree to apply to the LLM program?
Applicants ordinarily hold a first degree in law from an accredited institution outside the United States. The law degree should be the equivalent of the JD or LLB degree and cannot be from a correspondence or distance learning program. Applicants who intend to sit for the New York bar exam following graduation should be aware of the requirements of legal education before applying to take the New York bar exam. Rules for admission of attorneys who studied law in a country other than the U.S. can be found at the New York State Board of Law Examiners' web site at http://www.nybarexam.org/court.htm
Do you require the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?
A TOEFL score of 600 on the paper-based test, 100 on the Internet-based test (or 250 on the computer-based test) is the minimum normally required for admission. If the score is slightly less than the minimum required, other factors may be taken into consideration. Duke's TOEFL institution code is 5156 and our department code is 03. Applicants who are native English speakers or who have received a university degree of at least three years in length from an institution where the language of instruction is English in a country where English is an official language may request a waiver from this requirement. To request a TOEFL requirement waiver, include with your application a short statement supporting why you feel you are proficient in English. Please note that students who are admitted with a TOEFL waiver are not allowed extra time on exams because of English language issues. The granting of extra time because of English language issues is governed by several additional factors, but a TOEFL waiver is an absolute bar. It is therefore not in applicants’ best interests to request a TOEFL waiver unless they are fluent in English.
You can get more information on how to register for the TOEFL by visiting the official TOEFL website.
Do you accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score instead of the TOEFL score?
We would prefer that applicants submit TOEFL exam results. However, we may consider applicants who submit an IELTS Overall Band Score of 7.5 or higher
How much does it cost to attend Duke Law School?
Duke Law School's tuition is set each year in February. The current year's tuition and expenses are listed on the Estimated Budget webpage. Tuition is generally comparable to other private universities in the United States, but the cost of living in Durham is considerably lower than that of larger U.S. cities.
Do you offer scholarships?
Duke Law School awards some tuition scholarships to a limited number of students each year. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please send us a letter stating so along with your application for admission. For more information please visit our Financial Assistance information. Applicants are encouraged to investigate other sources of support, such as government or employer grants and loans, early in the application process. Non-U.S. citizens may be able to apply for a student loan, but it must be co-signed by a U.S. citizen. For a list of some organizations that offer scholarships, click here.
Application Procedures and Requirements
How do I request an application?
You can apply via LSAC or complete and submit an application form from our website and send it to us by mail to:
Duke Law School
210 Science Drive
Durham, NC, 27708-0365
Do you grant application fee waivers?
The application fee is waived for individuals applying directly to Duke Law via mail-in application.
Do you require interviews for admission?
Interviews are not required, but we are happy to have applicants visit us at Duke Law School. Anyone interested in knowing more about Duke and the LLM program may schedule an appointment by contacting the Office of International Studies at (919) 613-7033 or at email@example.com. Adequate notice is necessary.
What is your LLM application deadline?
January 20, 2015. You may send in your application any time before the deadline. Late applications will be accepted, subject to space availability. If you cannot submit all the required application documents before the deadline, send in the materials that you do have before the deadline. Your application will be initially reviewed, but a final decision will not be made until your application is complete.
When are admission decisions made?
Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis beginning in January. A rolling basis means that applications are considered until the class is full.
Are deferrals granted?
It is possible to defer admission to the next academic year if absolutely necessary, but we usually do not allow students to defer more than one year.
How do I reapply if I was not accepted?
Applicants are welcome to reapply utilizing either the LSAC application website or by submitting application materials directly to the International Admissions office.
To learn more about applying to the LLM program for foreign law graduates
Degree Requirements and Studying at Duke
How many credits does it take to complete the LLM degree?
The LLM is a full-time one-year degree that must be completed in residence at Duke. Candidates for the LLM degree must complete a minimum of 21 credit hours in law by the end of the academic year but may take more credits if they wish. Course offerings can be found at /curriculum/. The fall course schedule will be available at the end of April or in early May.
Are there required courses or other requirements?
LLM students are required to take the Distinctive Aspects of U.S. Law course, and those without extensive experience studying in English are required to take Legal Analysis, Research and Writing for International Students. These are the only required courses. Students are also required to produce a substantial piece of writing, which is usually satisfied by taking a seminar course or pursuing an independent research project supervised by a faculty member.
Can I take courses in other departments at Duke University?
You need 21 credits in law courses to earn an LLM degree. In addition, you also may take classes anywhere in the university. Cross-listed courses may also be included in satisfying the 21 law credits requirement. Cross-listed courses are inter-disciplinary courses offered by the Law School and other schools or departments, such as The Fuqua School of Business and the Sanford School of Public Policy.
How do students select and register for courses?
Course selection is done during orientation. During the orientation, faculty members provide information about classes. In addition, every student will meet with a faculty member or administrator who will offer advice on courses. There is also an add/drop period of time during which students can usually make changes after attending their choice of classes. New students should therefore not worry about selection of courses before arriving at Duke. There will be ample time to seek advice during orientation week. Registration for second semester courses takes place later in the first semester.
What if I have an academic or personal problem while I am a student at Duke?
The Law School International Studies Office has a staff of 4 professionals who are dedicated to assisting international students. The School’s goal is to provide an outstanding education in a supportive, congenial environment. The “open door” policy allows students easy access to staff members. The University’s International House is also available year-round to offer a variety of services to all international students.
Are credits earned from other U.S. law schools transferable to the LLM degree at Duke?
No. Duke Law School does not accept transfer credits in the LLM program.
Living in Durham
Do I need to have a car in Durham?
It is desirable to have a car while living in Durham. Many students buy used cars fairly inexpensively (sometimes from graduating students) or lease cars. If you decide not to buy a car, it is recommended that you live on campus or very close to campus (see "A Guide to Life at Duke by the 2014 LLM Class" for recommendations about housing). There is good bus service around the campus, but less reliable bus service off campus.
Is there good childcare in Durham?
Durham is a friendly place for children. Many of our LLM and JD students bring their young children with them to Durham and have been very pleased with the local childcare and schools. You may contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be put in touch with a current student with young children.
What about housing at Duke?
Though limited on-campus housing is available to graduate/professional students, the International Studies office strongly encourages you to consider off-campus housing. Durham has many attractive apartment complexes and other housing options close to the University at competitive rates. They are usually not furnished, but furniture can be rented or bought for a reasonable cost. Some of these complexes are described at "Guide to Life at Duke by the 2014 LLM Class."
What is special about Duke’s location?
Duke is located in a beautiful forested setting, midway between the ocean and the mountains. The quality of life is exceptional– the cost of living is very reasonable; the climate is moderate; amenities such as good restaurants and shopping are available in the Triangle formed by Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill; the area has more PhD’s than almost any other part of the U.S. but retains a distinctive flavor. Duke students take advantage of the many chances to use the excellent golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, basketball courts and more.
Employment and Bar Admission
Is it possible to get a part-time job while studying at Duke?
Students with F1 or J1 visas may work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during regular semesters and up to 40 hours per week during holidays and vacations. Students interested in engaging in on-campus employment have ordinarily worked as research or library assistants.
Does the Duke LLM allow me to sit for a U.S. Bar Exam?
The Duke LLM degree will allow you to sit for bar exams of a number of states, most notably New York but also California, Illinois, Texas, Georgia, and Washington, assuming your prior legal education and your course of study at Duke meet the requirements set forth by the Bar Examiners of that state. You can read about the specific requirements by examining Chart 4 “Eligibility to Take Bar Examination: Foreign Law School Graduates” in the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements published by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. Most Duke LLM graduates who choose to take a bar exam in the United States sit for the New York Bar Exam.
I want to sit for the New York Bar Exam after my LLM from Duke. What should I do now?
Many Duke LLM graduates choose to take the New York Bar Exam. Duke's curriculum is specifically designed to allow you to take the New York Bar, assuming your previous legal education meets some basic requirements such as the appropriate length of time of study. Please note that the New York Bar is implementing additional qualification rules for applicants beginning with students entering LLM programs in 2018. These rules, which govern admission to practice rather than the eligibility to take the bar exam itself, require practical experience or practical legal education. For more information on the new experiential requirement, please see FAQs 4, 15, 16, 44, 48, and 49 in this guidance from New York Court of Appeals.
Because of the length of time it takes the New York Bar Examiners to assess your eligibility to sit for the bar exam, however, you should start the process of establishing eligibility for the New York Bar as soon as possible.
- Online Form: The first step in the application process is to establish eligibility. Students must complete online Foreign Evaluation Form, a critical component of your New York bar application, as soon as possible. This form is free and can be completed online in less than an hour. After you have completed the form, you should begin collecting the supporting documentation necessary to substantiate the information in the form.
- Supporting Documentation: Please note that for students needing the LLM degree to qualify to sit for the bar exam, New York Board of Law Examiners (“NYBOLE”) requires that all supporting documentation be submitted no later than six months prior to the first date of the application period of the examination you plan to take. For students planning to take the July administration, all necessary documents must be received by NYBOLE no later than October 1. We strongly suggest that you submit your documents well before that date, however, because it takes NYBOLE anywhere between 3-6 weeks to notify applicants of any missing documents.
- 50-Hour Pro Bono Requirement: all LLM students will have to certify completion of 50 hours of qualifying pro bono legal service before applying for admission to practice. More information about this requirement can be found at this link. Duke Law School is committed to helping LLM students find opportunities to fulfill the 50-hour requirement prior to admission to the New York State Bar. Last year many LLM students participated in pro bono opportunities throughout the academic year, as well as during Fall and Spring breaks. You will receive additional information about fulfilling the pro bono requirement when you arrive at Duke Law School.
- Uniform Bar Exam: Starting in July of 2016, New York has adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). To learn about UBE and its New York supplement, the New York Law Exam (which is administered separately and can be taken online either before or after UBE), please see here.
- Course requirements: See here for course meeting the New York Bar requirements. During orientation you will be counseled by International Studies Staff about specific course requirements.
Does Duke Law School offer externships for LLM students?
Duke Law School is pleased to offer LLM students an opportunity to experience lawyering in the “real world” by placing students directly in attorneys’ offices in government, non-profit/NGOs, the judiciary, and occasionally, “in-house” at companies. During the Spring Semester LLM students are eligible to participate in “integrated internships,” which require concurrent enrollment in a course covering the subject matter related to the work being performed at the host organization. (For example, if you are working in a tech start-up and dealing with IP issues, you would need to take an IP course that is thematically similar to the legal issues you will encounter in your work placement). You will receive more information about applying for and securing externships when you arrive at Duke Law School.
Can I work in the United States after finishing my law degree at Duke?
Students with F-1 or J-1 visas may stay up to one year in the United States after receiving their degree for optional practical or academic training. Some graduates extend their stay with the support of their employers.
Do Duke LLM students receive help in looking for a job?
The Career & Professional Development Center and the Office of International Studies offer assistance with LLM students' job search. A staff member is dedicated to advising LLM students. For detailed information see LLM Career Support.