LLM Degree

Overview and Degree Requirements

The LLM program at Duke Law School is designed to introduce foreign law graduates to the legal system of the United States and to provide the opportunity to take advanced courses in specialized areas of the law. LLM students are welcome to make selections from the large number of courses represented in the curriculum. With the exception of two required courses (see requirements below), all classes are taken with JD students. Students may also take courses in other parts of the university, such as the Fuqua School of Business or the Sanford School of Public Policy. Some LLM students elect to take a first-year course, but the greater part of the LLM curriculum consists of upper-class JD courses selected by the individual student.

Although the Duke Law LLM is not a research degree, students can produce a substantial research paper under faculty supervision either by conducting an independent research project or by enrolling in a seminar. Duke places special emphasis on building writing skills in English.  In addition to a fall semester writing course, an un-graded elective course, the Legal Writing Workshop, is available to LLM students during the spring semester. The workshop is designed to provide additional instruction in U.S. legal correspondence and drafting, and to assist students in writing research papers and preparing for seminar presentations. 

Most LLM students at Duke are professionals with two or more years of experience at well-known law firms. They are also judges, prosecutors, academics, members of government ministries, corporations, or financial institutions. The LLM program usually includes a small number of talented, very recent law graduates as well. The 2016-17 LLM class has an enrollment of 95 students from 41 countries.

Applicants must 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. Correspondence course or distance learning degrees will not be considered for admission to the LLM program.

All applications will receive very careful scrutiny. Admissions will be based on the following criteria:

  • the applicant's academic promise as revealed by previous academic performance;
  • references (a minimum of 2) that demonstrate the applicant's scholarly ability and professional qualifications;
  • the applicant's professional plans, goals and special interests as reflected on the personal statement and resume; and
  • the applicant's English language proficiency.

Candidates for the LLM for graduates of foreign law schools are expected to enroll in a minimum of 21 credit hours in law. Students may take more than 21 credits and may take credits outside of the Law School. Those who wish to sit for the New York bar examination will be able to fulfill the bar examination's requirements of 24 credits. The LLM degree is normally completed in one academic year, which begins for all new students in mid-August.

Requirements for the LLM degree are as follows:

  1. Students are required to enroll in a minimum of 21 credit hours in law.
  2. Students are required to take Distinctive Aspects of U.S. Law.
  3. Students without extensive experience studying in English are required to take Legal Analysis, Research and Writing for International Students.
  4. Students are required to produce a substantial piece of academic writing, which is usually satisfied by taking a seminar course or pursuing an independent research project supervised by a faculty member.

Download the LLM Brochure (pdf) How to Apply Financial Assistance & Budget

Students talking prior to class

"At Duke, I am very lucky to be surrounded by great professors and talented classmates from whom I learned a great deal. For example, in my negotiation class I worked very closely with my classmates and became friends with many of them. Luckily, I am now friends with the whole class on Facebook, which is a good thing because it would allow me to maintain these relationships for a long time."

Salman Alasiry, LLM 2011. SJD Candidate