Frequently Asked Questions and Planning Tips - University of Cambridge J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree Program


How Many Students Typically Apply?

Since the program’s inception, a different number of students have expressed interest each year, so it is not illustrative to offer statistics of the number of applicants vs. the number accepted. All applications are subject to the same competitive process, which, in the first several years of the program, resulted in four to five students reading for the Cambridge LL.M. degree each year. HLS proposes applicants to Cambridge University Law Faculty for up to six slots; the final admission decision rests with Cambridge University.

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How Are the Courses at Cambridge Taught?

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 beginning of the 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.

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What About Financial Aid and Scholarships for Students Spending a Year at Cambridge?

Harvard Law School charges each student going to Cambridge regular HLS tuition for the period abroad; tuition costs for Cambridge are billed to Harvard rather than to the student. Harvard financial aid will be available in most cases for at least one semester of the time spent in England. There are some scholarships available from the Cambridge Overseas Trust and the Cambridge Gates Trust. For information about the application procedures and deadlines, please see the University's Graduate Studies Prospectus online.

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How Many Credits does a Student Need Prior to Going to Cambridge?

A student can earn 11 to 13 ungraded classroom credits for a year at Cambridge; the exact number depends on the particular course load taken. Before going abroad, students should be sure that they have completed all required first-year work at HLS and have planned to earn the 52 additional credits as stipulated by the HLS Registrar’s Office (including the pro bono, written work, and professional responsibility requirements). The total of 11 to 13 credits for the year at Cambridge abroad should be taken into consideration.

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When Do HLS/Cambridge Joint Degree Students Graduate from HLS?

Harvard University awards degrees three times annually --- in March, June, and November. All schools of the university are required to follow that calendar. Students who are scheduled to complete their final HLS semester in the fall can expect to receive their degrees in March. The only degree ceremony is in June, and March degree recipients are welcome to attend the ceremony in the June following the completion of their degrees.

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How Might Graduating Off-Cycle Affect One’s Career Path?

J.D./LL.M. alumni have reported that the extra time has, in many cases, been beneficial to their career. Students have used that time to study for the bar, undertake a clerkship, engage in a fellowship or research, or travel. Several students utilized the additional time to study and sit for the California bar in addition to the New York bar; another completed a clerkship with the South African Constitutional Court.

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Does Participation in the J.D./LL.M. Program Affect Potential Employment with a Law Firm or Elsewhere?

The relevance of the LL.M. degree depends on the firm’s area of practice; however, HLS students tend to report that the LL.M., and the attendant realignment of a student's employment, is either an asset or not a factor in obtaining employment. Many employers appreciate the student's extra academic training as well as the fact that s/he has gained an additional summer's worth of work experience. Students who were placed within the same cohort as their original class report a steeper, though rewarding, learning curve. Students have not reported encountering any problems in lining up employment even though they completed their work at HLS in December rather than in May.

Students who are considering how the Cambridge LLM program might fit in with a job search can contact Marni Goldstein Caputo in the Office of Career Services or an advisor in the Office of Public Advising. OCS and OPIA advisors are also able to counsel students by phone, e-mail or Skype during their semester abroad. As well, all OCS programs are made available by webcast or podcast.

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When Can J.D./LL.M. Students Take the Bar Exam and MPRE?

Students are advised to check directly with the bar examining authorities of the jurisdiction(s) in which they hope to take the exam. State bar examinations are generally given annually in February and July, and most states have websites where students can check dates and download applications. Please note carefully that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires students to have their diplomas before taking the bar, which means that Harvard March degree candidates are not eligible for a February exam. However, it may be sufficient, in Massachusetts and other states with similar requirements, to provide a letter from HLS indicating that a student has fulfilled all requirements for the J.D. degree but that the degree itself will not be awarded until the next graduation date.

The MPRE is organized by the National Conference of Bar Examiners; for information, visit their website and select Multi-state Tests. The exam is offered several times a year. Students should be sure to check with the state(s) where they plan to take the bar exam about when they allow or expect students to complete the MPRE.

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What Should Students Know About the Cambridge College System?

The choice of college and location of students’ housing can be a key part of students’ experience while in the LL.M. program as colleges form the basis for much of the academic and social life at Cambridge. Students may wish to consider such factors as: composition of the student body, location, facilities and activities, “personality” of the college and degree of formality, alumni network, and the availability of funding for doctoral-level study, among others.

HLS students will need to designate their preferred colleges as part of their application to Cambridge. Certain Cambridge colleges have indicated their willingness to accept Harvard-Cambridge joint degree applicants; the list can be found here. Applicants can learn about the Cambridge colleges on the University of Cambridge website and find answers to common questions about how the college system works and admittance restrictions. It can also be useful to speak with HLS students who have gone to Cambridge or to contact the officers of the Cambridge Graduate Union for an “unofficial” perspective of the various colleges. Upon request, the International Legal Studies office can provide HLS students with contact information of past participants in the HLS-Cambridge joint degree program as well as their tips about things to consider when choosing a college.

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What is the Cambridge Library System Like?

The 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 about the library system.

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Who Can be Contacted With Questions or for Suggestions?

For questions, please contact Sara Zucker, Director of International Legal Studies Programs, at or 5-9030. Sara is available to talk to students by appointment as well as during office hours on Tuesdays from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. when HLS classes are in session. Sara’s office is located in Suite 5005 of Wasserstein Hall. Sara can also provide the names and contact information of students who have participated in the Harvard/Cambridge J.D./LL.M. program and would be happy to speak to potential participants.

Students who would like to discuss the possibility of obtaining disability accommodations for the Cambridge LL.M. should contact Lakshmi Clark-McClendon, Assistant Director of Student Services, at or (617) 496-2437 prior to applying

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Last modified: March 16, 2015

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