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The following section provides information on the requirements for the LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees at Harvard Law School. Note that the information in this section relates specifically to requirements for HLS degree completion. It does not relate to qualification for any bar examination or other professional licensing.
1. LL.M. Residence and Credit Requirements
To qualify for the LL.M. Degree, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:
a) One academic year in full-time residence.
b) A course of study consisting of a minimum of 22 credits and a maximum of 26 credits (not including the one credit assigned for completion of the portion of the Legal Research, Writing and Analysis course that takes place during LL.M. Orientation):
i. Degree candidates must register for at least 8 to 10 credits in each of the fall and spring terms, and at least two credits in the winter term. In some cases, different minimums may apply for visa purposes.
ii. For LL.M. candidates who do not hold a J.D. degree from a law school in the United States, at least one of the following “primary” courses in U.S. law: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Corporations, Criminal Law, Family Law, Legislation and Regulation, Property, Taxation, or Torts.
c) The LL.M. Written Work Requirement(see Section II.A.5).
Any questions about academic requirements should be directed to the Graduate Program Office.
2. Recommended Courses
The Committee on Graduate Studies strongly recommends that each LL.M. candidate also take at least one course focusing on legal history, legal theory, policy analysis or legal process. In addition, students who hold a J.D. degree from a school in the United States (including Puerto Rico), and who are hoping to embark on a law teaching career, are strongly encouraged to take at least one course that is primarily focused on legal theory or jurisprudence. Students are invited to consult with Jeanne Tai, Assistant Dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies or Nancy Pinn, Director of Administration and Student Affairs for the Graduate Program for further discussion of possible course selections in this area.
Class work is essential to the educational program at the Law School. Regular attendance at classes and participation in class work are expected of all students and attendance is evaluated in light of the number of days that the class meets. In the case of substantial delinquency in attendance, or with regard to a clinic, unsatisfactory performance of clinic responsibilities, the Law School may, after written warning, involuntarily withdraw the student from the course, clinic, seminar, or reading group in question. Students who believe they need to miss classes for an extended period of time must speak with the Assistant Dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies or the Director of Administration and Student Affairs for the Graduate Program who can assist with such situations and can help students comply with the Law School’s attendance policy and related academic policies. Students are also advised to speak with the instructor if appropriate.
Students will not receive credit for courses, clinics, seminars, or reading groups with meeting times that overlap in whole or in part, including travel time.
Pursuant to the requirements of the law set forth in Chapter 151C, Section 2B of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a copy of this section is printed in full:
Any student in an educational or vocational training institution, other than a religious or denominational educational or vocational training institution, who is unable, because of his religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study, or work requirement on a particular day shall be excused from any such examination or study or work requirement and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study, or work requirement which he may have missed because of such absence on any particular day; provided, however, that such makeup examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon such school. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of his availing himself of the provisions of this section.
Students anticipating missing class for religious observance should consult the Law School's Class Recording Policy (Section XIII.E) regarding class recordings.
4. Grades for LL.M. Students
a) Honors, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail Grades
All Harvard Law School courses, seminars, clinicals and written work—with the exception of courses offered Credit/Fail (see Section II.A.4.c)—will be graded Honors, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail (“H, P, LP or F”).
b) Dean’s Scholar Prizes
Dean’s Scholar Prizes may be awarded to LL.M. students in recognition of outstanding work in the first-year international and comparative law course and in upper-level classes with seven or more Harvard Law School J.D. and LL.M. students following the add/drop period. Dean’s Scholar Prizes may not be awarded in courses graded on a Credit/Fail basis or in classes with fewer than seven students.
c) Credit/Fail Grades
All reading groups and independent clinicals, and certain courses with prior approval from the Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs will be graded on a Credit/Fail basis. Faculty may not award Credit/Fail grades without prior consultation with the Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs.
d) Minimum Grades
i. In order to be eligible for the LL.M. degree, LL.M. candidates must complete a total of at least 22 credits (including course work and written work and not including the one credit assigned for completion of the portion of the Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis course that takes place during LL.M. Orientation), graded Low Pass (LP) or higher; of those 22 credits, no fewer than three must be graded Pass (P) or higher.
ii. LL.M. candidates must earn a minimum grade of Low Pass on the paper submitted to satisfy the LL.M. Written Work Requirement, assuming they have met the minimum grade requirements stated in II.A.3.d.i.
iii. Students failing to meet minimum grade requirements may be allowed, by decision of the Graduate Committee, to undertake substitute work, take a different examination in the same course, or retake courses within the next academic year following the end of the LL.M. year. All additional work must be completed no later than 12 months after the end of the LL.M. year.
Students may receive extensions for a course or written work with the written permission of the relevant faculty member (see Section VIII). In order to track the progress of student course or written work for which extensions have been given, the Law School uses an “Extension” (EXT) transcript notation. Students who have an approved extension will receive an EXT notation on the transcript until the work is completed and graded. In the absence of an authorized EXT notation, a "Withdrew after Deadline" (WD) notation will be entered on the transcript. EXT notations must be resolved by no later than the last day of classes of the semester that follows the scheduled completion of the course or written work. If a student fails to complete the work by that date or to receive a further extension, the Registrar’s Office will withdraw him or her from the course or written work and enter a WD on the transcript.
f) Grade Changes
After an instructor has submitted a grade to the Registrar, the instructor may change the grade only if it was incorrect as a result of an arithmetical, administrative, or other mechanical error. A grade may not be changed as a result of a reevaluation of a student’s work except by vote of the faculty. After degrees are voted and approved by the Law School faculty, grades cannot be changed by an individual faculty member for any reason. Grade changes also may be made by the School’s administration in response to a disciplinary proceeding or administrative irregularity. The Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs must approve any and all grade changes.
All LL.M. candidates must satisfy the Written Work Requirement for the LL.M. degree. To fulfill this requirement, LL.M. students must complete a paper that involves independent reflection, formulation of a sustained argument and, in many cases, in-depth research. The paper may be written in conjunction with a Law School course or seminar that already requires a paper, or as an independent paper supervised by a member of the Law School faculty (including instructors with Law School teaching appointments). Where there is no course or seminar in the field in which a student wants to work, normally a faculty member will be available to guide research in the particular field.
Students who hold J.D. degrees from a law school in the U.S. or Puerto Rico must write a 50-page paper (see description below). LL.M. students whose primary law degrees are from schools other than those in the United States or Puerto Rico may select either of the two options described below.
The parameters for paper length and credits earned are as follows:
A series of shorter papers or journal entries does not satisfy the requirement.
Further guidance on the Written Work Requirement is available from the Graduate Program Office.
Registration deadlines. All LL.M. students must complete a non-binding “statement of interest” survey, about tentative writing plans and related matters, by September 27, 2013. The purpose of this survey is to gauge likely writing interests in order to direct resources accordingly. Subsequently, students writing the 50-Page Paper or the 25-Page Paper in the fall term must register for the paper at the Graduate Program Office by October 18, 2013, as set forth in Section VII.C. Students writing the 25-Page Paper in the spring term must register for the paper by January 31, 2014. LL.M. students who fail to register for the LL.M. Written Work Requirement by January 31, 2014, as set forth in Section VII.C, may be removed from the May 2014 degree list.
6. Additional Rules Relating to the LL.M. Written Work Requirement
The mandatory schedule for registering for, completing, and submitting the LL.M. Written Work Requirement is set forth in Sections VII.C and VIII.C.The following rules and guidelines also apply to the LL.M. Written Work Requirement:
a) Supervision: Students may ask any Law School faculty member or instructor with a Law School teaching appointment to supervise written work. Faculty on certain types of leave may not be available in a given term. Faculty have indicated availability to supervise written work in particular fields.
b) Supervision by Visiting Faculty: Writing credits under the supervision of visiting faculty ordinarily must be registered for and completed during the term(s) of the visitor’s appointment. Note that many visitors have Law School appointments for only one term. Students with questions about visiting faculty supervision outside of the faculty member's term of appointment should contact the Graduate Program staff for guidance on this point.
c) Prohibition against Compensation:
A student may not receive academic credit for written work for which he or she also receives compensation.
d) Registration for Written Work: A student must register for the LL.M. Written Work Requirement in advance by submitting a LL.M. Written Work Requirement Registration and Proposal form to the proposed faculty advisor for signature; details about the proposal will be provided by the Graduate Program. Faculty members may require additional preliminary information, such as a discussion of the subject matter, an outline, or a longer description. A student should submit the Registration and Proposal form to the faculty member, as well as any other material requested, well in advance of the published dates set forth in Section VII.C since faculty members may require additional preliminary work before accepting a proposal.
e) Awarding of Additional Credit: On rare occasions an LL.M. student writing the 25-Page Paper or a 50-Page Paper may seek one additional credit where the paper significantly exceeds the original parameters in form (at least 25 additional pages) and in substance. Under the above conditions, the student may earn such credit only through advance arrangements with the student’s faculty supervisor along with the approval of the Graduate Program and notice to the Office of the Registrar. The foregoing are the only circumstances under which an additional credit may be considered and granted, and all such conditions must be satisfied by no later than April 25, 2014 in order for such additional credit to be granted. Students writing a 75-Page Paper are not eligible for additional credit even if the paper significantly exceeds the original parameters in form and substance.
f) Additional writing opportunities for LL.M. students include Optional Written Work and the Winter Term Writing Program (see Section III.A).
To qualify for the S.J.D. degree, candidates must fulfill the following requirements, discussed at length in Appendix C.
1. Study Plan
Each S.J.D. candidate must submit an approved study plan, including arrangements for course work and reading lists, in the first year of candidacy. Candidates must submit drafts of their study plans to their faculty supervisors and orals committee members early in September of the first year of the program and should discuss with them the desirability of pursuing specific courses, selected readings, interdisciplinary study, skills enhancement (e.g., languages, mathematics, statistics), and other academic projects in their specific fields of study. On the basis of these discussions, candidates should put their study plans in final form, have them approved by their faculty supervisors, and submit the plans for approval by the Committee on Graduate Studies by no later than September 30; and, if revised, for final approval by no later than October 31 of the first year of study.
2. First Year in Residence
Candidates must complete the first year of study in residence at the Law School, under the supervision of a faculty supervisor and an orals committee, reading for fields and completing, ordinarily, at least eight credits of course work (typically on an audit basis).
a) S.J.D. candidates in the first year must normally complete course work carrying a minimum of eight credit hours (typically on an audit basis) at the Law School or, if appropriate, at other departments of the University. Arrangements for fulfilling the course work requirement must be set forth in the Study Plan. Any S.J.D. candidate who does not hold a primary degree in law from a U.S. law school
i. must complete, during the first year of S.J.D. studies or during the LL.M. year, at least one course in U.S. law.
ii. is strongly encouraged to complete, during the first year of S.J.D. studies or during the LL.M. year, at least one course in legal history, legal process, or legal thought.
The content of courses pursued in connection with the fields of study will typically be examined in the context of the oral (general) examination.
b) Attendance Policy: S.J.D. candidates taking classes on a for-credit basis must adhere to the class attendance policy set forth above and are subject to the protections of the Massachusetts law set forth therein.
c) Grades: All Harvard Law School courses, seminars, clinicals and written work—with the exception of courses offered Credit/Fail—will be graded Honors, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail (“H, P, LP or F”).
S.J.D. students must receive a minimum grade of P in any course taken for credit. Grades of LP or F are not passing grades for the S.J.D. degree.
3. Oral Examination
Candidates must successfully complete an oral (general) examination in each of the fields of study outlined in the study plan. Candidates must sit for the S.J.D. oral (general) examination in their fields of study during the first or second year of study. The examination must be completed before starting work on the dissertation. Each student and his or her faculty supervisor will agree on a target month (no later than the 19th month from the beginning of S.J.D. studies, typically March of the second year) for completion of the oral (general) examination at the time the student develops his or her study plan.
4. Two presentations at the S.J.D. Colloquium
Twice during the program, S.J.D. candidates are required to present their dissertation work at the S.J.D. Colloquium. The first presentation must take place after completion of the oral examination, and by no later than the 28th month from the beginning of S.J.D. studies (which for most candidates would mean by December of the third year) or 12 months from the completion of the oral examination, whichever is earlier. The second presentation must be completed prior to graduation, and may, though it need not, take place in the last year of study
5. Submission and acceptance of the doctoral dissertation
Within 36 months of successful completion of the oral examination, the S.J.D. candidate must complete and submit a dissertation on a subject previously approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies and the candidate’s faculty supervisor. Each dissertation must represent a sustained and substantial scholarly effort and must be suitable for publication.
Prohibited Submissions: Commissioned studies, committee reports, and writings of joint authorship will not be accepted in fulfillment of the dissertation requirement.
Permission and Required Format for Multiple Essay submissions: The dissertation is generally expected to be in the form of a monograph. In cases where the dissertation explores law and another discipline, a series of related essays may be acceptable if the candidate and her supervisor can demonstrate to the Graduate Committee’s satisfaction that the multiple-essay format is the norm for dissertations in the relevant discipline. Where this format is approved, the candidate must also submit for approval an introductory and/or concluding synthetic essay that draws on the other essays and establishes a general thesis supported by the essays.
To request permission to submit a dissertation in the form of multiple essays, candidates should present for the Graduate Committee’s review – as soon as possible but in any event no later than 6 months before the intended graduation date – a petition that: (a) sets forth the substance of the dissertation project as a whole and an explanation of why a multiple-essay format is more appropriate than a monograph in light of the nature and focus of the dissertation project and the norm for dissertations in the relevant discipline; (b) acknowledges the requirement to include a synthetic essay that draws on the other essays and establishes a general thesis supported by the essays; (c) describe the substance of the synthetic essay (it would be helpful to submit a draft of the concluding essay as an attachment). Candidates should also ask their supervisors to provide a statement of support for the multiple-essay format in light of the norm for dissertations in the relevant discipline.
NOTE: Candidates should not assume that requests for multiple-essay submissions are automatically granted.
6. Oral Defense Examination
Upon completion of the dissertation, each candidate must pass an oral defense examination in his or her principal field of research (not limited to but including the subject of the dissertation). The examination is to be given by a dissertation defense committee, consisting of the faculty supervisor, the second reader and, if necessary, a representative of the Committee on Graduate Studies. The examination is customarily held within two months of the submission of the dissertation.
7. Submission of Dissertation to the Library
Once the supervisor and second reader approve the dissertation and corrections, if any, are made, two copies printed on acid-free paper must be submitted (unbound) to the Graduate Program for deposit with the Law School Library. At this time, a Library Authorization form must also be signed.
Detailed specifications for each of the preceding requirements and for other relevant information, including dissertation deadline parameters, are provided in Appendix C to these rules. Candidates should also refer to the Graduate Program Handbook available in the Graduate Program Office.
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