Eligibility and Admission Standards
In evaluating applications for admission to our Graduate Legal Studies programs, we strive to select a student body of diverse backgrounds and interests that shares a discernible commitment to excellence.
We place primary emphasis on demonstrated qualities and proven skills we regard as necessary for academic success and intellectual engagement at Columbia Law School, and also highly value personal strengths that we believe predict professional distinction and public service. We endeavor to identify how and to what extent candidates have forged their values and achieved their goals—how they have actually chosen to commit their time, energies, and talents, and how they have made use of their opportunities. Applicants are evaluated, therefore, not only on their potential but by their demonstrated motivation, self-discipline and industry.
LL.M. candidates are required to spend one academic year (two terms) of full-time study and research in residence at the school, and are admitted for studies commencing only at the beginning of the academic year, in late August-early September (there is no summer term). LL.M. candidates are not admitted on a part-time basis and may not accept or continue off-campus employment during their academic year of residence. An exception to the prohibition of part-time studies is made for students who for family reasons (the care of children or elderly parents) may spread their studies over a three-semester period, taking eight points per term. A disadvantage of this approach, however, is that since the points are charged on a per-credit basis, the degree costs more than it would over three semesters than it would if obtained in one academic year. Moreover, this approach is also incompatible with the university's 10-point-per-semester minimum requirement to qualify as a full-time student for student visa purposes.
To be eligible for admission to the LL.M. Program, applicants must hold a first degree in law. A degree in a field other than law, even if followed by a master’s degree in law, generally does not suffice for admission. Applicants who have earned a law degree by correspondence course work or distance learning are not eligible for admission. Graduates of foreign law schools who have already had a year of residence in an American law school are generally ineligible for admission. As the LL.M. is a full-time program of study, students are not permitted to accept off-campus employment while enrolled in the program.
Strong preference is given to applicants who have had at least one year of work experience after earning their first law degree. Only in exceptional circumstances are applications from candidates who are in their final year of their first law degree accepted. Applicants who have not yet graduated must demonstrate in their personal statements that their admission to the program would enable them to realize an immediate and specific career objective that would not otherwise be attainable.
A. Graduates of Law Schools in the United States
Admission to candidacy for the LL.M. degree is restricted, in the case of graduates of law schools in the U.S., to graduates of A.B.A.-accredited law schools who achieved honor status in their undergraduate legal studies as evidenced by very high academic standing, by membership on their law reviews, or by outstanding work in research. Generally, preference is given to candidates who have acquired at least one year of significant professional legal experience subsequent to graduation.
B. Graduates of Law Schools in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or English-speaking Caribbean Countries
Admission for these degree candidates is generally restricted to those who achieved honor status in their prior legal studies as evidenced by very high academic standing, by membership on their law reviews, or by outstanding work in research. As a general matter, applicants from law schools in these countries who have not completed at least five years of post-secondary undergraduate and legal education combined must have been admitted to the bar and practiced for at least one year after completing their legal education.
C. Graduates of All Other Law Schools
The purpose of the LL.M. Program for these degree candidates is to provide an introduction to new areas of interest to them as well as the opportunity to further specialize in their current areas of practice, and is generally restricted to those who achieved honor status in their prior legal studies.
International lawyers who intend to reside permanently and to practice law in the United States should apply for the J.D. degree, the first degree in law, rather than the LL.M. The J.D. program is normally three years of full-time study. Generally, a maximum of one year's advanced standing toward the J.D. degree at Columbia may be granted for graduate legal studies completed in the United States or another common-law country. Such standing, however, is determined on an individual basis by request of the student after an offer of admission has been made. Completion of an LL.M. degree at Columbia Law School does not guarantee admission to the J.D. program.