Graduate Legal Studies at Cornell
Marcelo Miza Peñafie

LL.M.

The Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree program at Cornell Law School is a one-year program designed for practicing attorneys and recent law school graduates who have earned a first degree in law outside the United States. Through the LL.M. program, students increase their understanding of American legal principles and can further develop a specialization in law.


LL.M. FAQs:

Why pursue a Cornell Law LL.M.?

What are the degree requirements?

How are students graded?

Who is eligible for the LL.M. program?

What is the application deadline?

How do I apply?

Can I defer my admission?

If I was denied admission, can I reapply?

Can a Cornell LL.M. student transfer to the J.D. degree program?

Can I apply for special student status?

Why pursue a Cornell Law LL.M.?

Cornell Law's LL.M. program was established in 1929. It is a general LL.M., which means you can tailor your own course of study based on your individual academic and career objectives. You can choose from more than 120 courses and seminars, including first-year courses, more advanced electives, or special courses designed for non-U.S. degree holders, as well as courses in other departments such as the Johnson Graduate School of Management.

But you won't have to build your curriculum alone: Faculty advisers and the assistant dean for graduate legal studies will help you design a course of study tailored to meet your educational goals .

In addition, as a Cornell Law LL.M. student, you will be fully integrated into the academic and student life of the Law School. After a special orientation session before classes begin, you will be eligible to enroll in courses taken by J.D. students and to participate in virtually all student organizations. This means you can explore your interests and experience American law school culture to its fullest.

LL.M. students also have their own student organization that plans and schedules programs and events specifically designed for GLS students, including a monthly LL.M. speakers' series and the annual Inter-University Graduate Student Conference at the Law School. Plus, you can take advantage of Cornell's 2,300 acre campus in the heart of New York State's Finger Lakes region.

Cornell Law School strongly encourages students to take part in pro bono work. Public service law benefits society and enhances legal careers. Cornell Law students, including LL.M. students, can participate in the Public Service Challenge. Learn more here.


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What are the degree requirements?


The LL.M. program at Cornell typically requires the completion of 20 credits during two semesters of full-time study. The only specific course you are required to take is "Introduction to the American Legal System." Beyond this, you may choose courses from the Law School's extensive curriculum, including most first-year and upper-level courses. You can also take courses in other divisions of the university.

You must also take one three-credit seminar with a substantial writing component that satisfies the writing requirement. This can be substituted with a three-credit paper supervised by a faculty member or a five-credit Master's thesis.

Those planning to sit for the New York Bar exam must complete 24 credits of classroom coursework, which must include a professional responsibility course, a legal research course, and core subjects covered by the New York Bar Exam.


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How are students graded?


LL.M. candidates do not receive letter grades, but instead are evaluated on a four-tier scale:

  • High Honors (HH)-roughly equivalent to A+ to A Honors
  • (H)-roughly equivalent to A- to B+
  • Satisfactory (S)-roughly equivalent to B to C-
  • Unsatisfactory (U)-roughly equivalent to D+ or lower
There is no faculty policy regulating the proportion of HH, H, S, and U grades that faculty may give to LL.M. students. Merit points are currently not assigned to grades.

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Who is eligible for the LL.M. program?


At present, the LL.M. program at Cornell Law School is open only to students holding a first law degree from outside the United States. Applicants range from recent law graduates to experienced lawyers, in-house counsel, judges, and government officials.

The program is highly selective. Each year, we enroll 85-90 students from a pool of more than 1,200 applicants.

The factors we consider for admission to the LL.M. program include:

  • prior academic performance
  • letters of recommendation from professors, lecturers, or instructors who know your academic capabilities and can compare your work to that of others they have taught
  • special academic honors you have received, and publications you have authored or co-authored
  • your written statement of interest
  • your work experience and community activities
  • if English is not your native language, your English language proficiency
English proficiency requirement

No LSAT score is required for LL.M. applicants, but if your native language is not English, you must submit a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score.

A minimum overall TOEFL score of 100 (Internet-based) is required to be considered for admission. The official score report must be received prior to the applicable deadline for an application to be considered.

If your TOEFL score is below the minimum requirement, you may be offered conditional admission upon completion of the one-year Intensive Law and Language Preparation program.

The TOEFL is offered frequently throughout the world. Information on times and places and an application form can be obtained from:

The Educational Testing Service
Princeton, NJ 08541, U.S.A.
(609) 921-9000

Our institution code is 2098, and department code is 03. To have your TOEFL score report sent to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) LL.M. Credential Assembly Service, you must have the Educational Testing Service send your TOEFL score to the LSAC using the institution code number 8395.

If English is your native language or your law degree is from an English-speaking institution, you are not required to take the TOEFL.

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What is the application deadline?

All applications are due December 15 for a decision by mid-February. To be considered for a scholarship award, all application materials must be received by this date.

How do I apply?

Apply to our LL.M. program using the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) LL.M. Credential Assembly Service. To register, visit the LSAC website.

The LL.M. Credential Assembly Service simplifies the application process by centralizing the collection of application materials and distributing them in an electronic report to all law schools to which you apply. This means that if you are applying to multiple law schools, you will only have to submit application materials once. And because Cornell receives all required materials electronically from LSAC, we can process all applications faster and more efficiently.

Unexpected delays do happen. We strongly advise that you register with LSAC four to six weeks before your first application deadline, and ensure that application materials that must be mailed to LSAC are received at least two weeks before the deadline.

Application Checklist

By December 15, please submit your application, including all supporting materials, through LSAC. A complete application includes the following:

  • Application form-A completed and signed application form.
  • Statement of interest-A statement of approximately 750 words explaining your purpose for obtaining the degree, your research and study interests, and their relation to your previous education and professional goals. Include your full name on the top of each page of the statement of interest.
  • Transcripts/degree certifications-Complete official transcripts of all previous college, university, and graduate/professional school study, including work done at Cornell. You must use LSAC's Document Assembly and International Transcript Authentication and Evaluation Services.
  • Letters of recommendation-Two letters of recommendation from faculty members acquainted with your work in the major area of study. If that work occurred more than three years ago, or if such letters are not obtainable because of circumstances beyond your control, recommendations from those familiar with your professional performance are acceptable. These should also be submitted through the LSAC's Letter of Recommendation Service.
  • Demonstration of English proficiency-Proficiency in English is required for admission. Your level of proficiency, as demonstrated by all aspects of the application, is a significant factor in our decision-making process. If your native language is not English, you must take the TOEFL unless you have received your first degree in law from a college or university in a country where both the language of instruction and native language is English. We do not accept IELTS.
  • Application fee-Nonrefundable U.S. $80 application fee.

Documents in languages other than English must be accompanied by a certified translation in a signed, sealed envelope. Our committee will review complete applications only. Applications received after January 1 will be reviewed on a space-available basis.

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Can I defer my admission?

One-year deferrals may be granted on a case-by-case basis. Historically, the committee has granted a deferral for compelling reasons, such as the inability to secure a visa or financial hardship.


If I was denied admission, can I reapply?

If you are denied admission, you may reapply to Cornell Law in a subsequent year. The Admissions Committee will review your entire application, but will also focus on any significant changes since your prior application.

To re-apply for admission, you should submit new versions of the following:

  • application
  • résumé
  • personal statement
  • letters of recommendation
  • application fee (currently $80)

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Can a Cornell LL.M. student transfer to the J.D. degree program?

Yes. To do so, you must submit a transfer application no later than April 1st. The transfer procedures and requirements will, in general, be the same as those applied to J.D. students at other law schools who seek to transfer into our J.D. program (including the requirement of an LSAT score). However, at least one letter of recommendation should be from a Cornell Law faculty member who has taught you.

If there is room in the J.D. program, the Admissions Committee will admit students when their grades in our LL.M. program, along with all other aspects of their application materials, clearly demonstrate the potential to be outstanding J.D. students. This is a very high standard and can be met only in extraordinary circumstances.

If you are accepted into the J.D. program as a transfer student, you will be eligible to apply up to 24 credits obtained in pursuit of your LL.M. degree toward your J.D. degree requirements. However, you will lose your eligibility to receive your pending LL.M. degree. You must complete at least four semesters at Cornell while enrolled as a J.D. student.

In general, financial assistance from the Law School will not be available to students transferring from the school's LL.M. program to our J.D. program. However, in extraordinary circumstances, the Admissions Committee may make exceptions to this policy.

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Can I apply for special student status?

GLS students who wish to continue to take courses during the next academic year after completing their degree requirements must apply to the assistant dean for graduate legal studies by April 1.

Requests must include:

  • a brief statement of your plans for the next academic year, including your reasons for continuing with coursework
  • financial support for continued study
  • a copy of your Cornell Law School transcript

If you are accepted into Special Student status, you will be notified by letter and we will also notify the Registrar.

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Contact us to learn more.

Phone: (607) 255-2362
Email: glsadmissions@cornell.edu