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Cornell Law School: Degrees

For information about a JD with a specialization in International Legal Affairs, see here for course requirements and a description of the program. In addition to our JD programs and international dual degrees, the law school offers graduate legal degrees.

The Graduate Legal Studies Program at Cornell Law School is a key component in the academic and cultural life of the law school.

The program encompasses all of the graduate degrees beyond the Juris Doctor (J.D.), as well as visiting doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows. Each year the program enrolls 80-85 foreign-trained lawyers in our one year Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree program who come to Cornell from around the world. These students join our Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.) students, visiting doctoral students, as well as post-doctoral fellows conducting advanced research and teaching at Cornell Law School.

Master of Laws (LL.M.)Cornell began offering the Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in 1929. Since 1948 the LL.M. degree program has been designed for students holding a law degree from outside the United States who wish to

  • Carry on advanced legal research
  • Engage in comparative legal study
  • Gain a better understanding of the American legal system
  • Or pursue a field of specialization in areas in which Cornell's faculty is world-renowned

Degree Requirements:

  • Normally requires twenty credits of law study (two semesters) at Cornell
  • Only one specific course requirement (the Introduction to the American Legal System course)
  • Students may choose courses from the law school's extensive curriculum, including most first-year and upper-level courses.
  • Faculty advisers and the assistant dean for graduate legal studies help students design a course of study tailored to meet their unique educational goals.
  • In completing the course work students must include one three-credit seminar with a substantial writing component, a three-credit paper supervised by a faculty member, or a five-credit master's thesis.
  • Courses in other divisions of the university are also available to LL.M. students.


  • The LL.M. program is highly selective and limited to eighty to eighty-five students each year.
  • Many of the students have been lawyers in private practice, judges, academics, government lawyers or officials, public-service attorneys, or in-house counsel.

After Graduation:

  • A number of the LL.M. graduates sit for the New York State bar examination after completing the LL.M. degree.
  • The majority of LL.M. graduates return to their home countries to teach, practice law, continue in government service, or pursue other career options.

Financial Aid:

See also LL.M. Description in Admissions.

Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.)The law school's J.S.D. degree program is for scholars who intend to pursue original research in the field of law.


  • In general, J.S.D. students will be considered for the program only after initial candidacy for the LL.M. degree at Cornell Law School, and only a very small number of highly qualified students are admitted for doctoral study.
  • A J.S.D. student is accepted only when, in the judgment of the law school faculty, the student is exceptional and the law school faculty is in a position to provide proper supervision of the student's proposed course of study.

Residency: The minimum residency for the J.S.D. degree is two semesters, although the program usually requires four to six semesters to complete.

Countries represented by J.S.D. candidates:

  • Canada
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Eritrea
  • France
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Korea
  • South Africa
  • Turkey
  • Zambia

See also J.S.D. Description in Admissions.

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Juris Doctor/Master of Laws in International and Comparative Law (J.D./LL.M.)Cornell Law School offers a J.D./LL.M. program in international and comparative law that can be earned in three years of study (including one summer at Cornell's Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law in Paris.

The program is intended for students who seek an even greater grounding in international and comparative law than that provided by the specialization degree in international legal affairs.

The J.D./LL.M. requires 20 credits of upper-class study in addition to the 84 credits required for the Cornell J.D. degree. As part of the additional 20 credits, students must take courses in international law, comparative law, and conflicts of law.

See also J.D./LL.M. Description in Admissions.

Juris Doctor with Specialization in International Legal AffairsSince 1948, Cornell Law School has offered the J.D. with Specialization in International Legal Affairs to J.D. students who complete the degree requirements, including course work in international law, comparative law, conflict of laws, and additional courses on international or comparative law topics.

The program is designed for J.D. students who desire to be better qualified in the international aspects of private practice, government service, or multi-national business.

See also J.D./Specialization in International Legal Affairs Description in Admissions.

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Master of Science (Legal Studies) (M.S.L.S.) Cornell Law School offers a Master of Science (Legal Studies) (M.S.L.S.) degree.  The M.S.L.S. is a one-year nonprofessional degree intended for Cornell University graduate Ph.D. students and post-doctoral fellows who have no prior legal training and seek an introduction to the foundations of legal systems, legal reasoning, argumentation and analysis, legal procedure, and substantive law in selected areas.

Admission and Requirements:  Admission information and requirements for the program can be found at the law school's M.S.L.S. admissions website.

The M.S.L.S. is not a professional law degree and it does not qualify a student to sit for the bar examination in New York or any other state.


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