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Pre-LL.M. One-Year Certificate Program

Penn State Law’s Pre-LL.M. One-Year Certificate Program for foreign-trained lawyers is designed exclusively for international attorneys. The rigorous one-year certificate program is intended for pre-LL.M. studies, with the opportunity to apply to the Penn State Law LL.M. Program or any other LL.M. program in the United States. The certificate program will assist students in developing reading comprehension skills, case briefing skills, legal analysis, and synthesis skills in the U.S. common law system, increased proficiency in legal English, basic research and citation skills and exam-writing skills. The Legal English Certificate requires students to be full-time, in-residence students during the two semesters of study.

Students pursuing the certificate work within a small program, but maintain the benefits of a large university and established law school. The certificate program specializes in providing the legal English skills necessary for success in an LL.M. program and in global legal practice. The program relies on a close working relationship between law professors and applied linguistics professors that has been ongoing for over five years. The collaboration between these two groups of professionals gives students the opportunity to explore and better understand legal topics from two points of view: those of legal minds and those of experts in legal English. Our certificate program specializes in providing the legal English skills necessary for success in the Penn State Law LL.M. program and in global legal practice.

Students pursuing a Certificate in Legal English can expect to gain:

  • Competency in listening, reading, writing, and speaking about the law
  • Knowledge about the fundamentals of the American common law system
  • Access to individualized consultations with both a legal educator and a language specialist
  • Experience participating in an American law school classroom


Students will be required to complete all certificate courses. The certificate program has an established curriculum; there are no elective courses. No certificate credits will count toward the LL.M. degree.

In the fall semester, students will enroll in:

In the spring semester, students will enroll in:

* Substantive law courses taken as part of the certificate program cannot be retaken as part of the LL.M. program.

Admissions Requirements

Students seeking admission to the certificate program must meet all of Penn State Law’s LL.M. admission standards, except the language proficiency. Students with a 78 TOEFL or 5.5 IELTS score will be considered for admission into the certificate program.

The Admissions Process

The application deadline is June 1. No more than 10 students will be accepted for admission into the program. Applications received after June 1 will only be considered in the event of seat availability.

Applicants can apply by paper or online.

Application Form - Graduate and International Programs

All applications must include:

  • Completed Application and Fee. Applicants may download an application and mail it to Penn State Law with supporting materials. The $75 USD application fee can be paid by credit card, check or international money order drawn on U.S. funds and made payable to Penn State University.
  • Transcripts. Applicants are required to submit official transcripts from all relevant academic institutions previously attended. All transcripts must include a certified English translation. The following services are available to applicants who choose to have their credentials evaluated:
    • LL.M. Credential Assembly Service
    • Educational Credential Evaluators
    • Foreign Education Credential Service
  • Proof of English Proficiency.  Certificate program applicants must provide a minimum Internet-based score of 78 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The Penn State Law institutional code for the TOEFL test is 2660. A score of 5.5 on the International Language Testing System (IELTS) is also acceptable.
  • A Personal Statement. Applicants must submit a one- to two-page personal statement that explains their reasons for pursuing the Legal English Certificate Program and LL.M. degree as well as their future plans and goals. Applicants are encouraged to highlight significant experiences as a lawyer or law student.
  • Résumé. Applicants must submit a résumé outlining all relevant work experience and education.
  • Two Letters of Recommendation. Letters of recommendation should come from professors or employers who have direct knowledge of the applicant’s capacity for advanced law study in English.  Letters of recommendation will describe the length and nature of the recommender’s relationship to the applicant and specifically address the applicant’s aptitude for advanced law study in an English language environment. Letters must be originals and must be sent directly by recommenders to the Office of Admissions; or, if submitted by the applicant to the Office of Admissions, must be in sealed, signed envelopes from the recommenders. Photocopies of letters of recommendation are not acceptable.
  • Language Assessment. Upon receipt of application, applicants will be invited to further demonstrate their language proficiency in an interview with the Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs.  The interview can be conducted in-person or by Skype.

Admissions decisions will be made within three (3) weeks following the application deadline. Admitted students must pay a deposit in the amount of $500 USD within three weeks after the date of admission or will forfeit their admission. Forfeited seats will be offered to students on the waiting list until 10 students have accepted and matriculated.

Admission to the LL.M. Program

Students who successfully complete the Legal English Certificate will be considered for admission to the LL.M. program.

  • Language Assessment: Students who have earned at least a 'B' average in Certificate Program courses will be eligible for faculty admissions committee review to determine admission to the full-time LL.M. Program during their second year of study. Certificate students ineligible for this review or students who have not met regular LL.M. language proficiency requirements will be awarded the language certificate upon successful completion of all certificate requirements, but denied admission into the LL.M. program.

The faculty committee will base its assessment regarding admission into the LL.M. program on its assessment of the capacity of the applicant for advanced study of law in the LL.M. program, the assessment of applied linguist graduate students familiar with each student’s achievement in the certificate program, where available, the assessment of the law faculty who teach certificate program students or whose classes certificate students attended as auditors

A mid-year performance review may be required at the discretion of the assistant dean for graduate and international programs. If required, a report of the review will be included in the student’s portfolio.

  • Certificate credits previously taken will not count toward the LL.M. degree.
  • Substantive law courses (Criminal Law and Constitutional Law) taken as part of the certificate program cannot be retaken as part of the LL.M. program.
  • Academic Rules: Certificate students are subject to the same rules and regulations that apply to LL.M. students as set forth in the LL.M. Student Academic Handbook and the Student Academic Handbook. In particular, Certificate Students must maintain good academic standing. Good academic standing requires regular course attendance and participation, as well as maintaining a semester and cumulative grade-point equivalent of at least a 2.0 (C).
  • Evaluation of Academic Standing. Academic standing for certificate students is evaluated throughout the student’s program of study. If a student fails to achieve a grade average of at least 'C' in the first semester, or excessively fails to attend class, or fails to submit assigned work without excuse, the Penn State Law associate dean for academic affairs will notify the student in writing that he or she is no longer in good academic standing and afford the student an opportunity to be heard as to whether he or she is able or willing to undertake the study necessary to complete the certificate program. The law school's associate dean for academic affairs, in consultation with the assistant dean of graduate and international programs, will determine whether the student may continue in the certificate program or whether probation or dismissal from the program is appropriate. The student may appeal an adverse decision to the dean of the law school.