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LL.M. Academic Handbook

I. Degree. The degree Legum Magister (Master of Laws or LL.M.) shall be awarded to those students who complete the study of law in the LL.M. program of the Pennsylvania State University.
II. Eligibility for Admissions. To be eligible for admission to the Penn State Law LL.M. program:
  1. Requisite education. An applicant must:
    1. have received an LL.B. degree in law from an accredited institution outside of the United States, and provide an official transcript of that degree (a certified translation);
    2. have completed, while resident in a country other than the United States, a university-based legal or other degree [education] that is required to take the equivalent of the bar examination in that foreign country, and produce an official transcript certifying satisfactory completion of that degree [education] status;
    3. be licensed to practice law in a foreign country; or
    4. the equivalent of a., b., and/or c. above as determined by the Assistant Dean of Graduate and International Programs in consultation with the Penn State Law Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
  2. Language capacity.
    1. The applicant must take and submit the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.
      1. The minimum score on the TOEFL shall be 88 (internet-based test) or 575 (paper-based test) or the equivalent.
      2. The minimum score on the IELTS shall be 6.5.
    2. An applicant with scores below the minimum listed above (II.2.i) may be eligible for admission if the applicant obtains suitable language training or provides otherwise acceptable evidence of proficiency in English prior to enrolling at Penn State Law.
    3. International applicants may be exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement if they have received a baccalaureate or master's degree from an educational institution in a country where English is both the language of instruction and the only official or native language. Countries that qualify an applicant for exemption include Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Scotland, the United States, and Wales. The Assistant Dean of Graduate and International Programs may also waive the TOEFL/IELTS requirement for an international applicant who has undertaken significant undergraduate or graduate study in English.
  3. Character and fitness. The applicant must answer the following questions and make full disclosure of facts where appropriate upon application to the LL.M. program:
    1. Have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime other than a minor traffic violation? If yes, please explain.
    2. Have you ever been subject to discipline or dismissal from any college, university or place of employment or bar or legal licensing authority? If yes, please explain.
The applicant should complete the Penn State Law LL.M. application and admissions procedures
III. Length of Study. Students will enroll in the LL.M. program on a full-time basis. Students enrolled in the program on a full-time basis will generally be expected to complete the requirements of the degree in one academic year.

Full Time Status

The LL.M. degree program is a full time course of study.  Full time status for law students in Fall or Spring semester is 12 credits. International LL.M. students who want to study in Summer must comply with DISSA requirements and rules governing Extending Studies for a Third Semester. Except with permission obtained in advance from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Directorate of Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA), all LL.M. students must be enrolled as full-time students throughout each semester in which the student enrolls. (See below for rules regarding extending LL.M. study for a third semester).

In exceptional cases, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs may permit an LL.M. student to be enrolled in  fewer than 12 credits (Fall or Spring) if the LL.M. student demonstrates, in writing and in the judgment of the Associate Dean, adequate justification for a course load lower than full time.  Examples of adequate justification include:  1. Hardship, especially if at the close of the normal drop-add period the circumstances or the events precipitating the hardship were unknown to and could not have been reasonably anticipated by the student.  (Academic unpreparedness or difficulty with the demands of full time law study do not constitute adequate justification); 2.  A U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is employed full time and for whom part time enrollment in LL.M. study is the only feasible option.

All LL.M. students who are granted permission to enroll in less than a full time credit load must enroll in at least six credits each semester (Fall and Spring), and, must complete all LL.M. degree requirements within 24 months after the date the student commences LL.M. study.

All LL.M. students who do not maintain full time status without obtaining prior approval from the law school and DISSA will be reported in SEVIS as a violation, and the student’s SEVIS record will be terminated for “unauthorized drop below full course level.”

LL.M. students are subject to the law school academic rule governing dropping courses after the drop-add deadline, and all other rules as set forth in the LL.M. Academic Handbook and the Student Academic Handbook.

Extending LL.M. Study for a Third Semester

The LL.M. degree program is designed so that students can complete the 24 required credits in two semesters (Fall and Spring). LL.M. degree students may not start LL.M. study in Summer. LL.M. students who want to extend study for a third semester must apply for permission by completing the steps listed below.   (For example, a student who starts LL.M. study in Fall, continues into Spring and wants to extend study into either Summer or Fall must apply for permission to extend.)

  1. Submit Application for Extension Form to Kristin Hrehor by March 15 for fall extensions and October 15 for spring extensions.

        2. Complete the I-20/DS-2019 Request for Extension on iStart

The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will grant permission to extend LL.M. degree study for a third semester if the student demonstrates that an extension will permit the student to accomplish a significant educational objective related to LL.M. degree study.  Significant educational objectives related to LL.M. degree study include:

  • The applicant has taken or will take law courses during the first two semesters in preparation to take a bar exam and needs an additional semester to take additional law courses in preparation for a bar exam.
  • The applicant plans to concentrate his or her study in a particular area of law and wants to take courses in that area in addition to courses that he or she will be able to take during the first two semesters.
  • The applicant plans to enroll in a seminar or independent study course to produce a significant research paper in the third semester and has taken or will take courses in the first two semesters related to the subject of the research paper.  Additional time will allow the student to focus on a research paper.
  • The applicant plans to enroll in an externship or clinical course in the third semester.


If, for any reason, the applicant decides not to extend their enrollment after approval to do so, it is the applicant’s responsibility to notify the Penn State Law Registrar immediately.  This decision will affect when the student record is updated to show the student graduated.  The deadline to notify the Penn State Law Registrar is the semester degree conferral date, available from the Penn State Law Registrar.  If the Penn State Law Registrar is notified after the semester degree conferral date, the student transcript, and any requested graduation verification, will reflect the LL.M. degree for the following semester.                       

IV. Graduation Requirements. In order to fulfill the requirements for the LL.M. degree, students must satisfy the following criteria:
  1. Credit Requirements. Students must earn at least 24 credits.
  2. Academic Standing.
    1. Academic Rules. Unless otherwise stated here, and where relevant to the academic program of the LL.M. degree, LL.M. students are subject to the rules outlined in the J.D. Student Academic Handbook.
    2. Good Standing. 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).
    3. Evaluation of Academic Standing. Academic standing for LL.M. 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 LL.M. degree 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 LL.M. 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.
  3. Required Courses. Students must earn credit in the following required courses: Introduction to the United States Legal System and LL.M. Legal Analysis Writing and Research 

The Assistant Dean of Graduate and International Programs may waive one or both of the course requirements where students have satisfactorily completed equivalent courses at another U.S. law program or in a common law country.

  1. Graduate level courses: LL.M. students may enroll in one Penn State University graduate level course (500 and above course numbers) per semester. Enrolling in additional graduate level courses, or 400 level courses may be done only with permission of the Law School's Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
  2. Independent study: LL.M. students may take independent study courses for up to 3 credits in any one semester, and no more than a total of 4 credits during the two semesters of the LL.M. program.

Note:  You can track your degree progress by using your personal Degree Audit (Academic Requirements report), in LionPath, in combination with the information here.  Learn more here, Degree Audit (Academic Requirement report). 

V. Honor Code. LL.M. students are subject to the Penn State University Code of Conduct and the Penn State Law Honor Code.
VI. LL.M. Grading System
  1. Pass/Fail Courses — LL.M. students may not take classes on a pass/fail basis
  2. Class Ranking — LL.M. students will not be ranked.
  3. Grade Point Average - LL.M. students will have a GPA calculated effective with the spring 2021 semester. GPA inquiries for students prior to that semester should be directed to the Assistant Dean for Graduate and International Programs.
VII. LL.M. Grading Norm 
VIII. Examinations and Final Examination Information