LLM in American Law

The LLM in American Law Program is specifically designed to prepare foreign-trained lawyers for the challenge of global practice. In this program, students are fully integrated into BU Law’s JD classes, where they sit side-by-side with American students being trained in the tradition of US legal education. Students not only learn the substance of US doctrine in virtually any area of interest—intellectual property, international business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and alternative dispute resolution, to name only a few—they also learn something equally as important: how US lawyers are trained to analyze legal questions and advocate on their clients’ behalf.

Customized Curriculum

Upon admission and confirmation of commitment to attend BU Law, students will receive detailed registration materials and indicate preliminary course selections. Academic plans, however, are not completely settled until students meet one-on-one with the director or associate director, who will discuss professors’ different teaching styles and approaches and guide each student on how to construct the optimal study plan to achieve his or her goals.

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Students will demonstrate a basic understanding of the US legal system;
  • Students will demonstrate an ability to use legal authority and perform legal analysis; and
  • Students will demonstrate proficiency in legal English, in both written and oral communications.

Degree Requirements

The LLM in American Law Program is designed to be completed in one academic year of full-time study. The program follows the JD calendar, with classes beginning in late August and ending in May. Generally, students take between three and five classes each semester.

To earn the LLM in American Law, students must:

  • Take Introduction to American Law and a legal research & writing seminar in the Fall Semester (unless waived with the permission of the director);
  • Participate in a graduate colloquium, “Topics in American Law”;
  • Complete a minimum of 24 graded credit hours (at least 10 credits a semester); and
  • Obtain a final weighted average of at least 2.30 (C+).

No Thesis Requirement

The LLM in American Law Program is classroom—not research—focused. As such, there is no thesis requirement, though students will likely write one or more lengthy research papers in the seminars they take. We make available writing coaches to help students organize and structure academic writing projects and improve expressive skills.


With more than 200 courses to choose from, students can select topics from virtually any area of law. They may also specialize in a particular field—such as intellectual property, tax, alternative dispute resolution, commercial law, or labor and employment—by concentrating classes in a certain area. Students can also combine fields such as corporate and financial law and intellectual property, a popular combination at BU Law. In addition, students enrolled in the LLM in American Law Program can choose to pursue a formal concentration in Intellectual Property, Taxation, or International Business Practice; students who satisfy a concentration’s course requirements receive a separate certificate of specialization.

Learn more about the concentrations and their classes here.

Intellectual Property Concentration

Students study the essentials of copyright, patents, and trademark law, and also select cutting-edge topics such as e-commerce, legal issues in high-tech start-ups, technology licensing, and biotechnology and the law. The concentration requires a minimum of four classes.

Taxation Concentration

Students with professional tax experience and/or a strong background in tax studies can pursue the concentration in taxation, which requires a minimum of four specified courses taken through the JD curriculum and the School’s Graduate Tax Program. Beyond the concentration’s minimum requirements, students may also pursue further coursework in specialty practice areas, such as general business taxation, estate planning, international taxation, or financial services, depending on their professional goals and interests.

International Business Practice Concentration

Students who concentrate in International Business Practice immerse themselves in a range of business or commercial law courses. Students may select from more than 50 courses, such as International Business Transactions, Securities Regulation, International Project Finance, Corporate Finance, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Antitrust. The concentration requires a minimum of four classes, including Corporations.


In addition to choosing any of the school’s first-year classes, LLM in American Law students can select elective courses from the entire range of BU Law’s upper-class curriculum.

Cross-Registering in Other BU Graduate Programs

Students who want exposure to specialized topics in banking, financial law, and taxation may cross-register in classes within the Graduate Program in Banking & Financial Law and the Graduate Tax Program. Classes in transnational lending, international securities transactions, mergers and acquisitions, international taxation and securitization are popular supplements for many students. Students may also cross-register for classes in other Boston University graduate schools—such as the Questrom School of Business and College of Communication—and, when appropriate, receive credit toward the LLM.

Center for English Language & Orientation Programs and Student Support

The JD classroom is dynamic and will likely bewilder many students at first; this should be expected. Studying common law doctrine through the tradition of the case law method and participating in the Socratic dialogues that characterize classroom discussions is completely foreign to most civil law-trained students. For this reason, many LLM students elect to gain advanced preparation by attending the six-week summer pre-LLM Legal English Program offered by BU’s Center for English Language & Orientation Programs (CELOP). Students who attend this CELOP program say their fall studies go more smoothly as a result. In the Fall Semester, we offer a series of academic support programs on case-briefing, outlining, exam-taking, and studying tips to help ease your adjustment. Each research and writing section also has a JD tutor to assist you with your writing assignments.

Spring Colloquium: Topics in American Law

In an informal setting, LLM students attend faculty presentations on American law topics with international implications. The colloquium is not for credit and requires no assignments. Past sessions have included “The Internet, Securities Regulation, and the Restructuring of the Securities Markets,” “Law and Religion in America,” “The US Health Care System,” and “Race, Nation, and the Development of Law in America.”

Special Programs

  • Pro Bono Program
    Students can dedicate their legal skills and expanding knowledge to address unmet legal needs in the Boston area, throughout the United States, and around the world.
  • LLM Discovery Series
    Students take part in visits to Boston-area law firms, corporations, government agencies, and courthouses where alumni introduce them to the broad range of real-world practice settings in America.
  • LLM Colloquium: Topics in American Law
    Over informal lunches, students interact with full-time faculty members as they share their scholarly and research interests in discrete areas of American law. Past sessions have featured Professor Eva Nilsen on the “US War on Drugs,” Professor Jack Beermann on “Executive Power,” and Professor David Walker on “A Primer on Law and Economic Theory.”
  • Outside the Classroom
    A full menu of extracurricular activities connects students with fellow LLM and JD classmates, the city of Boston, and the beauty of New England.

After the Program—and Beyond

Career Paths

While many students know their future plans prior to completing the LLM program, some return to their former employers, and others begin internships before joining their home country’s bar. Many other graduates leverage their BU Law degrees to find new positions in their home countries, often by participating in the International Student Interview Program (ISIP) that takes place each January in New York—BU Law is one of the few schools invited to participate. A smaller number of students find permanent work in the United States.

Internships in the US

Graduates of the American Law Program may seek to stay in the United States for a period of time after graduation—as permitted under visa regulations—to obtain practical work experience in a firm, company or other organization. As a foreign-trained LLM graduate, finding short-term, post-graduation work in the United States can be challenging, but it is not impossible; each year some students secure positions in the United States for up to a year and beyond. In addition, graduates of the American Law Program can participate in the post-graduation American Law Internship Program, which places students in short-term professional experiences with US employers. Throughout your time at BU, you will be guided and supported by a full-time associate director for professional development dedicated solely to LLM career issues. The associate director will assist you in identifying opportunities, preparing for interviews and presenting yourself to the US legal market. Many LLM students find internships through connections from their home countries; you are encouraged to arrive in the United States with a list of connections to explore if you want to pursue an internship after commencement.

Taking a US Bar Exam

Many LLM in American Law students have the goal of passing a US state bar exam. While the LLM in American Law Program is not specifically designed to prepare students to take a state bar exam in the United States, the program’s flexible curriculum will enable you to design a course of study leading to a high-level understanding of the US legal system. The program director is available to meet with students to design a study plan that balances bar preparation with other areas of interest.

Each state has its own rules regarding the eligibility of foreign-trained lawyers to sit for the bar exam; you should visit the American Bar Association’s website at www.abanet.org to learn about the requirements in each state. The current rules in New York, Massachusetts, and a handful of other states allow certain LLM students to sit for the exam under specified conditions. Each year, a majority of LLM students take the New York or Massachusetts bar exam after Commencement.