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FAQs for LLMs

How many courses - or credits - should I be taking this semester?

All LLMs pursuing the “course-track” (the vast majority of students) must take a minimum of 23 credits of coursework. Students pursuing the “writing-track” must take a minimum 20 credits of course work in addition to completing a 3-credit writing project. Students pursuing the “thesis-track” must take a total of 13 credits of course work in addition to completing a substantial piece of independent research.

Students receive four credits for work done during the Summer Program. These credits may be counted toward the total requirement for the LLM Program.

Courses taken outside the law school counted as three credits.

An exception to this rule is for students taking the Wharton Business and Law Certifcate (“WBLC”). WBLC students will receive a total of six credits to put toward the total required to complete the LLM degree.

What is the difference between the “course-track”, “writing-track,” and “thesis-track.”

The Course Track

Students who choose to fulfill the degree requirements by way of the Course Track have two options for doing so: they may elect to complete either a minimum of 20 hours and the writing requirement (“writing-track”), or a minimum of 23 hours without completing the writing requirement (“course-track”).

Students in the course-track typically enroll for credit in three courses or seminars in each semester. Those choosing the writing requirement typically do so as part of a seminar in which the student is enrolled, but it may be undertaken through independent study with a faculty member. The parameters of the paper are determined in consultation with the faculty member involved but, in general, these projects are in-depth research papers on a topic of the student’s choice. (Note, however, that these papers are substantially less ambitious than the thesis required for the thesis-track, described below.)

The Thesis Track

Students in the thesis-track must complete a minimum of 13 semester hours of course work courses and seminars, and submit a substantial thesis, which carries seven semester hours.

Qualified students who can demonstrate a strong background in advanced research and writing may be permitted to enroll in the thesis-track. The expectation is that the thesis be of a high analytical quality suitable for publication in a law journal.

It is advisable for all students to pursue the Course Track for the first semester. Students whose achievements during the first semester indicate the requisite interest and ability may transfer to the thesis track.

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What is the maximum number of credits I can take? What is the minimum.

The maximum number of credits an LLM student may take is sixteen. The minimum number of credits an LLM student may take during one semester is nine.

Your calculation for deciding how many credits to take each semester should include:

  • How well you can balance out your workload
  • Whether the courses you are looking at have massive reading lists each week or a lighter load
    • Whether you anticipate a lot of time devoted to other things (journal participation, pro-bono opportunities, etc.)
    • The nature of each course’s exam or paper requirements
    • The timing of exams
    • Personal or family commitments you may have during the semester
    • …and so on
  • As to the number of courses, most people take between four and five courses a semester.

What are the courses that “everyone” takes?

There are no classes that all LLM students take outside the Summer Program. In terms of the largest percentage of students taking a course, Corporations is taken by a majority of graduating LLMs as is Common Law Contracts for Civil Lawyers and Legal Writing for LLMs. Securities Regulation is also very popular.

Can I take multiple seminars in one semester?

Yes, you can! That is, if you can get into them through the registration process. But should you? Though the topics may all be fascinating and “right up your alley,” there are several things to consider, particularly whether you can handle the work load. Almost all seminars have substantial readings loads and faculty expect you to keep up and participate. Almost all seminars require papers, so asking yourself how writing papers suits you is important. Also a schedule heavy with seminars may not provide you with the kind of “building block” courses (i.e. Corporations, Federal Income Tax, Evidence, etc) that many employers look for and many bar exams test. As with any investment (and courses are an investment), we suggest you diversify your portfolio.

Should I let the exam schedule determine the courses I take?

Let’s look at the exam rules first: the rules permit a student to move an in-class Penn Law exam when they have two exams scheduled on the same day, or when they have three exams schduled back-to-back (e.g. M, T, W). In these cases, the exam of the student’s choice will be moved to the next available day (which is to say, moved to the nearest day that breaks the conflict). We are not allowed to move the changed exam any further than the next available day.

That said, if you worry that you’ll have two heavy exams close to one another, you might best plan on disciplining yourself and keeping up with the courses and getting your studying done in advance. If that seems impractical, take a course wtih a different exam schedule. We think the self-discipline of keeping on top of multiple tasks simultaneously is a valuable skill, but you know your own learn style best.

Can I take a class outside the Law School?

LLM students may take one course outside the Law School. These courses must meet the following criteria:

  • Graduate level (numbered 500 and above)
  • Relevant to a legal education
  • Not duplicative of a course you might take at the Law School

Courses that LLM students may NOT take include language, art and history classes.

Note: Students enrolled in the Wharton Business and Law Certificate (“WBLC”) may take three classes from Wharton’s Program for Working Professionals. WBLC students may not take any additional courses outside the Law School.

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What, if any, are upper-level courses that Penn Law believes to be “essential” for a law student planning on working at a U.S. law firm

While there are not any classes that we would classify as “essential” for students planning to work at corporate law firms, we generally recommend that students take some of the “building blocks” courses (i.e. corporations, tax, securities regulations, and evidence). Additionally, if there are particular practice areas that you are interested in, you should consider taking substantive courses in these areas (i.e. mergers & acquisitions, real estate, financial accounting).

How can we see what classes are available in other schools (like say, the School of Social Policy or Wharton) and sign up for them? Can we do it online?

You should be able to view courses offered in most departments of the university through Penn In Touch by browsing the course search tools. This is true specifically for the School of Social Policy & Practice, however you may also contact Eric Ashton at for questions regarding specific classes or refer to the website at the following address to view general overviews of what is offered:

Regarding Wharton classes, these graduate level courses are distributed to Wharton students based on a lottery. You may view the class offerings online at the following website, however until the lottery process ends for Wharton students, we will not have a good idea of which are still open to accepting students from different schools.

Please visit the Registrar’s Cross-Disciplinary Education or more information regarding scheduling classes outside of the law school, how to make sure they will apply to your law degree, and how exactly to interpret Wharton’s process specifically.

Is a 1 CU course in another graduate school 3 or 4 credits for the law school?

1 CU (credit unit) in any other graduate program class is considered equivalent to 3 SH (semester hours or “credits”) at the law school. A course listed as a 0.5 CU is equivalent to 1.5 SH (or “credits”).

Is a 3-credit course more work than a 4-credit course?

Credits (or semester hours) are tied to the amount of time spent in class. To determine how much “work” a class might be, you would need to look at the reading lists for each class as well as factor in how students are evaluated (e.g. a final exam, a final paper etc.)

What are the guidelines for taking a course or courses pass/fail?

Law classes may only be taken on a pass/fail basis if they are specifically designed as such (credit/no credit or pass/fail) (an example would be Legal Writing for LLMs).

That said, if you choose to take non-law classes that counts toward your law degree, you can elect to take that class pass/fail, unless it’s for the Wharton Business and Law program, which currently does not allow any certificate course to be taken on a pass/fail basis.

To sign up for a non-law course, should I request it on Penn In-Touch, or do I need to fill out a form?

We recommend that you register for a full law school load during the advance registration period. You can add non law classes during drop/add. Non Wharton student registration doesn’t take place until September 15th, more information on this will follow in the coming months. Enrollment in non-law courses (with more details available here at our Cross-Disciplinary Education page) happens as such:

Application Process:

Students interested in taking a course outside of the law School for credit must submit an Law Credit for Non-Law Course form.

Approval Procedure:

1. The Dean of Students, Gary Clinton will review the application and either approve or deny the request to enroll in a course outside of the Law School.

2. Should you be denied approval to receive Law School credit for this course, please direct your inquiries to Dean Gary Clinton (

Enrollment Procedure:

1. Please note that approval means only that the Law School will accept the course credits toward your law degree should you satisfactorily complete the course. It does not ensure that you will actually be enrolled in the course. Enrollment is determined by the University department controlling the course and is subject to availability.

2. Once you receive your approval, you should complete the registration process with the other department. Each department has its own rules and procedures for you to follow to ensure successful enrollment. For example, to register for courses at Wharton, students go in person to 300 Huntsman Hall, at 3730 Walnut Street, on the date WH has assigned for open registration. You may wish to visit the department or call to speak with their Registrar to ensure that you are following their procedures correctly.

3. The other University department will then either enroll you in the course or enter a “permit” into Penn InTouch, reserving a seat for you in the course.

4. If a permit has been entered, and you have access to Penn InTouch, you can visit the site to register. If add/drop is over and you no longer have access to Penn InTouch, please be in touch with the Law School Registrar’s Office and request that we claim the permit. This will complete your enrollment in the course. If you do not take this last step, you will not be registered in the course.

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If you’re interested in a Bok seminar, should we put that as our first choice (AKA: Are they hard to get into?)

Historically, the Bok courses have not closed at the end of the advanced registration period. In fact, enrollment in these courses continues throughout the semester based on their staggared-start dates. If interested in a Bok class, you can simply visit the Registrar’s Office to be added up until the first day of class. It may not be necessary to put a Bok course as a first primary or alternate request based on this situation.

Can we see how many seats are available in a course?

In Penn InTouch, you can view the max enrollment for each course. This is listed when you do a search, say for LAW, under Registration & Planning, Course Search. The Max column is the fifth column over.

Is there any difference in the curve for seminar classes vs. upper-level courses? Or is each class specific to the professor?

As a general matter, upper-level courses are on a (strongly suggested) curve. Faculty teaching seminars and upper level courses with enrollments of fewer than fifteen have greater flexibility in grading.

Are LLM students entitled to extra time on exams?

The Law School makes some provision, as described below, to grant extra time on exams to certain non-native English speakers. Professors have discretion as to whether or not to allow extra time to those LLM students who have been designated by the Law School as being eligible to receive such extra time. Professors who decide to make such extra time available also have discretion in determining how much extra time, up to one hour, such students may receive.

Professors do not have discretion, however, regarding which individual LLM students are eligible for the extra time so please do not speak to them regarding this issue. This determination is made, in the first instance, by the office of Graduate Programs according to the following guidelines:

An LLM shall not be eligible for extra time if:

1. he or she has lived in a country for at least three years in which the primary means of communication is English, or in a multi-lingual country in which English was the student’s primary means of communication (this includes representations that work was conducted in English); or

2. the primary language of instruction was English for at least three years of his or her college or professional education; or

3. he or she represented himself or herself as being fluent in English. (Any student granted a waiver of the TOEFL requirement on the Penn Law application has made such a representation.)

Please note that one student’s perception of his or her English language ability relative to any of his or her LLMor JD  classmates is not relevant to these criteria. Results of the Office of Graduate Programs’ determination, and procedures for appealing that decision, will be distributed in the fall.

One further note on LLMs and exams: the Registrar provides each faculty member with a sealed envelope containing the names and examination numbers of all graduate students who are taking that instructor’s exam and whose basic legal training was outside the United States. The faculty member then has full discretion as to whether and when this information should be considered in grading the examination. Students whose basic legal training was outside the United States appear on this list regardless of Office of Graduate and International Programs’ determination regarding their eligibility for extra time on exams. For example, a British LLM (who would obviously not be eligible for the extra time) would appear on this list.

What are the requirements for independent research? What kind of information or plan do you need in order to contact a professor about doing an independent research project with him or her? Can a 2L do independent research?

LLM students may engage in Independent Study projects under supervision of a Penn Law Faculty member (full-time or part-time) following the guidelines found in the Registrar, linked here. Check out that link for a basic understanding of how to arrange an Independent Study. To expand on the information at the link, there are two basic ways to approach a faculty member about their supervising an IS project. First, you could develop a specific topic, problem, or research you would like to write on, and approach a faculty member who teaches/researches in that field.

Second, you can approach a faculty who teaches/researches in an area of interest to you, and ask if they have any topics they would suggest as an Independent Study project. You can research faculty areas of expertise by looking at the on-line faculty bios, at this link, which includes full-time and part-time faculty.

As for credits and work load, Independent Study projects generally carry 2 or 3 semester hours of credit. More than that is extremely rare. Each faculty member working with a student on an IS project will set his or her own requirements for the length of the paper: there is no school-wide standard, but keep in mind that the work of an IS project should be at least equivalent to the work of a course carrying the same number of credits (including class time, reading time, and exam prep).

Can I get assistance with writing a research paper?

LLM students may make use of the University’s Weingarten Learning Resource Center for assistance with the structure and form of papers and similar assignments. See

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