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Master of Laws (LLM) Program
The William S. Richardson School of Law Master of Laws (LLM) program received acquiescence from the American Bar Association in 2003. Students complete 24 credits (including a maximum of 6 credits from departments outside the Law School) and obtain a general LLM degree, with the possibility of certificates in certain specialized fields.
The LLM program is primarily designed for foreign law graduates, who generally study for one year on a full-time basis. However, the program also accepts American lawyers who wish to gain additional expertise by taking courses that they did not have the opportunity to complete during their JD degree. American lawyers may elect to complete their LLM degree on a part-time basis over the course of two or more academic years. However, LLM students should be prepared to attend classes during regular business hours (as only a selection of elective courses will be offered during the evening in a given academic year). The pathways for these two categories of students are described below.
Applications are considered on a rolling basis from October 1 to June 1. We notify applicants once the admissions committee has made a decision. Applications received after June 1 will be considered if space is available.
Applicants to the LLM Program must hold a law degree (or its equivalent) from a recognized law school.
A complete LLM application includes the following:
- Completed Application Form:
2023–2024 application (Microsoft Word) | 2023–2024 application (PDF version)
- Personal Statement. On separate sheets of paper, write about your experience and qualifications, your reasons for seeking an LLM degree and the course of study you wish to pursue. The Personal Statement that you submit must be written by you alone and should not exceed 800 words (about two typed pages).
- Two Letters of Recommendation: You must provide two letters of recommendation. We prefer that one of the letters be from your former or current law professor, if possible. If a recommendation letter is not written in English, then an English translation must accompany the original recommendation letter. (See Letters of Recommendation form for specific instructions.)
- Transcripts and Degree Verification: Request official transcripts from all institutions (graduate and undergraduate) where you have studied, to be sent directly to the LLM Program, William S. Richardson School of Law. If the transcripts are not in English, a certified English translation must be submitted with each transcript.
You may choose to use the Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) Credential Assembly Service, which is a convenient way to send your TOEFL scores and Transcripts to multiple law schools electronically. You must first register and pay a registration fee of $185 and submit your transcripts and TOEFL scores one time. LSAC will distribute your information to the law schools that you choose, if they are part of the network. This service is not required, however, if you choose to use this service, please write your LSAC account number at the top of your LLM Program Application form.
*LSAC Credential Assembly Service for TOEFL and Transcripts (OPTIONAL)
- English Proficiency Test: Your application must include a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination score report unless you earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree from an institution in the U.S., Canada (excluding Quebec), the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand.*
The minimum TOEFL score is 92 on the Internet-Based Exam (IBT), 580 on the paper-based exam and 237 on the computer-based exam. On the IELTS exam, the minimum overall score should be a 6. We are flexible on English proficiency scores in certain cases. Test scores more than three years old at the time of application cannot be considered; applicants must retake the test to present a more recent score. Please arrange to have your test scores sent from the testing agency directly to the School of Law. For TOEFL, the School of Law’s institution code is 4867. You may also send us your score reports using the LSAC Credential Assembly Service (See #4 above)
*Applicants who have completed one year as full-time students in an English-speaking university at the time of their application may be eligible for an exemption from English proficiency requirement. Exemption is not automatic and will be granted at the discretion of the LLM Admissions Committee.
- Application Fee: A $60 application fee, made payable to the “University of Hawai‘i” is required. Payment must be issued by a U.S. bank or an international money order. Your name should be written on the check so it can be properly credited to your application. We are not able to waive or refund this fee. You can pay by credit card by going to the LLM Program Application Fee site.
- Resume or Curriculum Vitae (Optional)
Submitting your completed application
You may send the completed application form by email; or print out the application form and send it with the other documents by mail to:
William S. Richardson School of Law
University of Hawai‘i
2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822 USA
Please note that all application materials become the property of the William S. Richardson School of Law and the University of Hawai‘i and cannot be returned or forwarded elsewhere. Applicants are advised to make personal copies of their materials, as the Law School will not reproduce any materials submitted.
Transferring to the JD Program
University of Hawaiʻi LLM graduates who perform exceptionally well in our LLM program may apply to transfer to our JD program without taking the LSAT exam. We take your performance at the Law School under consideration. If you are admitted, you may also be able to transfer credits from the LLM towards a JD degree. After completing the LLM Program, it normally takes at least two additional years to complete the JD degree.
Bar Exams and Careers
Depending on their previous legal training and experience, LLM graduates may be eligible to take a bar examination in the U.S. Even if your goal is to take the New York or California bar exam, you may still study for your LLM degree in Hawai‘i. We can help you plan your U.S. law study so you can meet the course requirements of the bar exam you wish to take. As an LLM graduate, you may also pursue optional practical training, whether in Hawai‘i or on the U.S. mainland, and many of our graduates have done so.
Generally, the Hawaiʻi State Bar Examination requires that you have a JD degree to be eligible to take the exam. But applicants from a common law country where English is the language of instruction and practice are eligible to take the Hawai‘i bar exam if they have practiced law in that jurisdiction for five out of the six years preceding their application. If you do qualify under this provision, a year’s study in Hawai‘i will still provide essential preparation for the bar.
Since everyone’s situation is different, it is your responsibility to determine whether you are eligible to take the bar exam in a particular state. If you have specific questions or concerns, it is important to contact the bar examiners of that state.
Optional Practical Training
After the LLM Program, you may remain in the United States for up to a year to perform Optional Practical Training (OPT) at a law office or other organization. OPT is defined as temporary employment directly related to a student’s field of study. During OPT, a student remains in F-1 status.
We provide our LLM students with solid training in U.S. legal analysis. During the fall semester, all students take Introduction to American Law, a special course that emphasizes the distinctive aspects of the American legal system and approach to legal issues. In the spring semester, we offer an optional Legal Research and Writing course designed to train international students in American legal analysis and writing. LLM students may also enroll in first-year courses such as Contracts and Civil Procedure, which serve as a useful, in-depth introduction to key areas of U.S. practice.
LLM Curriculum for Foreign Law Graduates
During the fall semester, international students take Introduction to American Law, a special course that emphasizes the distinctive aspects of the American legal system and approach to legal issues. They may also enroll in an optional Legal Research and Writing course designed to train international students in American legal analysis and writing. LLM students typically enroll in at least some first-year JD courses, such as Contracts and Civil Procedure, which provide an in-depth introduction to key areas of legal practice in the United States. Foreign LLM students also have the option of obtaining specialization certificates in six major areas: Business and Commercial Law, Human Rights and Social Justice, Conflict Resolution, Environmental Law, Ocean Law and Policy, and International and Comparative Law. The requirements for these certificates are specified at: [insert link to lists].
The LLM Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for foreign law graduates are specific and tailored to their experience and training:
- To gain a comparative understanding of the importance of law and legal institutions in the U.S., and the role of lawyers and the judiciary in the American legal system.
- To understand the professional ethics and service obligations of lawyers.
- To master fundamental skills in American legal research, legal analysis, and legal reasoning.
- To learn to communicate an understanding of U.S. legal issues effectively both orally and in writing.
- To develop expertise in a specialized area of U.S. or international law, with the option of obtaining a certificate of specialization after successfully completing an organized program of courses in a selected specialization.
LLM Curriculum for American Lawyers
American lawyers who wish to pursue a general LLM (with the option of obtaining a certificate in a specialized area) are encouraged to apply. An American LLM student may not enroll in a course that was already taken as part of the student’s JD program (unless the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs is satisfied that the law has significantly changed or that the content of the course is sufficiently different, so as to justify retaking the subject). The Law School offers a significant number of advanced courses as well as opportunities for supervised research projects in the following areas of specialization: Environmental Law; International and Comparative Law; and Human Rights and Social Justice.
The LLM program for American students encourages an interdisciplinary approach and thus permits students to take up to 6 of their 24 credits from departments outside the Law School. The LLM for American lawyers also includes the opportunity to conduct advanced legal research and produce a substantial thesis or clinical project in the student’s area of specialization.
American lawyers who wish to apply to the LLM should explain in their application whether they hope to obtain the LLM with a certificate in a particular field of specialization. The Admissions Committee will not accept an American lawyer into the LLM program unless it is satisfied that the student will be able to enroll in a sufficient number of advanced courses during the proposed period of study and obtain the desired specialization. Some courses are only offered during the summer term or are offered in alternate academic years. Thus, American lawyers who propose to obtain their LLM over the course of three or more semesters are more likely to be able to take the full range of upper-level electives.
LLM students who decide to concentrate their study in one of our areas of excellence may earn a separate certificate in addition to their diploma. We now offer specialization certificates in seven major areas: Business and Commercial Law, Conflict Resolution, Criminal Law, Environmental Law, International and Comparative Law, Human Rights & Social Justice, and Ocean Law and Policy.
LLM Business and Commercial Law Specialization
Hawai‘i is strategically located to serve as a bridge between the major economies of the Pacific Rim—as the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit demonstrates. The Law School is very strong in business transactions and many of our core business courses include an international perspective. Students may choose an international/comparative focus for their certificate program.
The Law School business and commercial curriculum is supported by the Shidler College of Business, which emphasizes the development of global business skills and has long been recognized for its Asian-Pacific focus. The Institute of Asian-Pacific Business Law and the University of Hawai‘i Procurement Institute, both based at the Law School, offer special presentations and programs that supplement the coursework which LLM students can choose.
For certificate requirements and the courses we offer, view the LLM Business Law Checklist [PDF, 14KB]
LLM Human Rights and Social Justice Specialization
The Law School offers a broad range of courses relating to international human rights law, reflecting our faculty’s in-depth human rights expertise. This specialization provides LLM students with a thorough understanding of the relevant international, regional, and domestic human rights norms. In addition to the required course on International Human Rights Law, students may choose from courses on areas related to international criminal law, disability law, gender and the law, indigenous rights, international environmental law and employment discrimination.
If they wish, students may choose an Asian focus for their human rights specialization, and with approval may also write an International Human Rights Paper as part of their certificate program. A new Human Rights Clinic has now been introduced and LLM students are encouraged to participate in it.
Many of our faculty members teach and write on topics related to human rights, and are active participants in human rights activities throughout the world. For selection of courses, view the LLM International Human Rights Law Checklist [PDF, 21KB].
LLM Conflict Resolution Specialization
The Law School is one of the most culturally and demographically diverse in the U.S., and we are uniquely positioned to provide training in negotiation and conflict resolution in a multi-ethnic, international setting. We offer conflict resolution courses in both public and private law, in addition to the core courses on negotiation, advanced negotiation and arbitration.
LLM students may also take courses at the University of Hawai‘i’s well-known Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution, which offers a series of talks and other programs during the academic year. For certificate requirements as well as the courses we offer, view the LLM Conflict Resolution Checklist [PDF, 191KB].
LLM Environmental Law Specialization
The Law School’s Environmental Law Program is widely recognized for its excellence and the expertise of its faculty. The specialization in environmental law provides excellent preparation for practicing, teaching, or policy-making in the environmental law field. LLM students who pursue this specialization gain a greater appreciation for the beauty and fragility of our island environment as well as an understanding of the most important environmental issues. In addition, the Law School is developing an Energy Law Program that will offer a variety of courses in renewable energy development and policy. Throughout the year, the Environmental Law Society organizes a range of colloquia, presentations and activities in the islands, offering a practical and theoretical introduction to the most important environmental and energy issues. LLM students also have the opportunity to participate in all informal as well as formal environmental and energy activities organized by the Law School. For the specialization requirements as well as the range of courses we offer, view the LLM Environmental Law Checklist [PDF, 12KB].
LLM Ocean Law and Policy Specialization
The Law School has long been known for expertise in law of the sea and ocean law issues. LLM Students may study laws governing our scarce ocean resources along with their implementation in a global context. The law curriculum is supported by the University’s excellent School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and students may also participate in activities organized by the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy and the Jon Van Dyke Institute.
For the specialization requirements as well as the range of courses we offer, view the: Ocean Law and Policy [PDF,14KB]
LLM International and Comparative Law Specialization
The Law School offers a wide variety of international and comparative courses each year, especially in Pacific-Asian law, taught by distinguished visitors as well as our core faculty. Many colleagues teach, specialize in, and write on international and comparative issues in their fields, particularly relating to Asia and the Pacific.
During their LLM year, students may choose to focus on public international issues or private law and business law issues as they plan their programs. If they wish to concentrate on Pacific and Asian law instead of earning the general international and comparative certificate, they may do so. LLM students may also take advantage of courses and programs offered by the University’s School of Pacific and Asian Studies and the world-famous East-West Center, which serves as a magnet for top scholars and researchers from the region. View the LLM International and Comparative Law Checklist [PDF, 14KB].