Harvard Law School and University of Cambridge J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree Program

The Harvard Law School and the University of Cambridge J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree Program provides an efficient avenue to earn two degrees by enabling Harvard J.D. candidates to earn a Cambridge LL.M. and a Harvard J.D. in a total of three-and-a-half years. Students selected for the program spend their 3L year in Cambridge and are eligible to receive the Cambridge LL.M. at the end of the year upon successfully completing all LL.M. degree requirements. Students also simultaneously receive a semester's credit toward their HLS J.D. This means that with one additional semester back at Harvard after their Cambridge study (i.e., a total of 3.5 academic years), they will have earned both a Harvard J.D. and a Cambridge LL.M. The HLS students are the only LL.M. students at Cambridge who are not required to have a J.D. or equivalent degree prior to enrollment.

The HLS/Cambridge J.D./LL.M. Program affords students an educational experience not available at Harvard Law School – immersion in a foreign legal culture. This includes exposure to what makes the legal system function as it does – its underlying assumptions, how local lawyers think about law, what law is designed to do, and how it relates to the society more broadly.

The University of Cambridge is renowned for the distinguished members of its faculty, many of whom are noted experts in their particular fields. As well, Cambridge is home to a number of research centers, such as the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, which offer lecture series and other activities to augment studies. Many HLS students who read for their Cambridge LL.M. appreciate the different approach to learning law and note that the program enables students to engage in valuable independent research around issues of particular interest to them. The program can provide especially helpful training for those thinking about pursuing more in-depth academic work. The Cambridge J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree Program also benefits students interested in learning about British or European law with an eye to practicing in Europe or for a transatlantic firm.

Application Process

Up to six Harvard 2Ls are selected annually to spend their 3L year reading for the LL.M. degree in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The admissions process begins with an application through HLS in January of the candidate’s 2L year and ends with a decision by Cambridge in early spring for matriculation at Cambridge the following fall.

Due to HLS's special relationship with Cambridge, students should submit the paper version of the Cambridge application and all attachments to HLS by Friday, January 9, 2015, and not directly to Cambridge through the general online process. Applications, attachments, and statements of interest should be submitted to: Sara Zucker, Director of International Legal Studies Programs, in Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5005. It is not necessary for HLS students to submit an application fee payment.

Specifically, the application materials should include the following:

  • A completed copy of the Cambridge Graduate Admission and Scholarship Application Form (GRADSAF).  Please visit the Cambridge Graduate Admission website for paper forms for the 2015-2016 academic year.
  • Transcripts from any previous degrees as well as an official version of an applicant’s current HLS transcript.  Please note that students may submit copies of transcripts from schools other than HLS at this stage.  However, Cambridge may request originals at a later date. If an applicant’s documents are not in English, s/he must also provide a full translation of each document, prepared by a registered translator. HLS transcripts must be official and current.  Please note that requests to the HLS Registrar's Office for transcripts may take 3-5 days to process, so applicants should plan accordingly.
  • Letters from two academic references.  Although applicants may provide letters of reference from faculty members at schools other than HLS, it is desirable to provide at least one recommendation from an HLS professor.  Please bear in mind that letters of recommendation that explain how an applicant performed in his/her academic studies in comparison to his/her peers are of particular value to the Committee.
                    Academic Reference Forms
  • A statement of interest for review by the HLS Study Abroad Committee.  The statement of interest should be three to five pages in length and should elaborate on the applicant's educational and professional objectives and identify a proposed course of study at Cambridge.

The Cambridge application form also serves as the mechanism for students to apply for college membership.  Each student admitted to the Cambridge LLM program will be assigned to a college and must indicate his/her first two college preferences on the Cambridge application form.   It is not possible to amend these preferences after the application form is submitted, so students should think carefully about their choice of colleges.  For further information, including details about Cambridge colleges that have reserved spots for HLS students, please see the section below on colleges.

It is not necessary for HLS students to complete the Cambridge financial aid application materials unless they wish to apply for awards offered by the Cambridge Trusts. Candidates wishing to be considered for an award from the Gates Cambridge Trust must also provide the details of an additional referee, who can provide a personal reference (character reference). The personal referee should be someone who knows the applicant personally and who has the requisite experience and standing to assess his/her personal achievements and capacities, as well as his/her academic qualities. In many cases this would be an appropriate academic at the applicant’s current or previous university. In the absence of an academic, a current or previous employer may also be appropriate. The personal referee must not be a friend or family relation: Personal Reference Instruction Form

In early to mid-January, each applicant meets individually with a member of the HLS study abroad team to discuss how the year at Cambridge could fit into his/her academic and career goals.

HLS will forward to Cambridge the full applications of students who are recommended by the HLS Study Abroad Committee. However, selections are ultimately made by the University of Cambridge which puts considerable weight on academic performance.

Formal application materials of recommended students will be forwarded to Cambridge by February 1. At that time, students will be notified whether they have been selected as finalists. Students who are admitted to Cambridge will be notified of the date by which they must make a firm commitment to the program.

Please note that HLS students who are already enrolled in joint degree programs, either with other Harvard schools or other American universities, are not eligible to apply for the Cambridge program. Students who transfer to HLS after completing their first year at another law school are not eligible for the Cambridge program. 

Also, HLS applicants to the Cambridge LL.M.  who are currently, or have previously been, registered as a graduate student at Cambridge on a PhD, MPhil, MRes, MSt, MASt, LL.M., Graduate Diploma or a Certificate in Advanced Study in Mathematics, should complete a different application form.  Questions may be directed to HLS’ International Legal Studies.

Students who would like to discuss the possibility of obtaining disability accommodations for the Cambridge LL.M. should contact Lakshmi Clark-McClendon, Assistant Director of Student Services, at lclark@law.harvard.edu or (617) 496-2437 prior to applying

Courses

The Cambridge LL.M. program offers a wide range of courses that cover a diversity of subject matter, ranging from corporate law to human rights. Many courses have a British or European focus and provide a way to study law from a unique perspective that is quite different from studying at law schools in the United States. The following are some examples of courses taken by HLS students recently participating in the joint-degree program:


Cambridge LL.M. students are given the opportunity to do a considerable amount of independent study and research. HLS students who participate in the joint-degree program report finding the academic structure at Cambridge different from their experience at HLS, but rewarding.

"There were countless informal times when the postgraduate community in which I lived had spirited debates or discussions of topics that pushed me to reconsider my most basic assumptions about law, legal systems, and the world in which we live. This year at Cambridge has been a fabulous, and different, learning experience for me, exposing me to different ways of thinking and also driving me to think more deeply." Emilie Aguirre '12

"While the number of required lectures is less than at HLS, Cambridge emphasizes outside learning and independent projects. I really enjoyed pursuing topics in international commercial law that interested me. This style of learning also allowed me to coordinate my schedule around lectures at Cambridge's Humanitarian Centre, which sponsors international development speakers." — Christina Brittain '10

"The most striking contrast between my prior education and my time at Cambridge was the increased responsibility placed on students to manage their own learning…. Regular lecture series provided a useful supplement to official course lectures. The 3CL series (“Center for Corporate and Commercial Law”) was helpful in relation to my Finance Law course … and touched on topics I was studying outside of the primary course material." — Will McGarrity '09

"During the term, I attended two lunchtime series: one hosted by the Lauterpacht Center for International Law and the other hosted by the Centre for European Legal Studies. These weekly seminars touched on many topics of interest to me, particularly since I was pursuing an LL.M. in European Law. In addition to those regularly scheduled lectures, I attended various presentations on legal issues that piqued my interest." — Mipe Okuseinde '08

Credit, Written Work, and Course Load Requirements

It is important to remember that one purpose of spending a year abroad is for students to take courses that are significantly different from what is offered at HLS.

At Cambridge students must take four courses (or “read for” four “papers”).  HLS will award 11-13 ungraded credits to students successfully completing four courses and providing appropriate documentation to HLS about tutorials, supplementary lectures, and independent structured research.  According to the American Bar Association, “Law schools on a conventional semester system typically require 700 minutes of instruction time per ‘credit,’ exclusive of time for an examination.” HLS calculates credit equivalencies by totaling the classroom minutes for courses taken abroad and dividing by 700. Please note that HLS credits are based on classroom hours; the credits that a course carries at Cambridge may not be comparable. Prior to finalizing his/her enrollment at Cambridge, a student must confirm with Sara Zucker that his/her proposed course load will allow Harvard to award the ungraded 13 credits (or fewer, if so determined).

These credits will be awarded if students fulfill the following conditions:

(a)     receive a passing grade for each of the four courses in which they are enrolled

(b)     provide a one-page written statement as to how they used the academic time that supplemented course work, including additional lecture series, substantive presentations and "Vacation periods, and the period between the end of lectures and the examination" which Cambridge views "as integral and important parts of the course." The one-page statement should describe how the students used these both for their own "personal research and reflection", as set out in the Cambridge catalog (from which these quotations are taken), and for working "through the assigned material, on your own initiative, in tandem with the lectures - thereby maximizing the benefit of both the lectures and the assigned material."  Students may provide this one-page statement to Sara Zucker after completing exams, but no later than June 15.

If a student successfully completes these requirements, his/her Harvard transcript will reflect 11 to 13 credits (depending on the course load), graded "credit," for study abroad work.  These credits will be considered classroom credits and therefore not count against the HLS allowable maximum of non-classroom credits.  The particular courses taken at Cambridge will not appear on the student’s Harvard transcript, nor will the grades for those courses.  No credit for the Cambridge coursework will appear until the student submits and receives approval on the statement referred to above and his/her Cambridge transcript is received.  It is the student’s responsibility to submit his/her foreign transcript to Sara Zucker, who will forward it to the Registrar's Office.  If a student fails any of his/her courses overseas, the number of credits received for studies abroad will be reduced proportionately.

The number of credits a student has to complete in the fall semester upon return to HLS will depend entirely on the number of credits earned to date.  The HLS J.D. degree requires a minimum of 52 credits across 2L and 3L years, and the credits earned while at Cambridge will be counted as classroom credits toward the 52-credit minimum.

Students are typically required to fulfill the HLS "Written Work Requirement" (see HLS Handbook of Academic Policies) while in residence at HLS. Permission to register for written work while studying abroad is granted only in special circumstances and approval must be requested from Sara Zucker in advance of enrollment at Cambridge.

Colleges

The choice of college and location of students’ housing can be a key part of students’ experience while in the LL.M. program as colleges form the basis for much of the academic and social life at Cambridge.  Students may wish to consider such factors as: composition of the student body including whether it has undergraduate as well as graduate students, location (including where graduate students are housed in relation to the faculty of law), facilities and activities (library, dining, sports, social events), “personality” of the college and degree of formality, alumni network, and the availability of funding for doctoral-level study, among others.

Applicants can learn about the Cambridge colleges on the University of Cambridge website and find answers to common questions about how the college system works and admittance restrictions.  It can also be useful to speak with HLS students who have gone to Cambridge or to contact the officers of the Cambridge Graduate Union for an “unofficial” perspective of the various colleges.  Upon request, the International Legal Studies office can provide HLS students with contact information of past participants in the HLS-Cambridge joint degree program as well as their tips about things to consider when choosing a college.

HLS students will need to designate their preferred colleges as part of their application to Cambridge and may not change these preferences later. The following Cambridge colleges are those that indicated their willingness to accept at least one Harvard-Cambridge joint degree applicant last year, provided that the student indicated that college as his/her first choice:

It is also possible for HLS students to express preferences for other Cambridge colleges but the likelihood of acceptance cannot be predicted.  Competition for places in some Cambridge colleges is particularly intense, due to either the small number of places available or the large number of applicants who ranked that college as a first choice.  If an HLS applicant is not accepted by either of the two preferred colleges indicated on his/her application form, s/he will be assigned to another college as designated by Cambridge.

A few colleges have restrictions and some do not have housing for married couples.

Outside of Class

While studies can be demanding, HLS students at Cambridge have enjoyed a wide range of activities outside of class. The Cambridge academic calendar affords long periods between terms which students can use for study as well as other activities.

On campus, HLS students have taken advantage of academic, social, and athletic opportunities. The Cambridge Union, an on-campus society, features high-profile debates and speeches, and also offers students a variety of social events, such as wine and cheese tastings, classes for exercise, and weekly pub quizzes (a group trivia game). Past joint-degree students have joined their college’s crew team, participated on the Cambridge Law Review, performed with Cambridge’s improv comedy troupe, and volunteered on the Graduate Law Society’s social board, which organizes social events and plans an annual trip to visit the London Law Courts.

Off campus, students have taken day-trips to London to visit museums, hiked or toured the English countryside, visited historical sites throughout the UK, attended soccer matches, and traveled to nearby European countries. The city of Cambridge has miles of pedestrian-only paths that are great for jogging, and students have also enjoyed film screenings, comedy shows, and lectures throughout the city.

Tuition

Harvard Law School charges each student going to Cambridge regular HLS tuition for the period abroad; tuition costs for Cambridge are billed to Harvard rather than to the student. Students remain fully eligible for regular Harvard financial aid and student loans for the period of study abroad as if they had remained at HLS for the time in question.  For further information, see the relevant JD Student Financial Services page as well as details about LIPP.

Travel, Living Expenses, and Medical Insurance

Students are responsible for making their own visa and travel arrangements to the United Kingdom and for all associated costs.  Students may obtain visas through the closest British Consulate or see http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/en.

Living and studying abroad can be expensive and students should plan and budget accordingly.  To help defray these costs students in the HLS/Cambridge program receive a budget increase of $3,500. For more details on financial aid packages for participants in the HLS/Cambridge program, please see the JD Financial Services website or contact Denise Ryan.

Housing in one of the “colleges” will be arranged by Cambridge once the student has been offered a position; students are responsible for housing costs.

A student must obtain adequate health insurance coverage from an approved provider before departure. The student may also wish to waive the Blue Cross Blue Shield and University Health Service fees. If, after reviewing all of your options, you choose to waive one or more of these fees, you must take action by submitting a waiver application to the University Health Services Office. Please review and consult the UHS staff and website for detailed information regarding this decision and process. After you have applied for a waiver, the University will submit your name to the Law School Registrar’s office for verification of eligibility. The Registrar will then notify UHS that you are eligible to waive these fees as a Traveling Scholar/Study Abroad student studying outside the country. 

Harvard Travel Assist provides medical and security advice and referrals and emergency evacuation services to Harvard travelers abroad. To ensure access to these services, it is crucial that all international travel be registered in the Harvard Travel Registry. More information can be found on the Harvard Travel Assist portal.

ILS Contact

For questions, please contact Sara Zucker, Director of International Legal Studies Programs, at szucker@law.harvard.edu or 5-9030. Sara is available to talk to students by appointment as well as during office hours on Tuesdays from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. when HLS classes are in session.  Sara’s office is located in Suite 5005 of Wasserstein Hall.

For questions about financial aid, please contact Denise Ryan, Assistant Director of Financial Aid, at dbryan@law.harvard.edu or 5-4606.

HLS Spotlight: International Law

Thanks to the Cambridge LL.M. program, I was able to land a competitive internship in London with the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Currently, as an associate in my firm’s international practice group, I apply what I learned in Cambridge on a daily basis.

Mipe Okunseinde '08

Last modified: November 10, 2014

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