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What’s What Law Student Handbook

Joint JD LLM Program

General Information

Lewis & Clark Law School offers a joint J.D. /LL.M. degree program in Environmental and Natural Resources Law. The joint degree is designed for Lewis & Clark law students who would like to obtain both a J.D. degree and Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree.

When the J.D. and LL.M. degrees are pursued separately, it generally takes a full-time student two to three years to earn the J.D. degree, and one additional year to earn the LL.M. degree (26 credits). The joint degree program will allow Lewis & Clark law students to receive the LL.M degree in just one additional semester beyond their J.D. studies. Students are allowed to apply a portion of their Lewis & Clark J.D. credits to the LL.M. degree.

The joint program is available only to students who will receive their J.D. from Lewis & Clark. Students who earn their J.D. from another law school may apply for the LL.M. at Lewis & Clark as a separate one-year degree program, but cannot apply any credits earned as a J.D. towards the LL.M.

Application of Credit

Joint degree students must first complete all requirements for the J.D. degree and then move into the “LL.M. phase” of the program. J.D. students must complete all requirements for the J.D. degree and officially graduate from the J.D. program before beginning the LL.M. phase of the joint program.

During their final semester as a J.D., joint degree students will register for one credit of the first semester of the two-credit two-semester LL.M. seminar. (Students will register for the second semester of the LL.M. seminar in the LL.M. phase.) While this one credit will be taken while the student is still a J.D., it will apply only to the LL.M. degree and not to the J.D. degree. This means that each joint student will begin the LL.M. phase of the program with one credit already earned toward the LL.M. seminar. (Note that the seminar is not graded or considered completed until both credits are completed.) There will no tuition charged for this first credit of the LL.M. seminar taken as a J.D. student.

Up to 12 credits of approved environmental and natural resources classes earned as a J.D. can be applied towards the LL.M. degree. In the LL.M. phase, the student will then complete the number of additional credits of approved coursework needed to total at least 26 credits. J.D. students entering the joint program are required to take Administrative Law and Environmental Law as a J.D.; however, the credits earned in these classes will not count towards the 12 credits that can be applied towards the LL.M. degree. Please note that even if a student completes more than 12 credits of coursework in the environmental and natural resources curriculum as a J.D., no more than 12 of these credits can be applied to the LL.M. degree. If a student earns less than 12 credits of applicable coursework as a J.D., it may take more than one semester to complete the LL.M. phase of the program depending on the amount of credits needed.

There is no minimum amount of environmental credits a student must take as a J.D. student to apply to the LL.M. degree; however, the fewer environmental credits taken as a J.D., the more credits the student will need to take as an LL.M. If a student needs to take more than 17 credits in the LL.M. phase, the student will need to take more than one semester of the LL.M. phase, absent unusual circumstances. See “Applicable Classes” below for more information on classes taken as a J.D. that will apply towards the LL.M. degree.

Admissions Process

Applicants to the joint program must first be admitted to or already enrolled in the J.D. program at Lewis & Clark. There are two possible times an applicant can apply to the joint program: at the same time the applicant applies to the J.D. program (available to J.D. applicants for fall 2009 or later) or during the second year of J.D. study.

(1) Applying at same time as J.D. application:

Applicants (for fall 2009 and later) who wish to be considered for admission to the joint program prior to starting the J.D. program should check the “joint degree” box on the J.D. application form and include a short additional statement of 1-2 pages with their application materials regarding their interest in and qualifications for the LL.M. degree.

Admission to the J.D. program is a prerequisite for admission to the joint program and joint degree applicants will first be considered for admission to the J.D. program. If admitted to the J.D. program, an applicant for the joint degree will then be passed to the committee that determines LL.M. admission. Applicants will be notified of admission to the J.D. program prior to being notified of admission to the LL.M. program and may be asked to make a decision regarding the J.D. program prior to being notified if they have also been admitted to the joint program. An applicant will still be considered for admission to the J.D. program alone if not admitted to the joint program. Applicants who are not admitted to the joint program at the time of J.D. admission are welcome to apply again later under the second method described below.

(2) Applying after beginning the J.D. program:

 Students may also apply for the joint program after beginning the J.D. program at Lewis & Clark. For optimum consideration, please submit applications between March 15 and August 1 of your second year. Earlier applications may be accepted if earlier decisions are needed (but not prior to completion of at least two semesters of J.D. study) and later applications may be accepted if there is room in the class. Students applying under this timeframe will complete the standard LL.M. application and include a statement of interest in and qualifications for the LL.M. program, as well as the other requirements for LL.M. applicants. (See the LL.M. application and related Web pages for more information.)

As noted above, J.D. students who are accepted into the joint program will take the first semester of the LL.M. seminar in their final semester as a J.D. and so should leave room in their J.D. schedules for this one-credit seminar. This one credit will be applied to the LL.M. seminar for the LL.M degree and will not apply towards the J.D. degree. No tuition will be charged for this first credit of the LL.M. seminar taken as a J.D. student.

Note that the LL.M. program may be limited in size in any given year and will also include graduates of other law schools who are pursuing the LL.M. degree as a separate program. A student admitted to the joint program who subsequently wishes to withdraw from the joint program and pursue only the J.D. degree must give written notice to the Program Director by no later than the first week of the student’s final semester as a J.D. student. Students who wish to withdraw from the joint program after this date must pay a fee of $250.

Transfer Students

J.D. students who transfer to Lewis & Clark from another law school may be eligible to apply to the joint degree program. However, transfer students must receive their J.D. degree from Lewis & Clark and must earn at least 10 approved credits at Lewis & Clark as a J.D. that can be applied to the LL.M. degree. One class, of up to three credits, earned at the prior law school and that is transferred to Lewis & Clark, may be applied to the LL.M. degree with prior permission of the Program Director. Visiting students who will not receive their J.D. from Lewis & Clark are not eligible for the joint degree program.

Admissions Criteria

The same criteria used to determine J.D. admission generally at Lewis & Clark will be applied to applicants to the joint program for the J.D. phase of the admissions process. In determining admission to the LL.M. phase of the program, the LL.M. admissions committee will look for applicants with an outstanding academic record, excellent writing skills, a demonstrated interest in environmental/natural resources law, and a compelling expression of interest in receiving both degrees.

Requirements for J.D. Degree

Students in the joint degree program must meet the same criteria for the J.D. degree as all other J.D. students in terms of required credits, papers, and all other graduation requirements. In addition, joint degree students must meet the requirements for the LL.M. degree, described below, as well as applicable requirements for the LL.M. in general described elsewhere in “What’s What.”

Students entering the joint program are required to take both Administrative Law and Environmental Law as a J.D. However, the credit earned in these classes cannot be counted as part of the 12 credits applicable to the LL.M. program.

Requirements for LL.M. Degree

Credits and GPA

LL.M. students must earn a minimum of 26 credits. Joint degree students will be allowed to apply up to 12 approved credits from the environmental and natural resources law curriculum earned as a J.D. towards the 26 credits needed for the LL.M. degree. (See “Applicable Classes” below.) LL.M. students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of

2.50 in order to receive the LL.M. degree. The GPA for joint degree students will be calculated cumulatively from the credits earned as a J.D. that are applied to the LL.M. degree and the additional credits earned in the LL.M. phase of the program.

Students who are admitted to both the J.D. and the LL.M programs prior to starting the J.D. program must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 in all classes taken as a J.D. in order to retain eligibility for the joint degree. Students who are admitted to the joint degree program after beginning the J.D. program must also maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 in all classes to retain eligibility. In addition to an overall GPA of 2.50, J.D. students must also have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 in the eligible classes they wish to apply to the LL.M. degree.

LL.M. Seminar: 

Joint degree students are expected to meet all of the other criteria for receiving an LL.M. degree, including completion of the required two-semester LL.M. seminar and its accompanying paper. The LL.M. seminar paper isin addition to any papers a joint degree student may have written as a J.D., including papers written to meet J.D. graduation writing requirements.

As noted above, joint degree students will register for one credit of the first semester of the LL.M. seminar in their final semester as a J.D. While this credit will be taken while the student is still a J.D., it will apply only to the LL.M. degree and not to the J.D. degree. This means that each joint student will begin the LL.M. phase of the program with one credit already earned toward the two-credit required LL.M. seminar. The student will then register for the second semester of the LL.M. seminar in the LL.M. phase of the program for an additional credit. Students do not receive a grade in the LL.M. seminar until completion of both semesters. Students will select a topic for their seminar paper in the first semester of the seminar, but will not be expected to complete it until the second semester of the seminar.

J.D. students will not pay any tuition for the one credit of the LL.M. seminar taken as a J.D. They will, however, pay for the second credit of the LL.M. seminar in the second semester in the LL.M. phase. The LL.M. seminar will no tcount as the required seminar needed to receive the J.D. degree.

LL.M. Thesis Track:

There are two “tracks” in the LL.M. program: a non-thesis and a thesis track. A thesis is a six-credit writing project reserved for exceptionally motivated and qualified students who wish to develop a substantial publishable piece of writing. Because joint degree students will complete the LL.M. degree in a shorter period of time than if they were pursuing the LL.M. degree separately, pursuing a thesis as a joint degree student is only allowed for those students who can demonstrate the highest level of aptitude for writing and for completion of a thesis in a timely fashion. Opting for the thesis track as a joint degree student will mean a student is highly unlikely to complete the LL.M. phase of the program in one semester.

Timing

Absent unusual circumstances, joint degree students are expected to begin the LL.M. phase of the program in the fall or spring semester immediately following receipt of their J.D. degree. A student who completes the J.D. degree in May, may choose to begin the LL.M. phase of the program in the summer following receipt of the J.D. degree; however, a student may not complete all of the remaining credits needed for the LL.M. phase of the program in the summer only. Students must take at least the final credit of the LL.M. seminar and complete their LL.M. seminar paper in the following fall semester.

Depending on individual circumstances, we anticipate that a student enrolled full-time in both the J.D. and LL.M. phases of the joint degree program will generally be able to complete both degrees in seven semesters, assuming the student takes close to 12 credits of applicable credits as a J.D. More time will be allowed for those students who choose to pursue one or both phases of the program on a part-time basis. Each degree must be completed within the following overall timeframes: a J.D. must be completed within 84 months of beginning the J.D. program and a

LL.M. degree must be completed within 2 ½ years of beginning the LL.M. phase of the joint degree program.

In order to be considered a full-time student (important for some loan repayment systems and the school’s health insurance), you must be enrolled in a minimum number of credits in any given semester. Please consult with the Program Director, Registrar or Student Financial Services office regarding the minimum number of credits needed in any given semester.

Students who wish to take a temporary leave of absence or withdraw from either the J.D. or LL.M. phase of the program should consult the relevant sections of “What’s What” for important information, including permitted lengths and circumstances for leaves of absence and the impact of leaves of absence and withdrawal on tuition.

Considerations in deciding whether to pursue a joint degree

Obtaining an LL.M. degree is not for everyone. It will require at least one semester’s worth of work and tuition beyond the J.D. degree. The LL.M. degree is not a required degree to take any bar exam in the United States and employers rarely require a job applicant to hold an LL.M. degree in addition to a J.D. degree. The J.D. is the qualifying degree to take a bar exam and to practice law in the U.S. (with a few exceptions) and, in most cases, Lewis & Clark students will find that obtaining the J.D. degree, along with the Environmental and Natural Resources Certificate, provides adequate opportunities for employment.

However, for some students, the additional LL.M. degree may be of benefit and will allow students to take additional classes, as well as pursue at least one additional writing project. In general, we encourage students to seek an LL.M. because they wish to pursue additional study in environmental law.

Tuition

Joint degree students will pay the prevailing J.D. tuition during the time they are pursuing the J.D. degree. Once a joint degree student completes the J.D. degree and moves into the LL.M. phase of the program, the student will pay the prevailing LL.M. tuition for the remaining credits needed to complete the LL.M. portion of the program. LL.M. tuition is paid on a per credit basis while J.D. tuition is paid on a per semester basis. Consult our application materials or Registrar’s office for current tuition for each program.

Scholarships/Financial Aid

Note that scholarships that may be awarded to a J.D. student apply only to the time the student is pursuing the J.D. degree and will not continue once the student begins the LL.M. phase of the program. The law school is occasionally able to offer reduced tuition to LL.M. students based on exceptional need and merit. Joint degree students will be responsible for determining whether any other financial aid they may receive as a J.D. student will continue in the LL.M. phase of the program and are urged to consult with the Student Financial Aid office prior to admission to the joint program.

Limitations

  1. Environmental Certificate Joint degree students will not be eligible to receive the Environmental and Natural Resources Certificate. The Certificate is only available to students pursuing the J.D. degree alone.
  2. Gap in Time Between Degrees Under the joint degree program, students must pursue the two degrees consecutively, i.e., other than a summer, there will be no break between completing the J.D. degree and beginning the LL.M. degree. An exception may be made for those students who petition for a temporary leave of absence for extenuating circumstances.

A student who receives a J.D. degree from Lewis & Clark who later wants to apply to the joint program will not be eligible to do so. Lewis & Clark J.D. graduates are, however, welcome to apply for the LL.M. program separately at any time and complete an additional 26 credits.

Size of Program

As the joint degree program is new for us, we cannot predict the size of the LL.M. class or available spaces at this time. The admissions committee will do its best to admit as many qualified students as the environmental program can accommodate while still maintaining the quality of the LL.M. program. The program will include both Lewis & Clark students pursuing the joint degree program, as well as graduates of other law schools pursuing the LL.M. program. This ratio, as well as overall class size, will likely vary each year depending on applications and qualifications.

Applicable Classes

To obtain the LL.M degree, LL.M students must earn a minimum of 26 semester hours of credit with a cumulative GPA of 2.50 or better. At least 18 of the 26 total credits must be from the environmental /natural resources curriculum. All classes listed as environmental/natural resources classes in the law school’s registration materials, including summer environmental classes, count toward the 18 “environmental credits”, except Administrative Law and Environmental Law. The two credits of the required LL.M seminar do count toward the 18 “environmental credits”, as do the 6 credits of thesis, if a student elects to do a thesis.

A joint degree student may apply up to 12 credits of coursework earned from the environmental and natural resources curriculum during the J.D. phase of the program to the LL.M. program. All classes that apply towards the J.D. Environmental and Natural Resources Certificate as listed in “What’s What,” including environmental summer classes, are eligible to be applied towards the LL.M. degree with the exception of Administrative Law and Environmental Law. Students must take Administrative Law and Environmental Law as J.D. students for the joint degree program, but the credits earned in these classes will not count towards the 26 credits needed for the LL.M. degree. The GPA earned in the classes to be applied to the LL.M. degree must be at least a 2.50.

As noted above, during the final J.D. semester, a joint degree student will register for one credit of the LL.M. seminar. Even though this credit will be taken while the joint degree student is still a J.D. student, it will be applied to the LL.M. degree only and not to the J.D. degree.

Other limits on classes that can be applied to the LL.M. degree are:

  • Only one credit/no credit class, of up to 3 credits, earned as a J.D., may be applied towards the LL.M. degree.
  • Only one individual research project on an environmental or natural resources topic may be applied towards the LL.M. degree
  • Students may petition to have one class, of up to 3 credits, taken at another ABA-approved law school, apply to the LL.M. degree. Consult with the Program Director prior to taking a class at another law school to determine eligibility.
  • If a student pursues an environmental externship while a J.D. student, the four graded credits of the externship can be applied to the LL.M., along with up to three of the non-graded credits earned as an extern.

For more information, contact Associate Dean Janice Weis or Assistant Director Lucy Brehm at  jweis@lclark.edu or brehm@lclark.edu