LLM : Important Information for International Students

Lewis & Clark welcomes students from around the world into its LLM program. Our LLM program is deliberately small and selective so that each student can receive personal attention from the faculty and staff. Our international LLM graduates are now at work in many countries around the world as law partners, barristers and solicitors, professors, government officials, and legal advisors for non-governmental organizations. Contact us at elaw@lclark.edu with questions.

Rehan (Pakistan), Maureen (Nigeria) and Nandita (Trinidad) enjoying a hike in the Columbia Gorge


Frequently Asked Questions—International LLM Degree:

I would like to obtain an LLM degree at Lewis & Clark, but I am not particularly interested in environmental law. Do you have LLM degrees in other areas of the law?

We offer an LLM degree in Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law at Lewis & Clark and it is limited to students who want to concentrate their studies in those areas. We also offer the world’s first Animal Law LLM. Information about that program can be found here. LLM students can study many areas of the law that intersect with environmental, natural resources, and energy law, such as courses in trade and environment, international environmental law, renewable energy and climate change, and environmental business law. However, if you are not particularly interested in environmental, natural resources, or energy law, Lewis & Clark is not the best LLM program for you. Try searching for an LLM program that fits your needs at LLM Guide.

My ultimate goal is to obtain a doctorate in law. Is the LLM program a good way to begin?

The answer to this question depends on your circumstances and your reasons for obtaining a doctorate. See our explanation of the hierarchy of law degrees in the U.S. If you are planning a career in legal education and your home country requires a doctorate-level degree, depending on the country you may be able to achieve that with a JD degree, which does not require an LLM degree, or you may have to obtain an LLM and then an SJD degree.

I have earned a degree that is not a law degree, but it includes courses in law. Am I eligible to apply to the LLM program?

Unfortunately, no. You need to graduate with a law degree in your home country (that is, a degree that would qualify you to take the professional examinations to become a lawyer or judge) before you enroll in the LLM program. If you obtained a dual degree (law and another subject) that met the professional qualification requirement, then you would be eligible. If not, we would welcome your application to our JD program, or our Master of Studies program.

My ultimate goal is to practice law in the United States. Would an LLM degree help me to reach this goal?

An LLM degree is not a direct route to U.S. law practice. For that, you normally need a JD degree. In some states, an LLB from a “law school equivalent to a law school approved by the ABA,” i.e., a common-law law school very similar to U.S. law schools, may entitle you to sit for the bar. The requirements for proving the equivalence may vary; please contact the bar examiners of the state in which you would like to practice for more details.

For anyone from a non-common-law country, or from a common-law country in which the course of study is not similar to that of U.S. law schools, please take time to read the American Bar Association’s advice for prospective international LLM students when considering an LLM degree if you want to practice law in the United States. Obtaining an LLM degree alone, from any institution, does not equip you to practice law in the United States. Successful passage of a bar exam is a prerequisite to practicing law. Almost all state bar associations, with only a few exceptions, require a JD from an American Bar Association-accredited U.S. law school before registering for the bar examination. Even the jurisdictions that do not require an American JD have specific requirements for training and other qualifications of foreign lawyers. Please investigate these requirements before choosing an LLM program. If becoming a practicing attorney in the U.S. is your goal, please contact our Admissions Office for more information about our JD program.

A very small number of our international LLM graduates have successfully gone on to obtain a JD degree and practice law in the U.S. Please note that LLM scholarships do not transfer to the JD program and that competition for JD scholarships is intense.

I see that you offer a joint degree (JD/LLM) program. Can I apply for that program through my LLM application?

No. The joint degree application is designed for Lewis & Clark JD students who also want to obtain the LLM in less time than both degrees would normally take. Under the joint degree program students first complete the JD degree and then move into the “LLM only” phase. Thus, the LLM program is not an appropriate access point for the joint degree because you would start with higher-level courses in the LLM program and then take lower-level courses in the JD program. If you are interested in obtaining the JD degree, then you should apply for the JD degree where you can learn the foundations of American law before taking upper-division courses. 

Questions about the application process

Why do I need to submit a TOEFL score? Are there any alternatives?

Fluency in English is essential to success in any U.S. law school; our top-ranked program is very demanding. The level and pace of instruction requires a sophisticated grasp of written and spoken English, which is why we require a minimum TOEFL or IELTS score or proof of equivalency.

If you are a lawyer from a British Commonwealth country or India, and your education has been in English, you do not need to submit a TOEFL score. If you are not from an English-speaking country but have been educated in an English-speaking school and are fluent at a graduate-school level, you may submit alternative proofs and have a telephone conversation with the program director in order to establish your fluency.

For everyone else, here are the minimum scores you need in order to meet our standards:

Internet-based TOEFL: 100

For those students who have not attained college-level fluency in English, Lewis & Clark College offers an Academic English Studies program. Admission to AES is separate from admission to the LLM program. If you do not meet the English proficiency standards but otherwise are well-qualified for the program, you may apply for conditional admission to the LLM program, meaning that you would enter the LLM program after successful completion of the Academic English Studies program.

What style of legal writing do you require for the writing sample?

Any of the following composed by you would be fine:

  • An undergraduate or graduate legal research paper or thesis
  • A memorandum to a client or law partner (blanking out any confidential names or information) explaining the law applicable to the client’s case
  • A legal brief written for a court of law
  • An article on some aspect of the law written for a law journal or bar newsletter
  • Your own well-organized legal research paper, answering a legal question or explaining an area of the law in your home country

The writing does not necessarily have to be on an environmental or natural resources law topic. It should, however, be well-organized, show a strong grasp of legal principles and applications, and give appropriate citations for all sources of information.

How can I finance my LLM studies?

Most U.S. law schools do not provide financial aid for international LLM students. Lewis & Clark is an exception to this rule. Highly qualified LLM applicants may receive tuition scholarships (up to a maximum of 50% of tuition costs depending on financial need). You will need to provide a letter explaining your needs. Obtaining a scholarship award from Lewis & Clark may help you obtain additional grants from other sources. Please note that we do not offer scholarships for anything beyond tuition such as housing, travel, or books. For more ideas about funding sources, visit LLM Guide or the International Education Financial Aid website. 

U.S. visa regulations severely restrict the type of paid work available to international students and their families. It may be possible to qualify for some limited kinds of on-campus employment during your studies. However, these positions are rare and you should not rely on working on-campus to support your studies. For more information about these restrictions, and about legal employment opportunities, consult our International Students and Scholars Office.

Questions about logistics

How can I obtain a study visa to the United States?

Information on visas and forms for international students can be found here:

Lewis & Clark also maintains an International Students and Scholars Office to provide assistance and advice to our international students. This office provides a wide variety of services, including assisting students in obtaining visas to study in the U.S. It is important for you to stay in touch with this office throughout the application and arrival process so that we can make your transition into the United States as easy as possible.

Can I bring my family with me?

This depends on your financial circumstances. U.S. Homeland Security requires a Certificate of Financial Responsibility for all students entering the United States. In addition, you must complete the Supplement for International Students and provide information about your family. The financial requirements are considerably higher for families than for individual students. American daycare for children can be costly and it can be expensive to purchase a car and the mandatory vehicle liability insurance. It is also difficult to even buy a car from a dealership without holding at least an International Driving Permit issued by your home country, in addition to your driver license. Many of our international students have successfully obtained Oregon driver licenses after studying the Oregon driver manual and taking both a computer-based test and a driving test at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Holding an Oregon driver license can save you a significant amount of money in car insurance premiums.

If you are planning to bring your family, please give full details early in the process to the International Students and Scholars Office so that they can help you plan ahead.

How should I prepare for success in my LLM study at Lewis & Clark?

It is important to recognize that legal education in the United States differs in very significant ways from legal education in most other countries. First, U.S. law schools teach at the graduate level rather than the undergraduate level. Second, the common-law system of education relies on the Socratic method of instruction, where professors expect students to be actively engaged in their education, to be able to respond to questions in class, and to understand how the courts shape the law as an equal partner with the U.S. legislature and administration. Third, at Lewis & Clark, the level of instruction is even more demanding; our international students are often surprised by how many small discussion seminars we offer and by the close interactions between students and professors. The kind of active, creative legal thinking that typifies American law schools and the common law system can be daunting for lawyers trained in civil code systems, and the final exams in American law courses often demand not only knowledge of the law but an ability to construct legal arguments on behalf of various parties and to think critically about the law.

With these differences in mind, our two-credit Introduction to U.S. Environmental Law and Legal Study provides international students with a concentrated introduction to United States legal structure and law study. This seminar is a prerequisite for all Lewis & Clark international LLMs who were not trained in the common law tradition. You must successfully pass this seminar (or an equivalent offered at another U.S. law school) before taking the rest of your LLM classes. The seminar begins in August, before the fall semester begins.

Additionally, if you would like to prepare independently for study in the United States while you are still in your home country, our director would be happy to give you suggestions for readings you can do at home.

What housing is available?

Given that our law school is a graduate school and the LLM is an advanced professional degree for lawyers, we do not maintain dormitories for law students. All of our law students live off-campus in apartments or shared housing. Some students enjoy sharing multi-bedroom apartments or houses with other students; others prefer to have a small apartment to themselves. There are many good options for rented living space in the neighborhoods around campus that are accessible by walking, biking, or public transit. 

Our Admissions Office maintains a listing of available rental spaces. The Orientation Office, which opens in June, can be a helpful resource for helping you find housing that works for you. We can also help you with the rental search and leasing process. You may also temporarily rent a space in the campus dormitories during the summer while you are making housing arrangements. Be sure to reserve your dormitory room as soon as you have made your flight arrangements, because dormitories are on a space-available basis.

What is the Optional Practical Training program?

OPT is an option for LLMs on F-1 visas who complete their degrees and want to gain some practical experience in a legal setting in the U.S. Finding a paid OPT internship may be difficult (in the current economic climate it is practically impossible), and it is best to start your search process early upon arriving in the United States. We can help you search for an OPT positions, but ultimately you are responsible for finding a placement. For more information about OPT requirements, consult our International Students and Scholars Office.

Some of our international LLM students choose to experience American law practice during their studies through our Legal Practicum class, which matches students to placements under the supervision of practicing attorneys in law firms, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. Students are not paid, but they do receive academic credit towards their LLM degree. Placement is dependent on the qualifications of the individual student. If you think you would like to take participate in a placement, please contact the International Environmental LLM program director for more information and to see if a placement can be found for you. Due to immigration visa restrictions, international students cannot intern off campus until completing two semesters of studies at Lewis & Clark.

What is the best way to contact Lewis & Clark’s international LLM program?

If you have questions about our LLM program for international lawyers, the most efficient way is to email us at elaw@lclark.edu. Or you can call us at 503-768-6882. Be sure to take the time difference into account when you call. Office hours are generally between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time, Monday through Friday.