The U.S. LL.M.: 6 Tips for Choosing Your Classes Wisely

By Juliana Del Pesco, BARBRI International Legal Manager, Americas

LL.M. programs at some U.S. law schools allow students to create their own curricula. This is a great benefit, but it can also make selecting classes overwhelming. There are many interesting classes, professors, and visiting faculty from which to choose, and it can be difficult to decide on teachers and whether to focus in U.S. Law or subjects that will be more useful when working back home. Additionally, there are bar exam requirements to be considered when selecting courses.

Choosing your curriculum wisely is critical to securing the necessary requirements to take the bar exam and still maintain a balance between your studies and your personal life. After all, you want to have time to get fully immersed in the American culture while earning your LL.M., right?

Along with the many tips available in the free BARBRI LL.M. Guide that can be downloaded from this page, here are some extra hints for making the most of your LL.M. education while maximizing your international experience.

#1 – Credits and timing matter

Registration for classes usually opens 2 to 3 weeks before the beginning of each semester. To get a spot in the most-sought-after classes, it’s best to start the registration process as soon as possible.

Generally, you will need 24 credits to graduate and be eligible for most U.S. state bar exams. It may be tempting to try to squeeze as many classes as possible into one semester; however, law school classes demand thorough preparation and a lot of reading―which takes time. Twelve credits per semester may be a better target to give you the time to properly prepare for class and still engage in extracurricular activities.

#2 – Check course evaluations to delve deep into classes

U.S. law schools offer an array of classes. When selecting classes, be aware of the frequency of the classes, the class types, how the professor grades (participation, exam, paper, assignments, and presentations), and always check the course evaluations if available. The course evaluations provide invaluable insight.

The different class types can be characterized as:

  • 1L Subjects: These classes are mandatory for first-year U.S. law students (a.k.a. 1L) and cover the foundations of U.S. law―Civil Procedure, Contracts, Torts, Property, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, and Legal Writing and Research―all of which are tested on the bar exam. The Socratic Method and the infamous “cold calls” are heavily applied, and professors usually assign a large amount of reading. Typically, the more credits a class offers the more frequently it will meet.
  • Upper-Level Lectures: These are usually smaller classes during which a more specific area of law is taught (for example, Corporations, Professional Responsibility, Federal Income Tax, and Employment Law). Cold calls still exist but are done in a more relaxed setting with some advanced notice. Credits can vary.
  • Clinics: During clinics, you will represent real clients under the close supervision of faculty and lawyers. This type of hand-on experience can include not only aspects of standard courses such as classroom time and preparation but also clinic work and meetings with clients. Usually 5 to 7 credits, so plan accordingly!
  • Seminars: These present an opportunity for greater interaction and students are required to participate in a more collaborative way. Seminars are often offered for a smaller group of students and specific subjects. Be prepared to deal with assignments throughout the semester as well as a final paper.

#3 – Seize opportunities to learn from experts

Stay abreast of unique opportunities to have classes with renowned professors and visiting professors from other countries and prestigious universities. These professors are usually experts in their fields and have written books about a given subject. Do not miss the opportunity to engage with them.

#4 – Choose based on bar exam requirements

It is paramount that you know the requirements for the bar exam, if you are planning to take it, and include in your curriculum classes required by the state in which you will sit the bar. This will help avoid any future issues with eligibility. Find more about the bar exam requirements for New York, California, and Texas in the free BARBRI LL.M. Digest.

#5 – Consider the season

Make sure you know the semester in which a class you want will be offered, and when that famous professor from another school will be teaching. Some classes are only offered in fall or spring.

#6 – Don’t shy away from classes with J.D. students

One of the best parts of an LL.M. degree is the complete immersion in the culture; therefore, it is a great opportunity to have a real law school experience that includes discussions with Juris Doctorate (J.D.) students. Plan to take as many classes with the J.D.s as you feel is right for you. It’s time to own your educational experience. Best of luck!!


BARBRI has helped more than 1.3 million lawyers around the world pass a U.S. bar exam. The company also provides online J.D., post-J.D., and international programs for U.S. law schools and specialized ongoing training and certifications in areas such as financial crime prevention and eDiscovery.

To determine which BARBRI course may be best to help you pass a U.S. state bar exam, check out the blog: BARBRI EXTENDED BAR PREP AND 8-WEEK BARBRI BAR REVIEW: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?