LL.M. in International Human Rights Law

2021 Human Rights Llm

More than 400 lawyers from over 100 countries have graduated from our LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law -- a joint program of Notre Dame Law School and the Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights. Our graduates’ commitment to human rights — as well as the rigor and richness of their academic life at Notre Dame Law School — has established our LL.M. Program as among the most prominent in the world.

Applicants to our LL.M. are inspired by their compassion for victims of human rights violations, but often lack the technical skills and theoretical grounding required for strategic human rights lawyering. Ensuring that our students gain competency in the substantive and procedural aspects of international human rights law is our first priority. As Fr. Hesburgh said of lawyers during the dedication of the Notre Dame Law School library, “compassion without competence would be a cruel hoax upon those they serve.”

For questions about the program or the application process, please contact the program office at ndhrllm@nd.edu or Jean Marc Brissau, graduate programs manager in the International and Graduate Programs Office, at jbrissau@nd.edu.

"The Notre Dame human rights lawyer is everywhere in the world, defending human dignity and working for the common good. For half a century now, the LLM in International Human Rights Law program has cultivated and supported its global network of human rights lawyers, deepening expertise in international, regional, and national courts; advocacy and policy-making at parliaments and legislatures, in governments and the private sector; and leadership in human rights education worldwide." — Diane Desierto, Professor of Law and Global Affairs and LLM faculty director

Diane Desierto
Professor of Law and Global Affairs Diane Desierto, LL.M. Faculty Director


The LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law is unique in that its commitment to its graduates extends beyond commencement. Upon completion of this LL.M. degree, all students have the opportunity to apply for additional funding from the program – up to $6,000 – to seek an internship with an appropriate human rights institution or non-governmental organization. In recent years, students have completed internships at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Center for Transitional Justice, CEJIL, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and various other United Nations bodies. Our internship assistance – in addition to our faculty expertise, intimate class size, and research opportunities – contributes to Notre Dame’s international reputation.

As we have for the past several years, our program continues to partner with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC (the primary human rights body of the Organization of American States) to sponsor an eight month internship for up to two graduating LL.M. students each year. The cost of funding the internships is split equitably between both parties. We have a similar arrangement for a one year-long clerkship at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica. Program representatives have met with officials from the African human rights system, and we are eager to replicate this successful model at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the nascent African Court. These standing relationships with international tribunals attract students to our program each year and ensure that these tribunals are staffed with the best-educated human rights lawyers available.


As approved by the University of Notre Dame, our LL.M. students enroll for one academic year, during which they must complete a minimum of 24 credit hours of coursework. Courses are assigned from 1 to 4 hours of credit depending upon the number of hours scheduled each week for the course.

The program's curriculum is intentionally designed and targeted towards expanding the capacities, training, theoretical and practical tools of human rights lawyers from many jurisdictions to succeed in establishing human rights accountability either through litigation, arbitration, or other forms of human rights adjudication, as well as to support human rights policy-making.

Required Courses (*No distinction as to which semester they should be taken, so long as students complete these courses within the LLM year.): Total of 11 credits 

  • Introduction to International Human Rights Law (3 credits)
  • Public International Law (3 credits)
  • A choice between either of the five elective courses below:
    • Comparative Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, or Comparative Legal Traditions (3 credits)
    • Human Rights LLM Thesis (3 credits)
    • Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (3 credits)
    • Civil Rights (3 credits)
    • Jurisprudence: Foundations of Human Rights (3 credits)
  •  NDLS Graduate Seminar (1 credit, not graded, credit or no credit course): draws all members of the graduate community together with featured lectures/talks by NDLS faculty or visiting faculty, as well as NDLS alumni, to discuss various strategies, proposals, experiences, developments, and recommendations on human rights practices, human rights fact-finding, human rights implementation and advocacy. It also gives some opportunity for Human Rights LLMs to present their papers or other human rights projects.

Elective Courses (*will also include credits for participation in clinical offerings related to human rights. Not every elective course will be offered each year.): 12 to 17 credits. For a detailed list, please view this document.

Tuition and Fees 

The average Notre Dame Law School student expense budget for the 2022-23 academic year includes:

Expense Cost
LL.M. Tuition: $65,436
Fees: $500
Room and Board: $10,350*
Books and Supplies: $1,750*
Personal Expenses: $6,710*
Transportation Expenses: $2,700*
Total: $87,446

*Costs may vary depending on housing accommodations, travel costs, and personal expenses.

Many of our students receive a significant tuition scholarship and living stipend. All applicants will be considered for a scholarship and stipend; there is no separate application.

Scholarship with Special Applications Processes

FUNED Mexico Scholarship

Under the Notre Dame Law School/FUNED Scholarship, Notre Dame Law School will award a fellowship of $10,000 to a select number of qualified applicants who are graduates of Mexican colleges and universities and pursuing its LL.M. programs. Interested students should apply to Notre Dame Law School and follow the application steps described on the FUNED website. If you have questions, contact the department at ndhrllm@nd.edu or Jean Marc Brissau.

Fulbright-Notre Dame International Human Rights Law LL.M. Student Award

The Fulbright Commission and Notre Dame Law School are offering an opportunity for an Irish student to travel to the U.S. to study for a LL.M. in International Human Rights Law. With over 500 graduates defending human rights around the world, the program marries a distinctive theoretical and philosophical foundation with Notre Dame’s mission to support religious pluralism in human rights organizations around the world, the consideration of human rights questions in a manner associated with faith and the Catholic mission, and fosters consideration of the defense of civil and human rights in the U.S. 

More information is available at the Fulbright Commission website.

To Apply

PLEASE NOTE: Applicants to the LL.M. in International Human Rights Law MUST possess a J.D. degree from an American law school approved by the ABA Section of Legal Education or an LL.B. (or equivalent degree) from an accredited law school in a foreign country.

Our program is carefully crafted to meet the intellectual and practical needs of lawyers practicing human rights law in their home countries and in regional or international institutions. Therefore, our curriculum is not designed for those seeking admission to the bar in the United States.

The LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law uses the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) online application system. Applications and accompanying materials are due by March 15. Late applications may be accepted, but admission is subject to availability. Decisions will be transmitted to applicants as soon as they are available. 

The LSAC application is available now. 

Apply Now

General Requirements to Apply

  • The application period begins September 1 and applications must be received no later than March 15.
  • Applicants must complete the online application found on the Law School Admission Council’s website.
  • A Juris Doctor from an A.B.A. approved American law school or a Bachelor's Degree in Law from an accredited college or university 
  • The University of Notre Dame is an eminent Catholic university. Consistent with the Catholic mission of the University, Notre Dame Law School aims to educate a "Different Kind of Lawyer": one who realizes that the practice of law is not an end in itself but a vocation - a means by which we as lawyers can be of service to God and to humankind. Our Catholic faith also moves us to be open and welcoming to people of all viewpoints and all religious traditions. In 500-1000 words, please address your interest in Notre Dame in relation to its mission, drawing on your background, experiences, personal character, and/or career aspirations.
  • Personal Statement addressing your specific interest in the LL.M Program in International Human Rights Law 
  • Resume 
  • Three Letters of Recommendation 
  • English Language Proficiency 
  • Application fee of $75 USD (The Law School offers need-based application fee waivers to those with extreme financial need: https://law.nd.edu/llmwaiver/