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 Institute 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

Internships

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.

Curriculum

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 12 credits

  • Introduction to International Human Rights Law (3 credits)
  • Public International Law (3 credits)
  • Foreign International Law Research (1 Credit)
  • LL.M legal research and writing (3 Credits)
  • Graduate Seminar (2 Credits): 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.). For a detailed list, please view this document. Students can take no more than 15 total 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)

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 a U.S. 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.

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Application Instructions

Consistent with the missions of both the University of Notre Dame and Notre Dame Law School (NDLS), the NDLS LL.M. programs seek to enroll multi-dimensional students from around the world with a wide range of talents, backgrounds, experiences, accomplishments, and points of view. Academic ability, as reflected in scholastic performance, is important; however, the Law School considers a broad array of elements in addition to quantitative measures. Those involved in the admission process are mindful of the Law School's objective to produce lawyers who are competent, compassionate, and committed to serving their clients with integrity. The NDLS LL.M. Admissions Committee thus employs a holistic review philosophy to create a class from a large number of highly qualified applicants.

NDLS begins accepting applications on November 1 for the class entering the following fall. As admission and scholarship decisions are made on a rolling basis, the Admissions Committee strongly recommends prospective applicants read the following directions closely and consider applying early in the application cycle.

Applications may be submitted beginning November 1; the application deadline is March 15. All supporting documents (letters of recommendations, personal statements, etc.) must be submitted by April 1. Late applications may be accepted, but subsequent review and offers of admission and/or scholarship are subject to availability as well as the ability to obtain a visa in a timely fashion.

Application Materials

An LL.M. application is composed of the following required documents:

  1. This application form
  2. A first degree in law and post-secondary transcripts
  3. LSAC CAS report
  4. Personal statement
  5. "Why NDLS" statement
  6. Resume
  7. Three letters of recommendation
  8. English language proficiency examination

The following are optional or may be requested of a candidate by the Admissions Committee:

  1. Addendum
  2. Interview

Required Documents

Application Form

Students should answer all questions on the application form. If a question does not apply to a student — or if the student would prefer not to answer an optional question — the student may indicate as such.

First Degree in Law and Post-Secondary Transcripts

All applicants must have a first degree in law to apply for the LL.M. program at Notre Dame Law School. The first degree in law may either be a Juris Doctor from an ABA-approved U.S. law school, or a Juris Doctor, Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), or comparable first degree in law from a law school or university outside of the United States.

Applicants must submit all post-secondary (Bachelors and advanced degrees) transcripts to LSAC so as to be included in the CAS report.

Students may address any concerns regarding their course work or grades in the Addendum section of the application.

Of special note, the Admissions Committee recognizes that many institutions implemented versions of pass/fail or credit/no credit grading systems for the academic terms affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Admissions Committee encourages applicants to provide further information regarding the grading practices at their institution for that semester via the Addendum section of the application.

LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS) Law School Report

Notre Dame Law School requires applicants to register with LSAC's Credential Assembly Service. Notre Dame's number for use of the service is 1841. An applicant's CAS report will include their LSAT scores, LSAT writing sections, all post-secondary transcripts, and letters of recommendation.

Please note that LSAC charges a one-time registration fee of $195 for this service and, additionally, $45 per law school to which the student applies. Applicants may find more information regarding the CAS report on LSAC's website.

Please do not send transcripts nor letters of recommendation directly to Notre Dame Law School unless specifically requested by the NDLS Office of Admissions.

Personal Statement

The Admissions Committee gives considerable emphasis in its evaluation to the personal statement. The statement should provide the Admissions Committee with insights about the applicant and the applicant's interest in pursuing both a legal education and career. The most effective personal statements also typically provide further insight into the writer's personality, background, professional interests, or matters that are not fully present in other parts of the application. Applicants may wish to address how their background, experiences, personal character, and/or career aspirations align with the legal education that NDLS provides and how the LL.M. at Notre Dame Law School can assist the applicant in both professional and personal formation.

The personal statement must be the applicant's original work in the applicant's own words. It should not exceed four double spaced pages. This statement must be included with the rest of the application at the time of submission. The personal statement's header must include the applicant's name, LSAC account number, and be titled "Personal Statement."

"Why Notre Dame Law School?" Statement

Applicants must address their specific interest in Notre Dame Law School via the "Why Notre Dame Law School" statement. The prompt for this statement is as follows:

"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.

Please address your interest in Notre Dame Law School in relation to its mission, drawing on your background, experiences, personal character, and/or career aspirations."

The "Why Notre Dame Law School?" statement must be the applicant's own work in their own words. It should be no more than two double-spaced pages. This statement must be included with the rest of the application at the time of submission. The statement's header must include the applicant's name, LSAC account number, and be titled "Why NDLS Statement."

Resume

An applicant's resume should highlight their educational, work, leadership, and service experiences. The applicant may also wish to highlight honors, awards, or special skills. While there is no page limit for the resume, one to two pages is typical.

Three Letters of Recommendation

The Admissions Committee requires applicants to submit three letters of recommendation. Applicants may submit up to four if desired.

The applicant's letters of recommendation should come from individuals who can evaluate the applicant's candidacy related to their academic skills, professional abilities, and personal qualities. At least one letter should be from an individual who taught the applicant in law. We realize that some applicants, especially those who have been out of school for a number of years, may have difficulty meeting this request. In such cases, letters from employers/supervisors or others who have worked closely with the applicant are sufficient.

Applicants are required to use the LSAC Letter of Recommendation Service that is part of the Credential Assembly Service. LSAC will include these letters with the CAS report. Please note that LSAC will not release the CAS report until all initial recommenders have submitted their letters. LSAC will send further CAS reports if additional recommenders submit letters at a later time.

English Language Proficiency Examination

Applicants from non-English-speaking countries must take an English language proficiency test unless they have received a post-secondary degree (e.g., a B.A., M.A., MBA, Ph.D., LL.B., etc.) from a college or university whose language of instruction is English.

Applicants with an extraordinary ability for the English language (e.g., has worked as a translator, taught English, received a post-secondary degree from a college or university in an English-speaking country, etc.) are exempt from this requirement and may note any relevant details to their exemption in the Addendum section of the application.

The TOEFL iBT is the preferred test. The minimum score required for the TOEFL iBT is 100.

The minimum score required for the IELTS is 7.0 in the Academic Modules.

The minimum score required for C1 Advanced is 185 on the Cambridge English Scale.

The Admissions Committee prefers that an applicant sit for the test within one year of the time that they apply to the Law School.

Applicants must have copies of the official score report forwarded to LSAC directly from the testing service. Please do not send official score reports to Notre Dame Law School unless specifically requested.

Optional Documents

Addendum

If the applicant believes the Admissions Committee would benefit from additional information about their candidacy that is not specifically and/or fully expressed elsewhere in the application, the applicant is welcome to provide further notes via the Addendum. Examples of information typically provided in this section of the application include further information regarding

specific items on an applicant's resume or about the applicant's background, explanations of undergraduate grading policies, and further details regarding outside funding.

Applicants should double-space the Addendum. The Addendum' s header must include the applicant's name, LSAC account number, and be titled "Addendum."

Interview

The Admissions Committee may request an interview with selected either prior to or after submission of an application. Interviews may be conducted via telephone or Zoom. Applicants who are invited to interview will be contacted by the Admissions Committee with instructions.

If an applicant participated in an informational interview or attended a Notre Dame Law School recruiting event prior to submission of this application, the applicant should indicate so in the appropriate sections of the application form.

Due to the volume of applications, the Admissions Committee cannot consider requests by applicants for interviews.

Further Information

Scholarship Consideration

Every applicant admitted to the LL.M. in International Human Rights Law program at Notre Dame Law School is automatically considered for scholarship assistance. Please know, however, that such scholarship assistance is limited and highly competitive to obtain.