Graduate Programs in Law (LLM, PhD)

Pursue a masters degree perfectly matched to your needs (LLM)

Our Master of Laws (LLM) degree, established in 1951, is diverse and deep. It can deliver the development you're looking for, whether your focus is intellectual property, broadcasting, tax, privacy, conflict prevention, the use of expert evidence, free trade, drug testing, the discipline of physicians or something else entirely.

LLM admission requirements

Applicants for admission to the LLM program should hold a first degree in law equivalent to the Dalhousie JD, passed with at least a "B" average (or Upper Second Class Honours). The ability to conduct independent research and work easily in the English language is a prerequisite for admission.

Candidates from outside Canada whose native language is other than English will be required to pass an English language proficiency test (TOEFL, 600/250/100) (IELTS 7.5 or higher). 

LLM program options

We offer two options for the LLM program. The first is a combination of a thesis plus three courses. The second is a program of six courses, all of which require substantial written research papers.

You may choose to do either of these options on a full-time (usually one year) or a part-time (usually two or more years) basis. Please note that taking the LLM on a part-time basis renders you ineligible for some potential financial support (find out more about funding).

Thesis option

Students usually complete the program's three courses during the first and second terms (September to April) of the academic year before undertaking a supervised thesis for the remainder of the year (May to August).

Coursework option

The coursework LLM option includes six courses (including directed research courses) that each conclude with a substantial written paper. This version of our LLM normally runs from September to May and is particularly appropriate for part-time students.

Before deciding on the thesis or coursework option, candidates who are contemplating future doctoral studies should note that some doctoral programs require the completion of a Master of Laws degree which includes a thesis.

Both thesis and coursework LLM students are required to take the Graduate Seminar on Legal Education and Legal Scholarship (LAWS 3000).

LLM degree requirements


The Graduate Seminar on Legal Education and Legal Scholarship (LAWS 3000) is a required class for LLM students and is open to, and may be required for PhD students. This seminar is given in the fall term and early part of the winter term and requires from the student a comprehensive class presentation based on a substantial written paper.

Some students who have not had previous exposure to jurisprudence may be advised to take a jurisprudence course in addition.

Thesis option

If the degree is taken by thesis and coursework, a candidate is also required to:

(a) complete at least two additional one-term classes from the course offerings of the Schulich School of Law (the choice of classes to be determined by the Law Graduate Studies Committee); and
(b) present a well-researched substantial thesis of scholarly quality produced under the supervision of a member (or members) of the law faculty.  Such a thesis would normally be 125-150 typescript pages in length (double-spaced).

Three copies of the thesis must be submitted to the supervisor on or before the dates established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The thesis requirements and regulations of the Faculty of Graduate Studies must be met. Theses are usually supervised by a two-person committee comprised of a supervisor and a reader (or, in certain circumstances, two co-supervisors), plus an examiner.   

Coursework option

If the degree is taken by coursework without a thesis, candidates are also required to take at least an additional five one-term classes from the advanced coursework offerings of the Schulich School of Law considered to be suitable as graduate classes and seminars by the Law Graduate Studies Committee. Of those five classes, at least three must be designated as "major paper courses" by the Schulich School of Law, or be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee as having a substantial written component. At the discretion of the Graduate Studies Committee, a candidate may be required to submit to an oral examination by the committee or its nominees in the field of any written paper presented by the candidate. The Graduate Studies Committee may approve the substitution of not more than two seminars or graduate level classes in a discipline other than law, which may be highly relevant to the candidate's thesis topic or area of specialization, provided that any such substituted course or seminar has, in the opinion of the Committee, equivalence to the law classes being substituted.

All coursework undertaken for the LLM must be completed with an average of not less than B with no grade below B-.

Length of program

The degree may be taken on the basis of either one academic year (September 1 to August 31) of full-time studies at Dalhousie, or two academic years of part-time studies at Dalhousie, after registration for the LLM degree.

General requirements

A student is required to comply with the directions of the supervisor and the decisions of the Graduate Studies Committee, as well as the rules and regulations of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

In exceptional circumstances, the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law may at any time require any candidate for the degree to show cause, in such manner as it may determine, why such candidate should be permitted to continue his or her candidacy.


Take a deep doctoral dive into your area of interest (PhD) 

We offer an advanced graduate program in law leading to the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Law) to a small number of highly qualified candidates.

PhD admission requirements

Applicants for admission to the PhD program must have demonstrated superior academic ability during their previous legal education. Normally it will be necessary to have:

(i) attained at least the equivalent of a Dalhousie A- average at the JD level; and
(ii) completed a Master's degree in law.

Preference will be given to applicants with established credentials in published scholarship of a professional calibre.

The ability to conduct independent research and work easily in the English language is a prerequisite for admission. Foreign candidates whose educational background is not in English are required to meet the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) to the satisfaction of the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law prior to admission (minimum score 100).

A candidate may, at the discretion of the thesis committee, be required to pass a special examination designed to demonstrate the examinee's proficiency in a foreign language, statistical method, computer analysis, or other skill deemed to be important for successful completion of the candidate's thesis in the chosen area.

In applying for admission, an applicant must submit a preliminary Thesis Proposal (maximum approximately 3,000 words). The Proposal should outline the proposed research, address existing literature in the area and methodological and theoretical approaches which will be employed. The Proposal should be sufficient to enable the Graduate Studies Committee to assess the suitability of the topic for development of the doctoral thesis, as well as the availability of supervisory resources and the capability of the applicant to undertake the project.

PhD residency requirement

Applicants must spend at least one full academic year (12 months) in full-time residence at Dalhousie after registration for the PhD program. The Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law reserves the right in certain cases to require the completion of a second year of residency. It is to be noted, however, that consistent with other doctoral programs at Dalhousie University, PhD candidates must pay fees at the full-time rate for two years regardless of whether they have been required to spend a second year in residence at Dalhousie.

PhD pre-thesis requirements

Candidates entering the PhD program must complete the following requirements:

1.  one directed reading course

A directed reading course is normally of a one-on-one nature with the faculty member in question, but may involve more than one faculty member. The area of the field must be quite broad, such as 'modern legal theory' or 'international legal relations' or 'equality theory', to give a few examples. The syllabus will be developed jointly by the student and the faculty member(s). The faculty member(s) and the student meet together once every two weeks for one term. The student then writes a paper which provides a comprehensive and critical appreciation of the field. The paper at the end of the reading course will ideally allow the student not only to reflect on some of the major issues in the field, but also begin to consider where his or her own ideas fit within that landscape. The purpose of the paper is not so much a test of knowledge acquired as an opportunity to engage critically with the field.
2.  one area exam The area exam is a rather more self-directed exercise. It does not involve regular meetings between the faculty member and the student, though episodic meetings are encouraged. The student and the faculty member (who may or may not be the supervisor) agree on a syllabus, and the student independently analyzes the materials. The purpose of the area exam is to ensure mastery of a certain body of knowledge; it may be a body of theory but it may also be a body of law or a combination of the two. The evaluation may be by paper or by take-home exam.
3.  thesis proposal defence The purpose of the thesis proposal defence is to evaluate whether the proposal discloses a feasible doctoral project. It consists of a written proposal and an oral defence.  The main concerns are the definition of the issues to be addressed, the theoretical perspectives, the methodology, and a detailed outline of the structure of the thesis. The thesis proposal defence should normally take place at the end of the first year of studies, and not less than one year before submitting the thesis. Failure to pass this examination may result in dismissal. However, the student may be permitted to repeat the examination within the subsequent twelve months.
4.  course work and other examinations as required by the Graduate Studies Committee The reference to course work and other examinations is meant principally to cover the graduate seminar, which will be required of any PhD student who has not taken a similar course previously. It is possible that other courses in law or in other faculties may also be required.


Candidates for the PhD degree may be required by the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law, on the recommendation of their thesis committee, to carry out advanced course work in the area of their thesis, or in a cognate area of a more general field of law, or in a discipline other than law, which is deemed to be highly relevant to their thesis topic. 

All requirements must be completed with no grade below B-. A student who fails to meet this requirement is automatically dropped from the program, but may apply for readmission.

PhD thesis requirements

The primary requirement for the PhD degree is the completion of a substantial thesis which should not only display original scholarship of a high standard, but also represent a significant contribution to the literature of the chosen subject. Normally, a PhD thesis should be between 350 and 500 typescript pages in length (double-spaced).

In applying for admission, an applicant is required to satisfy the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law that the suggested topic is suitable for development as a doctoral thesis.

After an applicant has been accepted, a thesis committee consisting of a supervisor and two advisors will be appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law. All candidates are required to comply with the decisions of their thesis committees.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies requires that the completed PhD thesis be submitted to the Graduate Studies Committee within six years of the date of original registration in the program. Submission of the thesis must follow the rules and regulations laid down by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Each PhD candidate is required to defend the completed thesis in an oral examination. This defence shall be conducted in accordance with the Faculty of Graduate Studies Regulations for Oral Examination of a Doctoral Candidate.

PhD teaching activities

The Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law may give permission to a PhD candidate to engage in teaching activities during the period of residency, if such activities are deemed to fall within the field of the candidate's thesis topic. Under no circumstances shall any full-time PhD candidate be permitted to spend more than six hours per week in teaching activities and related preparations.