MSU College of Law

Frequently Asked Questions - On-Campus Graduate Programs

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How long will it take to finish the program?

Many students finish the program in one academic year (two semesters), while others finish the program in 1.5 or 2 academic years. Students have the flexibility to take between 6 and 12 credits per semester (6 is required to be a full-time student and in-status with SEVIS), and can take summer courses if desired. Students who are accepted to the Legal English for Academic Preparation (LEAP) Program will spend additional time (at least one semester) in English or Legal English courses.

When can I start the program?

Students may begin the program in either Fall (August) or Spring (January) of any given year. Applicants should apply at least one semester in advance, and give plenty of time for application review, I-20 issuance and visa appointments, and travel.

What courses are required?

Visit the academic program pages for details on course requirements for each program:

Can I take whatever electives I want?

Students will work with their advisor to determine which courses best meet their professional and academic goals. Students will occasionally be limited in their elective choices for various reasons.

How are grades determined?

Law school courses generally are graded on the basis of a final exam only. In upper-level courses, like seminars, courses may be graded on the basis of a paper or a project. Graduate students are graded on a graduate curve, and thus are NOT graded against JD students, but only against other graduate students.

How hard is it going to be?

Our graduate programs are extremely rigorous, and regular attendance, homework, and completion of readings is expected by all professors. MSU Law provides a wealth of resources for our graduate students, through the Office of Graduate and International Programs and the Academic Success Program. While law school will not be easy, students will receive personalized guidance, encouragement and mentoring during their time with us that will make the academic workload easier to manage.

What are classes in U.S. law schools like?

U.S. law schools use the Socratic Method of instruction. This is not a lecture-based format, which makes U.S. law schools different than law schools in most other countries. In the Socratic Method, students work with professors in class to learn legal concepts through in-class discussion and dissection of important cases. MSU Law graduate students become prepared for the Socratic Method through “mock classes” – classes during Orientation which are not graded – which teach them how to properly interact with professors in class and how to read and brief cases.

How is learning the common law different than learning civil or Shari’a law?

Unlike other legal systems, the common law is not primarily focused on codes. While students and lawyers use statutes to understand the law, most legal education, and most legal discourse, centers around reading important decisions from U.S. courts of all levels. In the common law, judges have wider discretion to make law than in civil or Shari’a systems, and so legal precedent is set via the court system rather than code.

Students will receive an introduction to the differences between common, civil and shari’a law during Orientation, and will also learn how to study and prepare for classes in an American law school using the Socratic Method.

Do graduate students take classes only with other graduate students?

About half of the classes LL.M. students at MSU Law take are with other LL.M. students, the other courses are with American and international JD students.

How do students and professors interact in U.S. law schools?

Students and professors often interact a lot during law school. At MSU Law, we are proud of our professors’ open door policies. Professors often meet with students to discuss cases, to discuss concerns students have about their readings, or otherwise to assist students. Professors also mentor and advise students on many issues. Unlike in many other countries, professors fully expect – and enjoy – building relationships with students, and set aside time to meet with students on a regular basis.

Do professors use visual aids?

Some professors use power point presentations in class, while others do not. Many international students record their professors’ lectures, with permission, so that they can listen to the lectures again after class and better understand the topic.

Student Life/Campus

How many students are in the MSU Law graduate programs?

With 50-70 LL.M., M.J., and LEAP students from more than 25 countries in our programs each year, the possibilities for friendship, networking, and cross-cultural learning are endless. 

Does the Law College have a large international community?

Just over 1/10th of the Law College student population is international, and Michigan State University has one of the largest international student populations in the country, with about 6,000 international students from all over the world. Even if you don’t have another student from your country at the Law College, the chances are very, very good that there will be other people from your country at MSU.

Are there places near campus to buy foods from home?

Yes, MSU, being such a large university, has many international grocery stores just off campus. Students from almost any country can find familiar foods imported from home – and of course, there are many American grocery and convenience stores with general items like milk, bread, and cereal within easy walking distance.

Do I need a car?

While many students enjoy having a car, it is not necessary. East Lansing and the greater Lansing area have an excellent bus service, and most services are within walking distance.

What do students do on the weekends?

Study! And after that, there are plenty of restaurants, movie theaters, clubs, and places to shop. The Master of Laws Student Association and other student groups frequently host events – there is something almost every weekend and most days – meaning that there is no shortage of things to do with other law students and other graduate students. Many weekends, students gather informally and cook each other foods from home, drive or take the train to nearby cities like Chicago, Detroit and Toronto, or sometimes, just watch t.v. and sleep!

Additionally, MSU’s Wharton Center hosts Broadway shows and famous musicians, while MSU hosts frequent sports matches (American football, soccer, basketball, etc) most weekends as well. You will not be bored!

What is the weather like?

Michigan is truly a state with all four seasons in their glory.

Summers in Michigan are beautiful, with lots of warm, sunny days at our beautiful Great Lakes beaches. Autumn in Michigan brings generally warm days through September, with the weather becoming cooler and the leaves turning color and falling off the trees in October. November and December sometimes bring snow, but definitely bring cooler temperatures. January through March/April brings cold temperatures (bring your hat and gloves) and snow, and May and June bring warmer temperatures and the return of green to the trees, and the blooming of flowers.