Curriculum & Specializations

Our LL.M. students receive a solid grounding in the fundamentals of American law through required foundational classes in Legal Research and Writing and Introduction to American Law. The remainder of the program is elective. Students will work with the academic advisor to design their own curriculum tailored to their particular career goals.

Some students choose to take courses that give a broad foundation in legal theory and the American legal system. Others choose instead to specialize in areas like commercial law, international law, intellectual property, environmental law, or criminal law, gaining a more sophisticated expertise in their discipline.

Below are some suggested sample course selections for students interested in following these different paths. Not all of the classes listed below are offered every year.


An Overview of American Law

Many students prefer to take courses in several different fields, giving them a solid overview of the structure of American law. There are of course many possible paths to take, depending on your specific areas of interest. The sample schedule below is one example of a plan that would give a student exposure to some of the most fundamental topics in U.S. law.

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Fall Semester

Civil Procedure

An introduction to the principles of adjudication of the formalities of litigation in federal courts. Allocation of judicial business between state and federal judiciaries and the civil rights of defendants to be immune from inconvenient civil litigation are examined along with other aspects for jurisdiction. Phases of litigation - pleadings, complaint, discovery, answer and reply, motions for judgment on the pleadings, and summary judgment - are reviewed in depth.

Introduction to American Law: Comparative Perspective

(International LL.M. Students Only)

The course provides an introduction to American law in a comparative perspective which will be particularly valuable for students with experience in non-US legal systems. I will focus on the basics of the American legal system with an emphasis on understanding the vocabulary and mechanisms of the system, but will also provide concepts critical to learning to think as an American counselor and advocate.

Legal Writing

(International LL.M. Students Only) 

Introduction to legal skills used by American lawyers. Analysis, writing, and research in the context of writing primarily interoffice or predictive memoranda; introduction to the American legal research process and to selected primary and secondary sources of American law; writing clearly in American legal English. Focus on use of common law research and analysis. Students build from early exercises applying a rule to a short set of facts to synthesizing and applying complex rules to more extensive fact patterns. 

Torts

The study of civil wrongs for which the common law provides a remedy in the form of an action for damages. Topics include how accident losses are distributed; the role of trial judge, jury, and appellate judiciary; the language of negligence; and intentional wrongs.

Spring Semester

Administrative Law

A study of the legislative, executive, and judicial control of administrative action. The course includes discussion of formal and informal administrative processes, the opportunity to be heard, adequacy of notice, restrictions on the deciding body, and appellate review.

Contracts

An introduction to the basic foundations of enforceability of contractual arrangements: formation, performance, breach and damages, rights of third parties, conditions, Statute of Frauds, and assignments. Inquiry is made into the historical developments of contract law and nineteenth-century notions of the doctrine of consideration in light of developing twentieth-century concepts and alterations. Economic aspects of the subject are considered along with modern statutory developments, including the Uniform Commercial Code. A primary objective of this course is for students to develop a pattern of analysis and expression central to their work as lawyers.

Corporations

An introduction to the language and law of business organizations, including agency, partnership, and business corporations. Topics include formation and structure of the corporation, power and fiduciary responsibility of management, rights and liabilities of shareholders, corporate capital structure and finance, shareholders' derivatives litigation, acquisitions and tender offers, and insider trading. Federal securities law is introduced. 


Criminal Law

Florida State offers an unusually deep and broad range of classes in criminal law. Beyond the introductory classes in the substance and procedure of criminal law, students can explore cutting-edge topics like international criminal law, white collar crime, and capital punishment. The College’s criminal law faculty is known for its expertise in topics like bail reform, criminal procedure, and the theory of criminal punishment. 

Fall Semester

Criminal Procedure: Police

An examination of selected federal constitutional constraints on the law enforcement evidence-gathering and investigative process. Emphasis is placed on the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fifth Amendment protection against compelled testimony, and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Introduction to American Law: Comparative Perspective

(International LL.M. Students Only)

The course provides an introduction to American law in a comparative perspective which will be particularly valuable for students with experience in non-US legal systems. I will focus on the basics of the American legal system with an emphasis on understanding the vocabulary and mechanisms of the system, but will also provide concepts critical to learning to think as an American counselor and advocate.

Legal Writing

(International LL.M. Students Only) 

Introduction to legal skills used by American lawyers. Analysis, writing, and research in the context of writing primarily interoffice or predictive memoranda; introduction to the American legal research process and to selected primary and secondary sources of American law; writing clearly in American legal English. Focus on use of common law research and analysis. Students build from early exercises applying a rule to a short set of facts to synthesizing and applying complex rules to more extensive fact patterns. 

Other courses offered include:

Advanced Criminal Law

This class will provide students with a thorough theoretical and practical understanding of doctrines and concepts that regularly arise in criminal law cases.  These include: intention; recklessness; negligence and strict liability; causation; inchoate liability; complicity; duress and necessity; and intoxication.  We will also examine some basic procedural issues.  At various instances, we will look at how other common law jurisdictions deal with a concept or doctrine.  Students will be required to write two short papers.  There is no final exam.  This is an S/U only course.

Criminal Litigation Skills

Prerequisites: Evidence is a pre- or co-requisite

A practice course dealing with prosecuting and defending criminal cases. This course is a prerequisite for externships in state attorney and public defender offices throughout Florida. Students participate in all phases of pretrial and trial practice relating to criminal cases. Pretrial exercises include bond hearings, probable cause determinations, discovery, arraignments and motion hearings. Trial exercises focus on the individual aspects of the criminal trial including jury selection, opening statement, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, introduction of physical evidence, and closing arguments.

Federal Crimes

Prerequisite: Criminal Law

This seminar will provide an introduction to the unique aspects of federal criminal law, including jurisdiction, enforcement policy, case selection, and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  It will also cover offenses relating to narcotics trafficking, firearm regulation, child pornography, and anti-terrorism efforts

Florida Criminal Procedure

Prerequisites: Criminal Law

This course focuses on criminal prosecutions in Florida from initial arrest through post-conviction motions. Students will learn the relevant rules of criminal procedure as well as in depth studies of real cases they may encounter prosecuting or defending criminal cases in Florida. The course will explore ethical issues prosecutors and defense attorneys face in daily practice and issues affecting the criminal justice system on a global scale.

Jury Selection

Recommended Prerequisites: Evidence and Criminal Procedure

This course is designed to introduce prospective litigators to the elements of jury selection. It will cover the different methods by which juries are chosen in the State and Federal Courts, and how to voir dire prospective  jurors. It will also cover the different thought processes in picking jurors as a criminal prosecutor or defense lawyer, a tort/personal injury attorney (plaintiff and defense), and a commercial litigator.  The law governing jury selection will also be covered as well as (time permitting) selecting jurors in death penalty cases, jury psychologists, and juror questionnaires.

There will be actual participation in selecting juries. Attendance is required and there will be additional assignments, involving research and writing.

Postconviction Remedies

This class explores both state and federal postconviction mechanisms for challenging both unlawful detention and convictions and sentences after one has been convicted and completed their direct appeal. Some refer to postconviction as the “red-headed step-child” of the criminal justice system, mostly because it is cumbersome, it seems like it never ends, and practitioners, even the ones who practice it regularly, may not even fully understand it. But state and federal postconviction offers the last avenue of relief for those whose convictions or sentences were obtained in an unconstitutional or unjust manner. Thus, there is a constant struggle between the interests of federalism, bringing closure to criminal cases and guaranteeing fundamental fairness of criminal proceedings. This struggle will be a consistent theme as we examine the reasoning behind why postconviction procedures are what they are and think about how they could be improved.

Course Format and Requirements:
The course will be taught in both classroom and clinical settings. The material will be presented in lectures and discussion; students will also participate in the development of cases brought by Florida inmates seeking postconviction relief, based on DNA testing which the inmates claim will tend to exonerate them. The clinical component of the course will be conducted in collaboration with the Innocence Project, which has established a Florida program in Tallahassee. Students will also take a final exam. Materials will be prepared by the professor.

Spring Semester

Capital Punishment Seminar

This course examines the history of capital punishment in the United States and the substantive and procedural rules that have over time guided and limited its application. Students will become familiar with, inter alia, matters pertaining to the capital sentencing process (such as jury selection and consideration of aggravating and mitigating circumstances), the role of defense counsel, execution methods, and Florida's current and historic use of the death penalty.

Criminal Law

An examination of substantive requirements of criminal law offenses and defenses, the social and political forces influencing the content of the criminal law, and the constitutional limits and requirements informing its content and application.

Criminal Procedure: Adjudication

An examination of selected federal constitutional constraints on the criminal justice adjudicative process. Topics addressed include the right to counsel and to assistance of counsel, rights relating to pretrial procedures, plea bargaining, jury trial and jury selection, rights relating to trial, double jeopardy, sentencing, appeals, and habeas corpus.

Federal Criminal Law

This course will study the substantive criminal law enacted by Congress, focusing on questions of statutory interpretation and federal law enforcement policy raised by prominent federal offenses. Topics to be covered include offenses relating to fraud and political corruption, narcotics and money laundering, organized crime, and false statements and obstruction of justice, and the punishment of convicted offenders pursuant to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

White Collar Crime

The course will cover a range of topics, including, among  others, corporate criminal liability, mail fraud, securities fraud, tax fraud, and environmental crimes.


Intellectual Property Law

Florida State University College of Law is an excellent place from which to study the fast-changing law of intellectual property. Students have the opportunity to take in-depth classes in all of the major fields of intellectual property – copyright, patent law, and trademark. They can also go beyond the basics to take classes on the global regulation of pharmaceuticals from faculty members like Fred Abbott, an internationally-respected expert on the topic.

Fall Semester

Copyright Law

This course is a comprehensive, three-credit introduction to U.S. copyright law. The course begins with an analysis of copyright's underlying policies and theoretical framework. It then examines the substantive and formal requirements for copyright protection; the rights accorded to authors and other copyright holders; the fair use defense; issues involving copyright ownership and transfer; copyright duration; possible Constitutional limitations on copyright; contributory and vicarious liability (focusing on music file trading services like Napster and Kazaa); and the Copyright Act preemption of state law.

Introduction to American Law: Comparative Perspective

(International LL.M. Students Only)

The course provides an introduction to American law in a comparative perspective which will be particularly valuable for students with experience in non-US legal systems. I will focus on the basics of the American legal system with an emphasis on understanding the vocabulary and mechanisms of the system, but will also provide concepts critical to learning to think as an American counselor and advocate.

Legal Writing

(International LL.M. Students Only) 

Introduction to legal skills used by American lawyers. Analysis, writing, and research in the context of writing primarily interoffice or predictive memoranda; introduction to the American legal research process and to selected primary and secondary sources of American law; writing clearly in American legal English. Focus on use of common law research and analysis. Students build from early exercises applying a rule to a short set of facts to synthesizing and applying complex rules to more extensive fact patterns. 

Property

A study of the extent to which various property rights come or fail to be recognized. The course includes both private sector and governmental arrangements and influences on the definition of property rights. Particular topics include the law of finders, landlord and tenant, concurrent ownership, licenses, easements, profits, restrictive covenants, an introduction of zoning and growth control and constitutional "takings" analysis.

Other courses offered include:

Entertainment Law

This course examines key issues involved in the practice of Entertainment Law. Taught primarily by focusing on the music industry—but relevant and with sections involving book publishing, film, theater, and television—the course includes details for both future litigators and future transactional attorneys alike. Topics include: copyright law, infringement, and fair use; sampling and the law; digital media; industry trends and changes in the Digital Age; licensing; record contracts, both old and new; songwriter contracts; producer contracts; management contracts; concert touring and promotion; trademarks and enforcement; basics of film financing and production; and the changing world of television. The course will regularly include music, video, and film examples to discuss in class.

Global Health & Pharmaceutical Law

This seminar introduces students to the global system addressing public health matters, including the international institutional framework (e.g., the World Health Organization). It examines how national legal systems integrate within this global framework. A major part of the course addresses innovation and access to pharmaceutical products, including vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Intellectual property and regulatory frameworks relevant to the pharmaceutical sector are considered. It is anticipated that the next several years in global public health will pay close attention to preparing for and responding to pandemics and other “pathogen events”. The evolution of negotiations in this area will be studied. Students will have the opportunity to prepare papers on a wide range of topics that may be of interest to them.

International Trade Law and Policy

An examination of the international trading system, its economic underpinnings, and its regulatory structures. Primary emphasis is placed on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, both as a fundamental constitutive document and as a set of rules governing such matters as subsidies, dumping, and escape clause actions. The course also reviews issues of U.S. constitutional law relevant to the conduct of international economic relations. 

Sports and the Law

A study of state and federal laws relating to the business of sporting competitions as entertainment, including matters such as the creation of a free market for players' services, the relationships of franchise owners to the league commissioner, player/agent relationships and contract negotiation. There is also some study of the NCAA regulation of collegiate athletics.

Spring Semester

Contracts

An introduction to the basic foundations of enforceability of contractual arrangements: formation, performance, breach and damages, rights of third parties, conditions, Statute of Frauds, and assignments. Inquiry is made into the historical developments of contract law and nineteenth-century notions of the doctrine of consideration in light of developing twentieth-century concepts and alterations. Economic aspects of the subject are considered along with modern statutory developments, including the Uniform Commercial Code. A primary objective of this course is for students to develop a pattern of analysis and expression central to their work as lawyers.

International Aspects of Intellectual Property

This course introduces the global system for the regulation of intellectual property rights (IPRs). It discusses the institutions and treaties regulating the grant and enforcement of IPRs and the policies underlying the international IP system. The course considers each major form of IP from an international perspective, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, geographical indications, design rights and trade secret/data protection. Various important issues regarding the interface between IPRs, industrial policy, economic and social interests, are considered. These include the role of IPRs and transfer of technology in addressing climate change and other environmental matters, the interplay between IPRs and public health, and the set of issues affecting the digital environment.

Patent Law

This course involves an in-depth study of the law applicable to patents. The patent is the form of intellectual property protecting "inventions.” It is the most important form of protection for enterprises competing on the basis of technological advantage. The course covers patentable subject matter, application for grant, the criteria of patentability, rights of patent holders, causes of action against alleged infringers, defenses, remedies, licensing, the relevant application of competition/antitrust law and patent policy.

Trademarks

A trademark identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one party from those of others. In this course, we will consider how and when trademark rights are secured; what rights are accorded to trademark owners under the federal Lanham Act and state laws; how trademark can be infringed or diluted; the circumstances under which trademark protection can be lost; the limitations placed on trademark rights; and federal registration regimes and the related right of publicity.


International Law

The vibrant international law program at FSU offers students a chance to take both introductory classes in areas like Public International Law and International Business, and more advanced classes in emerging fields like International Criminal Law and International Arbitration. Students also have the opportunity to participate in moot court competitions like the Jessup Competition in Public International Law, and to join the College’s active chapter of the International Law Students Association. The College’s faculty is renowned for its expertise in fields as diverse as Chinese Law, Latin American constitutionalism, and the philosophy of the laws of war.

Fall Semester

International Trade Law and Policy

An examination of the international trading system, its economic underpinnings, and its regulatory structures. Primary emphasis is placed on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, both as a fundamental constitutive document and as a set of rules governing such matters as subsidies, dumping, and escape clause actions. The course also reviews issues of U.S. constitutional law relevant to the conduct of international economic relations. 

Introduction to American Law: Comparative Perspective

(International LL.M. Students Only)

The course provides an introduction to American law in a comparative perspective which will be particularly valuable for students with experience in non-US legal systems. I will focus on the basics of the American legal system with an emphasis on understanding the vocabulary and mechanisms of the system, but will also provide concepts critical to learning to think as an American counselor and advocate.

Legal Writing

(International LL.M. Students Only) 

Introduction to legal skills used by American lawyers. Analysis, writing, and research in the context of writing primarily interoffice or predictive memoranda; introduction to the American legal research process and to selected primary and secondary sources of American law; writing clearly in American legal English. Focus on use of common law research and analysis. Students build from early exercises applying a rule to a short set of facts to synthesizing and applying complex rules to more extensive fact patterns. 

Public International Law

An introduction to a wide range of legal and policy issues centered around the relationships among nations and the role of law in world order. Problems studied include the nature and sources of international law, the existence and activities of states, the status of individuals and associations within the international legal system, and issues of war, development, and environmental protection. 

Other courses offered include:

Admiralty Law

A study of the law of the sea, including admiralty jurisdiction, maritime liens, limitation of liability, collision, towage, charter parties, and the rights of injured maritime workers and passengers.

Comparative Constitutional Law

This seminar will explore selected topics in comparative constitutional law through readings of both scholarly articles and major foreign cases (in translation). The focus of the readings will be on non-U.S. systems, but throughout the course we will use the U.S. as a primary point of comparison. Topics will include: comparative federalism and separation of powers, appropriateness and methodologies for enforcing socio-economic rights in different contexts, and the links between domestic and international legal systems.

Conflict of Laws

This course examines the legal problems that arise when an occurrence or a case cuts across state or national boundaries: jurisdiction of courts, enforceability of foreign judgments, and choice of applicable law. The focus is on the policies, the rules of law, and the constitutional requirements in private interstate law.

International Aspects of Intellectual Property

This course introduces the global system for the regulation of intellectual property rights (IPRs). It discusses the institutions and treaties regulating the grant and enforcement of IPRs and the policies underlying the international IP system. The course considers each major form of IP from an international perspective, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, geographical indications, design rights and trade secret/data protection. Various important issues regarding the interface between IPRs, industrial policy, economic and social interests, are considered. These include the role of IPRs and transfer of technology in addressing climate change and other environmental matters, the interplay between IPRs and public health, and the set of issues affecting the digital environment.

Spanish for Lawyers

(S/U)

Prerequisites: Conversational Spanish skills are required. Listening, speaking, reading and writing at an intermediate level of proficiency is preferred.

The objective of this class is to increase the skills and ability of Spanish speaking law students to communicate with Spanish speaking clients. Students will be exposed to legal terms in various subject areas of law including criminal law, torts, immigration, family law, contracts and consumer protection. Students will be given various reading assignments and expected to discuss the topics in Spanish. Additionally, students will be given writing assignments that may involve either drafting legal documents or client correspondence in Spanish, or the translation of legal documents into Spanish. Students will also participate in mock interviews with Spanish speaking clients seeking legal advice or representation.

Spring Semester

International and Foreign Legal Research

This course will introduce students to basic concepts, sources, and specialized tools used in foreign and international legal research. Students will learn how to efficiently locate needed information for particular legal systems including cases, statutes, and codes. Students will also learn how to access the primary sources of public and private international law. The topics include, subjects such as secondary sources, treaties, custom and general principles, international jurisprudence, and human rights law.

International Business Transactions

This course provides an introduction to the work performed by lawyers in international business transactions and to the specific skills and knowledge needed to negotiate multinational transactions. International and several domestic regulatory frameworks for foreign trade and investment will be analyzed. We will focus on single, commodity trades; distributorships; technology transfer; and joint venture vehicles for direct foreign investment. Negotiating strategies and cultural considerations in multinational transactions will be discussed. There will be specific coverage of the business and legal contexts of Europe, China and Japan.

International Human Rights Law

This problem-oriented course is designed for students seeking a general understanding of the subject as well as for students wishing to acquire specific skills for personal involvement in the promotion of International Human Rights, whether in government service or private practice. The course includes consideration of substantive international human rights norms, especially civil and political rights; the role of such norms in international and domestic law; fora-international, regional, and domestic-available for adjudicating or promoting the observance of human rights standards; the procedural rules that govern such fora; the methods by which decisions are made and increasingly enforced; and problems of including human rights concern as an integral part of the country's foreign policy.

Students will take part in one or two role playing exercises - for example, a U.N. debate, an appellate court argument, a congressional hearing, an ABA debate, or a Department of State decision-making meeting. This participation, as well as class discussion based upon regular attendance and a thorough reading of the assigned materials, forms a significant part of the course and will be taken into account in determining the student's grade.