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How to apply for a PhD

1. is a phd at the university of reading right for you .

Before applying for our PhD programme, please read our  What to expect during your PhD guide .

2. Check our entry requirements

To be accepted on our PhD programme, you'll need a master's degree or equivalent, in a course with a substantial element of law.

If you are from outside of the UK, you will also need an IELTS score of 7.0, or above, with at least 6.0 in the four sub-sections, or equivalent.

For more information on entry requirements, visit our Doctoral and Researcher College website .

3. Select your topic

You should first determine whether your proposed project is suitable for study at PhD level. The project must also be feasible within the resources and time frame available to you; it should also address a perceived 'gap' in the literature and, most importantly, be of interest to you.

To study at the University of Reading your proposed PhD should relate to the research interests of a member of staff in the School of Law. Please view our Find a PhD supervisor page  to make sure that we have supervisory capability in your chosen field.  

It is not essential to communicate directly with the School before submitting your application, but many candidates find it helpful. Should you need further guidance, or if you would like information about our termly online Research proposal writing and funding opportunities information session, please contact our PGR administrator Elizabeth Wyeth .

Please read the Doctoral and Researcher College's guidance on how to write a research proposal before submitting your application.

4. Make an application

Once you have identified a research area of interest with a potential supervisor, please apply using the PhD and professional doctorate online application system .

This allows you to complete the necessary information and attach copies of relevant documents, including the details of two appropriate referees and relevant certificates.

Although you'll be working with a specific department or supervisor, all PhD applications must be made centrally. The University will acknowledge your application and then pass it on to our school.

Although most new students join the PhD programme in September, it's possible to start your studies at any point during the academic year.

Take the next step

  • How to apply
  • Get a prospectus
  • Ask us a question
  • Learn about the Graduate School

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School life for PhD students 

Your life in the school.

Join our vibrant research culture and contribute to outstanding research.

As a PhD student in the School of Law, you will be part of a supportive and collaborative community and work alongside postdoctoral researchers and academic staff.


Research community 

Recent achievements from our doctoral students:

  • Faye Bird recently published an article titled 'Is This a Time of Beautiful Chaos? ' Reflecting on International Feminist Legal Methods' in Feminist Legal Studies. Faye was also recently featured on the Cabinet Office Open Innovation Team's blog .
  • Selam Abebe participated in the recent meeting of the  compliance/implementation committee of the Paris Agreement , after being nominated by the African Group.
  • Liam Bagshaw was awarded the Modern Law Review Scholarship in June 2020 to support his PhD study on international law, capitalism and disaster risk.
  • Faye Bird was the Prosperity and Resilience Research Theme winner in the University of Reading's PhD Researcher of the Year competition for 2020. Her thesis is titled 'Sexual Violence Under the Islamic State: Troubling Feminism, the UN Security Council and International Law'.
  • Teddy Soobramanien has been appointed as team leader (EU Strategies and Negotiations) at the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. His thesis examines WTO law and security interests in the new geoeconomic order.
  • Several former University of Reading PhD students have been appointed to lectureships in law in 2020: Faye Bird (University of Lincoln); Michelle Johnson (King's College, London);  Zoi Krokida (De Montfort University); Karolina Szopa (University of Winchester).

Hoshman Ismail

PhD Student

Co-curricular activities

We host a wide range of academic and social events throughout the year, including reading groups, informal lunches and career development opportunities.

You will participate in a variety of discussion groups, work-in-progress seminars and research theme events, as well as the School's own Postgraduate Research Day. Bi-termly PGR lunches allow for informal gatherings with fellow students and staff and are an enjoyable way to feel part of the community.

Presenting your research

The Graduate School hosts the annual Doctoral Research Conference, an event that showcases the variety and excellence of postgraduate research taking place at Reading.

The conference features a number of competitions and presentations including the PhD Researcher of the Year award. Doctoral students from the School of Law have achieved this accolade in recent years.

Another event that celebrates academic excellence is the Graduate School's annual public lecture – the Fairbrother Lecture – delivered by a current or recent postgraduate research student.

We support your development

Max Brookman-Byrne was the University of Reading PhD Researcher of the Year, 2017. Listen to Max talk about his doctoral research into the international law implications of the use of armed drones and his experience of undertaking a PhD at Reading.

Cross-disciplinary research

The School collaborates with other University departments and research centres as well as with governments and external institutions.

Our researchers regularly incorporate aspects of other disciplinary traditions in their work and collaborate on major projects with scholars from other disciplines, including global development, environmental science, international relations, business and financial regulation, computer science and history.

Benefit from outstanding resources and support. At the School of Law, you will enjoy exclusive use of excellent facilities, including the University's extensive main library , and study space within Foxhill House, in a dedicated postgraduate study room with computing facilities.


Meet our PhD students

We are proud of our vibrant research culture and welcome high-quality applicants from all over the world.


Life on campus


Life in Reading

Step off campus and you'll find yourself in a bustling town centre offering a variety of shops, restaurants and activities. We're also well-connected – you can reach London Paddington within half an hour by train. 

Take the next step

  • How to apply
  • Get a prospectus
  • Ask us a question
  • Learn about the Graduate School

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Different course options.

  • Key information

Course Summary

Tuition fees, entry requirements, similar courses at different universities, key information data source : idp connect, qualification type.

PhD/DPhil - Doctor of Philosophy

Subject areas

Course type.

We are proud of the School of Law's vibrant research culture and welcome high-quality applicants from all over the world.

Cutting-Edge Research

In a dynamic research environment, our academics are established legal experts who provide strong support and supervision for PhD researchers working in their respective fields. 100% of our academic research is judged to be world leading, internationally excellent, or internationally recognised (REF 2014).

We take a pluralistic approach to legal research, which spans a range of methodologies and research traditions. Across all these areas, our research challenges preconceptions and established ideas about the law, subjects the content and process of legal decision-making to stringent analysis, and provides value to external users and impacts upon the wider world.

UK fees Course fees for UK students

For this course (per year)

International fees Course fees for EU and international students

To be accepted on our PhD programme, you will need a master's degree or equivalent, in a course with a substantial element of law.

LPC Legal Practice Course

University of wolverhampton, llm legal practice course, llm international business law, llm professional practice (top up).

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Reading School of Law

Foxhill House Whiteknights Road Reading , RG6 7BA United Kingdom


LL.M. facts

Tuition 21,350

Duration 12 months

Class Size 100

Intakes January, September

Int'l Students 90%

Minimum TOEFL 100

Minimum IELTS 6.5

Applicants/Year 1000

  • Listed in Top LL.M.s in M&A Top LLMs For Entrepreneurship

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  • LL.M. International Commercial Law
  • LL.M. International Commercial Law with Corporate Finance
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Student Life

The program.

law phd reading

Choose from a large selection of master's-level degrees with a diverse range of specialist pathways and take modules from schools and departments across the University.

  • LLM International Law
  • LLM Advanced Legal Studies
  • LLM Human Rights
  • LLM International Commercial Law
  • LLM International Commercial Law with International Corporate Finance
  • LLM International Commercial Law with International Banking Law and Financial Regulation
  • LLM International Commercial Law with Intellectual Property and Management
  • LLM International Commercial Law with Insolvency Law
  • LLM International Commercial Law with Information Technology Law and Commerce
  • LLM International Commercial Law with International Economic Law
  • LLM International Commercial Law with International Dispute Resolution (Arbitration)

The International Law and Human Rights programmes are associated with major research clusters in the School. The Advanced Legal Studies degree allows students to draw on the breadth of research strengths in the School to tailor a programme that meets their needs and interests. Alongside these run the International Commercial Law programmes, taught by the School of Law and the ICMA Centre, part of the renowned Henley Business School. In each programme students undertake taught modules totalling 180 credits during the Autumn and Spring terms and then write a dissertation/project (60/40 credits) from May/June until September. There is also a January intake for some of the LLM programmes.

Teaching is mostly conducted in weekly, discussion-based classes with an emphasis on small group teaching with around 5-15 students in a group. LLM students may select from a range of modules each year that are offered by the Law School and other departments, encompassing subject areas within International, EU and UK law that usually include:

  • Theory and Practice of International Law
  • Terrorism, War and Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Commerce and Trade
  • International Dispute Settlement
  • Regulation of Financial Markets
  • Oil and Gas Law
  • Competition Law
  • Banking and Finance

Visit our website for more detailed information about programmes and modules. For candidates wishing to pursue a research-oriented career, the School offers four research preparation Masters degrees:

  • MRes Law and Society
  • MA by Research Legal History
  • LLM Research Thesis

In addition, the School's PhD programme offers supervision in a wide range of fields. The School of Law at Reading provides a study environment that is welcoming and inclusive. We aim to make postgraduate study a collegial experience. All Law students will be enrolled in the Research Methods module which ensures that the cohort meets weekly in class, but the opportunity to meet less formally is also important. In term time the School hosts informal social events for postgraduates. This is an opportunity to chat with your peers, and with academic and administrative staff, with later year PhD students, graduate teaching assistants, and often visitors from other parts of the university such as the International Office, the Student Union, or Student Services. These events have been a great way for students to meet, and for staff and students to get together in an informal environment.

The University

law phd reading

The University of Reading has been at the forefront of UK higher education for nearly a century. Over the decades we have become innovators and pioneers, pushing academic boundaries and leading social change.

We have plenty to offer: a rich history, a beautiful campus in a thriving town, a vibrant academic community, and much more. You’ll be joining a diverse and inclusive community, home to more than 25,000 students from around 160 countries. The University provides an ideal environment to try new things, meet new people and gain new perspectives.

Our main campuses are located close to Reading’s bustling town centre. From there, it’s just 30 minutes to London Paddington by train, and only 45 minutes to Heathrow airport by coach.

Our Careers Team was recently recognised with a StudentCrowd University Award in 2021, ranking in the top 20 for university careers services in the UK, and has won numerous other awards.We’ll help you explore your options and identify your career goals, and we can support you through opportunities such as internships, placements, mentoring and graduate careers.

The Law School

law phd reading

The School of Law at Reading is one of the leading law schools in the United Kingdom. We are ranked in the top 175 universities in the world for Law (ranked 151-175 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject 2022), and 99% of our research is of international standing (Research Excellence Framework 2021, combining 4*, 3* and 2* submissions – Law).

Thrive in our dynamic and international learning environment, underpinned by the guidance of our expert academics and practitioners. All of our LLM courses are built on a legal and multidisciplinary approach to the study of law. You will benefit from modules that will enable you to take advantage of the School’s research strengths in the fields of international law and commercial law. We place great emphasis on employability skills and experience to help set you apart from other postgraduates. We provide you with a range of opportunities including guest lectures, conferences, research seminars, workshops and careers sessions. We also offer a range of career development and co-curricular opportunities include practitioners’ workshops on CV writing, covering letters and interview techniques, careers events and networking opportunities with legal practitioners.

Graduates from our LLM programmes have gone on to work for national and international law firms, as lawyers and as in-house legal counsels for large multinational companies in the UK and abroad, as well as international organisations and NGOs.

The School of Law is located on the main Whiteknights campus in the beautiful Foxhill House, a nineteenth century heritage-listed building that has been adapted to twenty-first century use.

The Faculty

law phd reading

We have world-leading researchers working on a diverse range of legal issues across all areas of law. Our research is organised into three groups:

  • Global Law at Reading
  • Centre for Commercial Law and Financial Regulation 
  • Law, Justice and Society

Our Academic staff come from a variety of backgrounds and reflect the fact that we are very much a Global Law School.

Some examples of our unparalleled expertise in international and commercial law include:

Professor Marko Milanovic:  co-general editor of the ongoing Tallinn Manual 3.0 project on the application of international law in cyberspace, served as one of three high-level experts assisting the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on the examination of alleged human rights violations committed in Belarus, and is currently advising a taskforce supporting the Prosecutor General of Ukraine regarding accountability for crimes committed during the Ukrainian conflict. 

Professor Rosa Freedman : a leading authority on international human rights law and a member of the UN Secretary-General's Civil Society Advisory Board on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. Professor Freedman works closely with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as a member of the Steering Committee on Women, Peace and Security

Professor Michael Schmitt : the pre-eminent authority on cyber warfare, Professor Schmitt regularly works with NATO and states to advise on the conduct of hostilities in cyberspace. He is Director of the Tallinn Manual 3.0 project at NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence and holds positions at the US Military Academy at West Point, US Naval War College and the University of Texas.

Dr Alexander Gilder:  One of the few international lawyers working on UN peace operations, Dr Gilder is at the cutting edge of research on stabilization, the protection of civilians, and security sector reform. He has published widely on these issues and specifically on the UN missions in Mali, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Côte d'Ivoire. Dr Gilder is both Programme Director of the Global Law Programmes and Deputy Director of our internationally leading research group, Global Law at Reading (GLAR).

Dr Bolanle Adebola : a leading expert on international insolvency and restructuring law, Dr Adebola is a trained advocate with dual qualifications: Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Dr Adebola founded and convenes the Commercial Law Research Network Nigeria (CLRNN), a network established to promote research and knowledge exchange on matters relating to the development and reform of commercial law in economies such as Nigeria.

Dr Andrea Miglionico : a recognised specialist on banking and finance law, Dr Miglionico regularly collaborates with central banks, regulatory authorities, investment banks, and law firms. Having published several journal articles and being involved in the analysis of several cases of banks in distress, Dr Miglionico's research assesses the restructuring mechanism for failing banks, mergers and acquisitions of banks and bank-customer relationships.

Professor Christine Riefa : a world leading expert on consumer law, Professor Riefa is leading the project Cross-border enforcement of consumer law . Professor Riefa has advised governments on reform of consumer laws in different hemispheres. She is widely published with work cited in official documents from international institutions including The World Economic Forum, UNCTAD, the European Parliament and academic scholarship.

Meet some of our inpiring graduates:

Eyas Alkswani: Find out how the International Commercial Arbitration Mooting module gave Eyas the opportunity to participate in 'real world' international commercial law disputes.

Faye Bird: Learn how the course content and learning from experts attracted Faye to Reading and helped her build a career path in academia.

Enyinnaya Uwadi: Read how the wide range of modules and growth opportunities offered by the School of law fostered Enyinnaya's memorable journey at Reading.

Entry Requirements

Applicants are usually expected to have a degree at upper second class level (or equivalent) in Law or a related discipline. Where applicants do not hold a Law or related qualification then they would normally be expected to show the capacity to undertake advanced study in Law either by virtue of a strong academic record and/or relevant work experience.

International Applicants

LLM candidates at Reading come from a wide range of countries. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to meet the English language requirements. If you need to improve your English language score, you can take a pre-sessional English course prior to entry onto your degree.

Find out the English language requirements for our courses and our pre-sessional English programme

International students can find a wide range of information about language and other matters on the University's web pages for International Students. The School of Law has a dedicated international tutor, to support and help our international students as they study in a new environment and culture.

Application Procedure

Information about our application procedure and links to the online applications form can be found on our webpages.  

Tuition and Fees

For up to date details on our fees and funding, please view the university webpages. 

Financial Aid

The School offers partial scholarships through the University of Reading Master’s Scholarships Scheme . 

Also among the opportunities for funding for LLM candidates is the Felix Scholarship .  Please contact Dr Ruvi Ziegler, Director of Postgraduate Studies in the School of Law, before you apply.  Students undertaking a PhD or a research preparation Master's may be eligible for a wider range of funding.  The School often has opportunities for postgraduates to work as paid research assistants for members of faculty.

Enquiries about LLM programmes and admissions should be directed to your Programme Director:

Web: www.reading.ac.uk/law

law phd reading

Our beautiful campus offers contemporary study facilities, halls of residence, support services, cafés, shops and entertainment all centrally located on one of the most attractive university campuses in the UK. The close proximity of all academic and support facilities will make it easier for you to quickly settle into your new environment, integrate rapidly into the student body and help you get the most out of your study period. The University of Reading is ideally situated in the employment-rich and picturesque Thames Valley. London Paddington is only 30 minutes away by train and both London Heathrow and Gatwick airports are within easy reach.


Your home at university is a place to live, to study, to meet friends, to socialise and - for some people - to discover independence for the first time.

Our halls provide you with a home away from home where you find yourself part of a supportive community. We offer a wide range of accommodation options. Our accommodation guarantee: A new full-time postgraduate who has accepted an offer from the University and applies for accommodation by 1 August and satisfies any conditions of their academic offer by 31 August of their year of entry, will be guaranteed accommodation in one of our Halls*. *Subject to restrictions (see our webpages for details)

law phd reading

The University of Reading is consistently rated highly by its students. Students here benefit from a beautiful campus environment, vibrant students' union, quality halls of residence, and have the skills they need to get good jobs when they graduate.

Leran more about student life at Reading.

Programs at Reading School of Law

  • Listed tuition based at a current program cost for international students.
  • UK resident tuition rate: 10,500 GBP.
  • Transnational Law
  • Development

By Research

  • Program may be completed full-time in 12 months or part-time in 24 months.

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LL.M. Application Deadlines for Fall 2021 - Law Schools in the UK & Ireland

LL.M. Application Deadlines for Fall 2021 - Law Schools in the UK & Ireland

Nov 23, 2020

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  • UK resident tuition rate: 8,100 GBP.
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10 Books Every Law Student Should Read

7 Jan, 2024 | Blog Articles , Get the Edge , Humanities Articles , Law Articles

Books stacked on a bookshelf

5. “Learning the Law” by Glanville Williams

Similar to   About Law   at number one, this book is a slightly more detailed explanation of the English legal system.

It was first published in 2002, so it’s important to note that some of the passages are a little out of date now. That said, we’ve still included it on the list as it covers lots of legal fundamentals clearly and in a good level of detail.

6. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

A second fiction book, Lee’s novel is about racism and society in 1930s America. Like   Bleak House , it’s a classic in its own right. The specific relevance to Law students is that its main character, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer tasked with defending a man shunned by everyone else.

Finch represents the legal ideals of justice and equality, and the book is a great source of inspiration for those wondering why law is important, and why rights must be protected. Legal heroes – even fictional ones! – remind us why we’re studying the law.

7. “Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories” by Thomas Grant

From a fictional hero to a real one, this is a recent book about the numerous, thrilling cases that criminal barrister Jeremy Hutchinson has been involved in. From drug smuggling to the “Profumo affair”, Hutchinson represented some of the most notorious characters to have appeared in the courts in the last century.

His techniques and his level of success in court are incredibly impressive. I recommend you read this for a taste of the thrill and importance of life as an advocate.

8. “Winning Arguments” by Jay Heinrichs

Keeping with the theme of advocacy, you might like to read Jay Heinrichs’  Winning Arguments . The theme of the book needs little explanation but has particular relevance to Law students. Much of the work you will do, both as a student and a lawyer, will involve coming up with arguments that appear to be correct (even if they aren’t), to give both sides fair representation.

Heinrichs’ book is full of good advice on how to structure your ideas and use clever rhetorical techniques. It’s also light-hearted and fun to read!

Oxford Scholastica Academy students visiting law courts as part of the Law summer school.

9. “Lord Denning, A Life” by Iris Freeman

Linking back to some of the earlier books on the list, this biography is worth a read as inspiration for any aspiring lawyers. I’ve already given a brief insight into the importance of Lord Denning and the uniqueness of his writings, so I thought I’d include his biography in case you’d like to find out more.

As well as being a great judge, Lord Denning is an important figure because he rose to such a lofty position from a very poor family, with no prior links to the law at all. While many English judges have been wealthy or even aristocratic, Lord Denning worked his way from humble beginnings to the position of Master of the Rolls (the second-highest judge in the land) and the Master of the Court of Appeal. Nor did he forget his past when he reached these heights, as his approach to the law proves.

I recommend this book because it shows that you can become a great lawyer no matter where you come from.

Jurisprudence: A Choice of Three

My last recommendation is not actually one book, but a choice of three.

Jurisprudence is the study of the philosophy of law (or why and how it exists), and Ronald Dworkin, Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart and John Stuart Mill were some of the pre-eminent thinkers in this subject.

10 (i). “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

Mill believed that the most important thing in society was the liberty of the individual. He said that the only justification for law was to prevent harm to others. 

10 (ii). “The Concept of Law” by Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart

Hart thought that law was simply a collection of man-made rules, which we create and then choose whether we’re going to follow or ignore. 

10 (iii). “Law’s Empire” by Ronald Dworkin

Dworkin, meanwhile, felt that law was a product of morality, and that law cannot exist without it. His ideas are therefore directly opposed to those of Hart, and the two authors argued about this for many years (the question remains unresolved). 

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Doctoral Programs

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How to Become a Lawyer: A Step-by-Step Guide

Full-time law programs typically require three years beyond college, and can be highly rigorous.

Step-By-Step Tips on Becoming a Lawyer

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The Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, is the traditional law school entrance exam, the one that most prospective law students take in order to qualify for law school.

Entering the legal profession is no small task, so the choice to become a lawyer should not be made lightly, experts say. Getting a license to practice law in the U.S. generally requires years of strenuous effort and often involves acquiring significant student loan debt to cover the cost of law school .

But a legal career often leads to a six-figure salary. The median annual pay among lawyers in the U.S. in May 2021 was $127,990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here are some key steps involved in becoming a lawyer.

Step 1: Learn About Legal Jobs and Careers

Someone considering a career as a lawyer should first conduct research on the legal profession. The Law School Admission Council's "Discover Law" portal , for instance, includes information about what it's like to be a lawyer and how to prepare for law school .

Linda Sugin, law professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York, advises students to talk with lawyers in their community to get a sense of the variety of job options in the field. There are many specializations to choose from, such as aviation law, sports and entertainment law , corporate law, real estate law, immigration law and criminal law .

"Lawyers are in a service profession, so our primary role is to help our clients," she says. "Aspiring lawyers need to think about their social and emotional skills, their personal resilience, as well as their intellectual skills. ... We also have an obligation to all legal institutions and to the democratic system. Young people who have a strong sense of ethical obligation, personal integrity and commitment to justice, I think those are really important attributes."

Step 2: Develop Communication and Reasoning Skills and a Strong Work Ethic

After determining that the legal profession is a good fit, students should look for academic and extracurricular experiences that will help them develop skills necessary to be a great lawyer.

Because law schools do not require specific undergraduate coursework – applicants hail from all academic backgrounds – potential attorneys have the flexibility to take the college courses that interest them most.

Steven Freedman, associate dean of admissions at the University of Kansas School of Law , advises aspiring lawyers to take at least several upper-level humanities classes, since reading, writing and research skills developed in those courses are critical to most legal jobs.

Courses in social science are also helpful, since they cultivate societal awareness and teach people skills. It's also beneficial to take analytical courses of some sort, whether in philosophy or science, technology, engineering or math – STEM fields – since logical reasoning is a fundamental component of the legal profession.

"I actually don't think that students are helped much by taking some kind of a pre-law curriculum in undergrad," Sugin says. "What law students need to do is read carefully, think critically and communicate effectively. Those are the three most important things."

One great way to prepare for a career as a lawyer is to get involved with a speech and debate team or a mock trial team. Those extracurricular activities can help students learn to argue persuasively, lawyers explain, adding that drama also provides solid preparation for a legal career since the performing arts emphasize public speaking skills.

Even an activity that doesn't initially appear to be related to the practice of law, such as playing a sport, writing for a school newspaper or doing volunteer work, could prove useful to aspiring attorneys if it helps them develop personal discipline and collaboration skills.

Step 3: Study for the LSAT or GRE

The Law School Admission Test, or LSAT , is the traditional law school entrance exam, the one that most prospective law students take in order to qualify for law school. However, prospective law students may also have the option to take the Graduate Record Examinations General Test, or GRE.

The higher the LSAT score , the more competitive a law school applicant usually is. But even if you end up with average scores, remember that admissions committees also consider other components of your application.

"Law schools take a holistic approach to reviewing candidates, and there's rarely any single factor that will get you in or keep you out of law school," Freedman says. "But it is true that law school admissions can be a competitive process. So factors like LSAT and GPA can be very important in terms of gaining admission to the schools that you're looking at. So definitely take both of those seriously."

Step 4: Get Into Law School and Earn a J.D. Degree

Some law schools are highly selective , so applicants to those schools should keep that in mind when preparing their applications. When evaluating candidates for a J.D. , or juris doctor degree, admissions officers consider multiple factors, including college GPA, test scores, the personal statement and resume .

Legal industry experts advise J.D. applicants to attend a law school that has a track record of preparing people for the type of job they desire.

Judith Szepesi, a partner with the Nicholson De Vos Webster & Elliott intellectual property law firm in Silicon Valley, suggests assessing the return on investment of a law degree at a school by comparing the cost of the degree with probable future earnings.

Full-time J.D. programs typically last three years and usually are rigorous, especially during the first year, experts say.

"Students should be looking for the best fit for them. It's not one size fits all," Sugin says. "I think it's really important for students to understand that different law schools have different cultures. They have different academic emphases, they have different alumni networks. It's a different community that you are going to enter into when you choose different law schools."

Step 5: Get Admitted to the Bar Where You Intend to Practice

To practice law in the U.S., aspiring attorneys generally must pass the bar exam in the jurisdiction where they intend to practice. And each state has it's own bar requirements. Wisconsin, for instance, offers "diploma privilege," which exempts graduates of the University of Wisconsin—Madison and Marquette University law schools from the exam.

Some state bar exams are notoriously difficult. It's important for aspiring attorneys to take them seriously and study thoroughly, experts say.

Students should soak up as much knowledge as they can during law school, since they will need that knowledge to pass the bar, says Elena Langan, dean and professor of law at Touro University's Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in New York.

J.D. students should realize that the goal of taking a law school course isn't simply to get an A; the point is to master the material covered, she says. "You, in essence start preparing for the bar exam from Day One."

Searching for a law school? Get our complete rankings of Best Law Schools.

Questions to Ask If You Want to Be a Lawyer

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Coordinated JD/PhD Program

Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

The Coordinated JD/PhD Program is designed for students interested in completing interdisciplinary work at Harvard University and is founded on the belief that students’ legal studies and their arts and sciences graduate studies can be mutually enriched through this pursuit. Students completing the coordinated program receive a JD from Harvard Law School (HLS) and a PhD from the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences  (Harvard Griffin GSAS). It is expected that these students will be strong candidates for teaching posts at law schools and in arts and sciences programs, as well as for other positions in law and academia. Prospective students interested in the coordinated program may reach out to  HLS J.D. Admissions  and the  Harvard Griffin GSAS Office of Admissions  to learn more. Current and admitted students interested in the coordinated program are encouraged to contact  April Pettit , in the Office of Academic Affairs at HLS for questions about the JD program, or  Dan Volchok , Assistant Dean of Student Success at Harvard Griffin GSAS for questions about the PhD programs.

Prospective students must separately apply to and be admitted to both HLS and a Harvard Griffin GSAS PhD program in order to participate in the coordinated JD/PhD program.

  • Students enrolled in HLS, but not yet admitted to Harvard Griffin GSAS, must apply to Harvard Griffin GSAS no later than the 2L year, meeting the Harvard Griffin GSAS application deadline for matriculation the following year.
  • Students enrolled in Harvard Griffin GSAS, but not yet admitted to HLS, should apply to HLS no later than the G3 year, meeting the HLS application deadline for matriculation the following year.
  • Please see below for details about participation in the coordinated program for Harvard Griffin GSAS students who apply and are admitted to HLS after the G3 year.

Once admitted to both schools, students must submit a proposed Plan of Study to the coordinated program no later than October 1 of the academic year following admission to both schools. Students should submit the Plan of Study to April Pettit in the Office of Academic Affairs at HLS.

Please note: Harvard Griffin GSAS students who apply to and are admitted to HLS after the G3 year at Harvard Griffin GSAS must then separately apply to the coordinated program. The application to the coordinated program should include (1) a statement detailing the way in which the student plans to integrate his or her legal studies with his or her graduate studies including how work done at HLS will inform the dissertation work and vice versa; and (2) a letter of support from the primary Harvard Griffin GSAS advisor; and (3) the Plan of Study.

The JD/PhD committee will review the applications to determine admission to the coordinated program.

Students will be registered in only one School during any given semester/term. Pursuant to ABA rules, students must  complete all requirements for the JD degree within seven years of the date they first enroll in HLS ; they may graduate from HLS before completing the PhD. Students must have satisfactorily completed at least 16 half courses in their Harvard Griffin GSAS department to receive the PhD. Students in the coordinated program will have two primary faculty advisors, one at HLS and one at Harvard Griffin GSAS, who will jointly advise students.

Students will be expected to complete the first-year program, three upper-level fall or spring semesters, and two winter terms at HLS, for a total of five fall and spring semesters and three winter terms. In lieu of the sixth HLS semester generally required of JD students, students in the coordinated program may take a semester at Harvard Griffin GSAS, completing courses or dissertation work pre-approved by HLS, and equivalent to at least 10 HLS credits. This Harvard Griffin GSAS semester may be taken only after a student has matriculated at HLS and completed their entire first year of study there. Students and their faculty advisors will determine the most appropriate sequencing for each student’s course of study, keeping in mind the HLS course, credit, and residency requirements for this program.

Course and Credit Requirements

First-year program.

The first year at HLS consists of (1) Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Legislation and Regulation, Property, and Torts; (2) First-year Legal Research and Writing; (3) January Experiential Term; and (4) a spring upper-level elective at HLS of a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 classroom credits.

Upper-Level Years

Credit and residency requirements.

Students must earn no fewer than 52 credits beyond the first year, including 36 HLS classroom credits. Classroom credits include those connected to courses, seminars and reading groups, but not writing or clinical credits. The 36 required classroom credits also include the required minimum of two credits to satisfy the Professional Responsibility Requirement and credits from the required winter terms (provided that the course chosen offers classroom credits). Of the remaining 16 required HLS credits, a maximum of ten are earned through courses or tutorials taken in Harvard Griffin GSAS and/or for dissertation writing (see below). Note that students must have their advisor’s approval before engaging in a semester of Harvard Griffin GSAS dissertation writing that is expected to count toward the HLS credit requirements . The remaining six required HLS credits may be earned in classroom, writing or clinical courses.

While at HLS, students must be enrolled in a minimum of ten total credits each semester in HLS or Harvard Griffin GSAS, with no fewer than eight of these being HLS classroom credits toward the requirement of 36 HLS classroom credits.

Winter Term Requirement

Students also must enroll in the HLS winter term two times during their upper-level years in the program. Each of the winter terms must follow a fall term enrollment or precede a spring term enrollment at HLS. Students may register for a course of two or three credits. JD/PhD students will be permitted to spend one of the winter terms in the HLS Winter Writing Program, provided they are engaged in written work for HLS credit according to the rules of that program.

Written Work Requirement

JD/PhD students must complete the JD Written Work Requirement. Students are permitted to satisfy the requirement with a portion of their dissertation, provided this work meets HLS standards for written work. However, any portion of the dissertation counted toward the JD Written Work Requirement cannot also be used as part of the 10 HLS-equivalent credits earned during a student’s Harvard Griffin GSAS semester. Further information about the J.D. Written Work Requirement and the Winter Term Writing Program is available from the HLS Registrar’s Office .

Pro Bono Requirement

JD/PhD students must complete the  HLS Pro Bono Requirement  of 50 hours of public service.

Residency Requirement

A minimum of two years of full-time study in residence is required for all PhD programs in the Harvard Griffin GSAS. During the period of registration at HLS, coordinated JD/PhD students will have “study-at-another-Harvard-school” status in Harvard Griffin GSAS.

Structure of Academic Work

Students will ordinarily be enrolled for at least four years (8 terms) in Harvard Griffin GSAS. They must complete at least 16 half courses to receive their PhD. Students may cross-register for a limited number of Harvard Griffin GSAS courses during their upper-level terms at HLS. Depending on the Harvard Griffin GSAS department, these courses may count toward the PhD. However, JD/PhD students may count a maximum of 10 credits from Harvard Griffin GSAS coursework or dissertation writing toward the JD. Therefore, students planning to spend a semester enrolled at Harvard Griffin GSAS taking courses or writing the dissertation for which they will earn 10 HLS credits may not also count cross-registered Harvard Griffin GSAS courses toward the JD.

General Examinations

In most departments, once having completed the required coursework, students must pass a general examination or other preliminary or qualifying examinations before undertaking independent research on a dissertation. Normally, when the nature of the field and previous preparation permit, students should pass these examinations by the end of the second year of full-time academic residence.

PhD Dissertation

The student’s dissertation prospectus must be approved by the department. A student who wishes to present as a dissertation a published article, series of articles, book or other document, or a manuscript that has been accepted for publication, must have the approval of the department concerned. In no case, however, may a dissertation be presented that has already been submitted toward another degree, either at Harvard or elsewhere. The Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must be signed by at least three readers approved by the student’s department, two of whom must be members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). FAS emeriti (including research professors) and faculty members from other schools at Harvard who hold appointments on GSAS degree committees are authorized to sign the Dissertation Acceptance Certificates as FAS members. GSAS strongly recommends that the chair of the dissertation committee be a member of FAS. The third reader may be a member of the HLS faculty.

Requirement of Satisfactory Status

Continuous registration, a satisfactory grade record, and evidence that satisfactory progress is being made toward the degree are required of all candidates for graduate degrees offered by FAS. All students in Harvard Griffin GSAS must be making satisfactory progress in order to be eligible for any type of financial aid and teaching. The following five provisions are the general definition of satisfactory progress during registration in Harvard Griffin GSAS:

  • During the first two years of graduate study any student who has completed expected requirements is considered to be making satisfactory progress.
  • In each of the first two years, a student must have achieved the minimum grade-point average required by the faculty, a B average. (see Harvard Griffin GSAS Policies: Grade and Examination Requirements ).
  • By the end of the third year, a student must have passed general examinations or the departmental equivalent.
  • By the end of the fourth year, a student must have obtained approval of a dissertation prospectus or its departmental equivalent.
  • By the end of the fifth year and each subsequent year during which a student is allowed to register, they must have produced at least one acceptable chapter of the dissertation.

For more information about satisfactory progress, please see Harvard Griffin GSAS Policies .

Other Requirements

Ordinarily, programs will have a language requirement and an expectation of teaching. Students should consult with their Harvard Griffin GSAS departments for more information about these requirements.

There are a number of possible academic schedules for students pursuing both degrees. Three sequences are outlined below, but students may propose alternative sequences. In considering their courses of study, students should be aware that their financial aid packages might be affected at the school in which they defer enrollment.

Year 1: HLS Year 2: Harvard Griffin GSAS Year 3: Harvard Griffin GSAS Year 4: HLS Year 5: 1st term, HLS Year 5: 2nd term, Harvard Griffin GSAS (earning the equivalent of 10 HLS credits in dissertation work) Following year(s): Harvard Griffin GSAS until completion of dissertation

Year 1: Harvard Griffin GSAS Year 2: Harvard Griffin GSAS Year 3: HLS Year 4: Harvard Griffin GSAS Year 5: HLS Year 6: 1st term, HLS Year 6: 2nd term, Harvard Griffin GSAS (earning the equivalent of 10 HLS credits in dissertation work) Following year(s): Harvard Griffin GSAS until completion of dissertation

Year 1: HLS Year 2: HLS Year 3: Harvard Griffin GSAS Year 4: Harvard Griffin GSAS Year 5: 1st term, HLS Year 5: 2nd term, Harvard Griffin GSAS (earning the equivalent of 10 HLS credits in dissertation work) Following year(s): Harvard Griffin GSAS until completion of dissertation

Updated Plans of Study

By October 1 each year, current JD/PhD students should submit an updated Plan of Study to April Pettit, in the HLS Office of Academic Affairs.

Other Academic Information

Faculty advising.

Students in the program will have primary faculty advisors at both HLS and at Harvard Griffin GSAS. If possible, HLS faculty advisors should be selected before the completion of the 2L year. The HLS faculty advisor must sign off on any dissertation writing a student expects to use for JD credit. In some Harvard Griffin GSAS departments, the director of graduate studies serves as the faculty advisor during the first two years of study. Faculty advisors will supervise students’ academic work, advise students on their courses of study and on specific classes appropriate for their PhD work, and approve the courses of study for their students on an annual basis. If appropriate, the HLS advisor will be the third reader on the student’s dissertation committee, with at least two readers required to be members of FAS.

Leaving the JD/PhD Program

If a student fails to make adequate progress toward the PhD, the student’s faculty advisors will be permitted to withdraw the student from the program. In such cases, in order to receive the JD degree, a student will still need to meet the graduation and credit requirements for the JD degree.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Harvard law school.

Students must pay five semesters of full tuition. Students will be eligible for HLS financial aid for all semesters during which they pay tuition to HLS. For more information on Financial Aid, visit the Student Financial Services Financial Aid webpage .

Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

The minimum financial requirement for the PhD is at least four terms of full tuition followed by two years of reduced tuition and a facilities fee unless the degree is completed in less than four years. The financial aid awarded upon admission to the PhD program is available during those terms in which the student is enrolled in Harvard Griffin GSAS. Students should refer to their notice of financial support provided by their department upon admission to Harvard Griffin GSAS. Students should consult with their GSAS departments for more information.

Administrative Information

The HLS Registrar’s Office, the FAS Registrar’s Office, the GSAS Assistant Dean of Student Success, the HLS Associate Director of Academic Affairs, and the appropriate financial aid officers, will coordinate on students’ registration status and updated plans of study.

Housing and Student Life

GSAS and HLS will work together to ensure that the student services offered by both Schools are available to JD/PhD students during all their years in the Coordinated Program, including career and counseling offices, financial aid offices, student centers, and alumni offices. Students in the coordinated program will have email accounts at both schools throughout the program. Disability services and visa requirements will be coordinated on a case-by-case basis by the HLS Dean of Students and Registrar and by the Harvard Griffin GSAS Assistant Dean for Student Success. Students may apply for housing through either School for the years in which they are enrolled for at least one semester/term at both Schools. In all other years, students must apply for housing to the School in which they are enrolled.

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Ralph Arumah Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Ralph Arumah’s Inspiring Path to Big Law.

Beginning in elementary school and throughout his middle and high school years, those in Ralph's inner circle sensed something special about him. Gifted in academics, particularly in reading and writing, he earned the nickname "Spokesman" among teachers and peers.

"Reading and writing were my strengths, and I could really articulate my thoughts as a child," says Ralph. "I found joy in advocating for my friends, stepping in when they faced challenges with their parents or at school. It felt natural to use my abilities to help others."

As he matured, Ralph began contemplating his future career. The inspiration struck when he observed his father's friend, a lawyer with a rich vocabulary.

"As a teenager, my dad's friend, who was a lawyer, impressed me with his use of big words. I thought, 'I want to be like him because he can speak English,'" says Ralph. "I thought about how my reading and writing skills could transition to the field of law, and that's when I decided to pursue a legal career."

Ralph's academic journey unfolded at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he earned his Bachelor of Laws in 2016. Subsequently, he secured his Barrister at Law certificate from Nigerian Law School in 2017. Despite two fulfilling years as an Associate Attorney in Nigeria, Ralph felt a void.

"While in Nigeria, I read about monumental deals in America, such as those involving Fortune 500 companies. I aspired to be part of such transactions, so I decided to move to America and further my education," explains Ralph.

In 2020, Ralph achieved his Master of Laws (LLM) from the University of Illinois College of Law. This marked the beginning of his professional journey as a law clerk and later as an appeals hearing officer. However, Ralph realized that to reach his dream career in Big Law, he needed to conquer a significant hurdle – the bar exam in the United States.

For foreign-trained lawyers, navigating the U.S. bar exam is challenging. Many states mandate a J.D. degree from a U.S. law school, posing a considerable barrier. Yet, undeterred, Ralph opted for New York, where the process proved more accessible for international lawyers with foreign credentials.

"I knew it would be a lengthy process, but I chose New York because it's more accommodating for international lawyers. Once I submitted my transcript from Nigerian law school, I could take the bar exam," Ralph says.

June 2023 marked a pivotal moment for Ralph as he was sworn into the State Bar of New York, officially earning the title of a licensed attorney in NY. His journey didn't end after he passed the bar exam; still driven by an unwavering ambition, Ralph decided to take his qualifications further by pursuing a JD program.

"At Iowa Law, the Advanced Standing program was the perfect fit for me. After law school in Nigeria and an LLM at the University of Illinois, the two-year program offered by Iowa Law was ideal," says Ralph.

The Advanced Standing program at Iowa Law provides foreign-trained lawyers an accelerated path to a JD, condensing the traditional six-semester program into four. However, it was more than the program’s efficiency that drew Ralph to Iowa Law.

"The success of Iowa Law alumni was a major factor for me. I noticed many graduates securing prominent positions, and the school's commitment to assisting students and providing resources for job placement impressed me," Ralph says. "Witnessing the accomplishments of my senior colleagues sealed the deal."

Set to graduate from Iowa Law in December 2024, Ralph envisions a career in transactional law. His interest in this field stems from the vibrant trade economy in Africa, a fascination that has grown during his academic exploration in Iowa.

"Transactional law has always intrigued me, but the Emerging Companies class at Iowa Law grew my interest. It encompasses all aspects of corporate law. I’ve been able to envision starting my own company from scratch, navigating regulations, compliance, and finances," shares Ralph.

Beyond academics, Ralph says it’s the people who have enriched his experience at Iowa Law. Classmates, particularly those from Nigeria, have provided crucial support during the challenging law school journey.

"I cherish my classmates, especially those from Nigeria. Navigating law school and dealing with tuition was tough. Having people who understand my background and can offer support during difficult times is invaluable," acknowledges Ralph. "Friends like Lex and Alex have made a positive impact on my law school experience, especially during the job search process. We always encourage each other, saying things like, 'If I can do it, you can do it too.”

Lex Dosunmu, who also grew up in Nigeria and received his LLM degree at the University of Illinois, shares a unique bond with Ralph, understanding the challenges Ralph has overcome on a personal level. Much like Ralph, Lex cherishes his invaluable friendships at Iowa Law.

“Ralph has been a great support to me in several ways. Our friendship, most importantly, has helped to foster the right kind of mindset, focus, and mental stability required to navigate the academic rigors of law school,” says Lex. “Just knowing that you’re in this together with someone with whom you share similar career goals, similar barriers to success, and similar ambition to make it against all odds is more support than any words can quantify. We have each other to talk to on demand and to share not just academic concerns with but also life’s twists and turns and everyday challenges.”

Alex Okafor, another close friend of Ralph, resonates with Lex’s appreciation for Ralph’s support throughout their law school journey.

“My relationship with Ralph has been very impactful, and we have grown to be more like brothers,” says Alex. “Ralph supported me during my OCI application and interviews as he connected me with colleagues who shared tips with me on some law firms I was interested in before I finally got an offer.”

In addition to his invaluable friendships, Ralph extends his gratitude to the professors at Iowa Law, with special acknowledgment to Dean Wing, whom he serves as a research assistant.

"Dean Wing is not just a supervisor; she is someone I genuinely care about. As a minority, her encouragement and support have been ongoing. I've learned a lot beyond the field of law from her," Ralph says.

Dean Wing reciprocates the admiration. “Ralph is a very thoughtful and inquisitive student. All his skills will serve him well in big law in the United States and abroad,” she says.

After years of attending school alongside Ralph, Lex echoes Dean Wing’s unwavering confidence in Ralph's future success.

“ Ralph is one of the smartest, innovative, resourceful, diligent, and conscientious people I know. I am without any doubt that his talent and creativity, people skills, and ability to network with others and cultivate great relationships with people from diverse backgrounds will stand him out in practice among his peers wherever he may find himself within corporate America.”

As Ralph continues his academic journey, he reflects on the significance of cultural awareness, especially during Black History Month.

"Black History Month is a new experience for me. In Nigeria, I never felt like a minority because everyone is black. But here, being in the mix of different cultures, I understand the significance of celebrating black history," says Ralph.

Although Black History Month is new for Ralph, he appreciates Iowa Law's commitment to cultural recognition.

"Coming from Nigeria, I never understood the concept of intersectionality and how it has negatively impacted the confidence of black Americans in pursuing their dreams,” he says. “In Nigeria, there are only black lawyers, there are only black doctors. When I first came to the United States, I felt like I had to find my own place. Growing up, I never witnessed my parents having to do that because they were like everyone else. Now, I strive to understand that perspective, and celebrating Black History Month here at Iowa Law provides the perfect opportunity."

Through his experiences, Ralph imparts a valuable message to incoming law students with a similar background: "Don't rush. Pursue a JD when you feel confident and have gathered the resources. It's okay to seek help when needed. Law school is stressful for everyone, and having a supportive network makes a world of difference."

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Biden Puts Forward Trial Court Judge for Seventh Circuit Seat

By Tiana Headley

Tiana Headley

President Joe Biden plans to nominate federal trial judge Nancy Maldonado to a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Maldonado currently sits on the Chicago-based Northern District of Illinois, appointed by Biden to that seat in 2022.

The Columbia Law graduate was previously a partner at Miner, Barnhill & Galland in Chicago and a former clerk for US District Judge Rubén Castillo on the Northern District of Illinois.

Biden also announced on Wednesday his intention to nominate four candidates for trial courts and two for US attorney positions.

Georgia Alexakis, an assistant US attorney, is Biden’s pick for a trial court seat on the Northern District of Illinois. She’s been chief of appeals for the criminal division in the US Attorney’s office there since 2022, and a line attorney between 2013 and 2021.

Krissa M. Lanham, an assistant US attorney, has been tapped for a judgeship on the District of Arizona. She’s been the appellate chief in the district’s US Attorney’s office since 2020, and was previously deputy appellate chief and human trafficking coordinator.

Also tapped for a trial seat on the District of Arizona, Angela Martinez has been a US magistrate judge there since 2023. She was previously an assistant US attorney in the district from 2015 to 2023.

Biden’s pick for the District of Columbia’s trial bench, Sparkle Sooknanan, has been the principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division since 2023. She’s also a former Jones Day partner.

Biden’s intended US attorney pick for the Northern District of Iowa is Matthew Gannon, first assistant attorney general in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office from 2021 to 2023.

For the Southern District of Iowa, David Waterman of the law firm Lane & Waterman has been tapped for the top lawyer post. He was previously an assistant US attorney for the Middle District of Florida from 2016 to 2020.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tiana Headley at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at [email protected] ; John Crawley at [email protected]

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Murders of women in Kenya lead to a public outcry for a law on femicide

Jacky Habib

Content Warning: The following story references graphic violence and descriptions of murder.

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Activists march through the Central Business District of Nairobi on Jan. 27 at a demonstration calling for government action to address the murders of young women. Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Activists march through the Central Business District of Nairobi on Jan. 27 at a demonstration calling for government action to address the murders of young women.

Hashtags like #WeAreNotSafe, #StopKillingWomen and #EndFemicideKE are trending in Kenya.

They reflect an intense national debate over a series of murders that have rocked the country. In the month of January, 30 women were murdered, according to data compiled by the grassroots organization Usikimye (Swahili for "don't be silent"), whose mission is to end gender-based violence, working with other feminist and human rights groups.

The Kenya Police Service does not track murders by gender.

Usikimye and its partners said they have verified cases with relatives of the deceased and published information online, sometimes naming the women and stating how they believe they were murdered: "stabbed," "beaten," "hit with hammer."

Two of the January murders received widespread attention because the women were murdered in short-term rental accommodations while allegedly on dates. Like many of the January cases, these two murders were marked by brutality.

Police investigators have revealed gruesome details of these and other cases, citing strangulation, deep cuts, decapitations, dismemberment and victims' breasts being cut off.

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According to data compiled by activist groups, 30 women were murdered in Kenya in January. Public protests have called on the government to take steps to address gender-based violence and effectively prosecute perpetrators. Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

According to data compiled by activist groups, 30 women were murdered in Kenya in January. Public protests have called on the government to take steps to address gender-based violence and effectively prosecute perpetrators.

Njeri Migwi, the executive director of Usikimye, which is one of several organizations spearheading efforts for reform, suspects that the actual number of murders is higher than what has been verified or reported in the media. She believes some cases go unreported.

According to Stephen Muite , a cultural and gender researcher at Nairobi's Kenyatta University, murders sometimes go unreported when the suspected murderer is the victim's spouse.

Africa Data Hub examined available records for women who were murdered in Kenya between 2016 and 2023 and found that in two-thirds of cases , the perpetrator was a partner they currently or previously were intimate with; husbands were the main culprits, followed by boyfriends.

"In Kenya, you find that marriage is an institution that is private. You will find that [a woman] can be killed by her husband, and a clan wants to solve this issue at a family level," Muite says, rather than pursuing legal action. That may mean approaching a religious or community leader for their advice on how to resolve the matter, which may include requiring the perpetrator to compensate the victim's family.

Asking for a legal charge for 'femicide'

A key demand from the protesters: the establishment of "femicide" as a separate legal charge from homicide. That was one of the calls in nationwide marches on January 27 to demand action, with an estimated 20,000 Kenyans participating.

It's a topic that Morris Tidball-Binz has investigated as the author of a report presented to the U.N. General Assembly last year.

"The definition of femicide is pretty straightforward and simple," says Tidball-Binz, a physician who specializes in forensic science and human rights. "It is the killing of women and girls because they're women."

According to the United Nations: "Gender-related killings (femicide/feminicide) are the most brutal and extreme manifestation of violence against women and girls. Defined as an intentional killing with a gender-related motivation, femicide may be driven by stereotyped gender roles, discrimination towards women and girls, unequal power relations between women and men, or harmful social norms."

In Kenya, over 270 local groups, including community-based organizations, youth advocacy groups and legal clinics, have signed a statement asking the government to introduce femicide as a legal charge. Their rationale is that taking this step will acknowledge "the distinct and misogynistic nature" of these crimes and bring increased awareness to gender-based killings, particularly given a landscape they say is prone to victim-shaming.

This effort in Kenya comes after at least 16 countries have enacted laws that specify charges for the killings of women.

Costa Rica was the first, introducing a law against femicide in 2007 calling for a prison sentence of 20 to 35 years for perpetrators – almost double the possible length of prison sentences for homicide. The law, however, only applies to victims who are killed by their partner in a conjugal relationship. And according to research published in 2022 in the Minnesota Journal of International Law, laws relating to gender-based and sexual violence in Costa Rica, including femicide, are "implemented incorrectly or not at all."

Tomasz Milej , a professor at Nairobi's Kenyatta University who lectures on the intersection of international law and social issues, believes that if Kenya introduces a femicide charge, it will not deter perpetrators from committing this crime and that the county won't necessarily see a decrease in cases.

Criminals don't sit around calculating possible sentences to decide if a crime is worth it, he told NPR. However, Milej believes introducing femicide as a charge would have other positive social benefits.

"It is a message that legislators convey that [femicide] is serious and this is something we need to address. This message alone is important," he says. "Law enforcement officers will be more keen to protect women, and society will be more alert to such cases — this is the function of criminal law."

"The fact that there is legislation on gender-based violence and femicide is a first step that needs to happen," says Beatriz Nice , the lead for the gender-based violence project at the Wilson Center, a D.C-based think tank. "But it's insufficient. It needs to come accompanied with government training for the health and legal sector for best practices on how to prevent and assess the crime" — instructing detectives how to investigate deaths of women, which are sometimes characterized as suicide or accidental death; stronger efforts to prevent domestic violence; and just compensation for the families of women who are murdered

Protests continue but the government is silent

Demonstrators in Nairobi are calling on the government to establish femicide as a distinct legal category of murder.

Those are all goals that the Kenyan protesters support. The petition to the government demands 16 points of action. It asks the government to declare femicide a national crisis, to set up a commission to investigate violence against women, to take decisive action against perpetrators and to guarantee speedy and effective trials of gender-based violence cases.

"This legislation must provide explicit definitions of violence against women and femicide, ensure the inclusion of the crimes of violence against women and femicide into Kenya's Penal Code, and impose severe penalties for perpetrators," the statement reads.

Kenyan President William Ruto has yet to respond to this petition or comment on the murders, even as fellow politicians, including Esther Passaris, the Nairobi County Woman Representative in Parliament, have urged him to speak on the issue. NPR reached out to the president's spokesperson, who did not respond in time for publication.

Passaris herself has been criticized for her weeks of silence following several highly-publicized murders. While the first high-profile murder case occurred on January 3, it wasn't until the march on January 27 that Passaris addressed the issue publicly. But when she attended the demonstration in Nairobi, she was whisked away by her security guards as crowds booed and chanted, "Where were you? What did you do?"

On social media, Passaris wrote that she was involved in planning the march from its inception and stated that she was booed because she was "the available punching bag to let out frustrations and to settle political scores." She did not respond to NPR's request for comment.

"The government is playing deaf. It's like, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," says Migwi of the activist group Usikimye. "Despite a huge march where we spoke with one voice [calling for action], the government hasn't said anything."

These activists are now facing a backlash.

On January 26, a small group of women in Nairobi silently demonstrated in the city's downtown, holding signs with various slogans on ending femicide. They met a hostile reception. In a now-viral video, two men approach the demonstrators, yelling that they are fed up with women taking financial advantage of men. They threaten to slash women and encourage one another to kill "as many as you can."

"Men have suffered because of these women ... We are going to kill you ... You women are going to die," the men yell at the peaceful demonstrators.

Tidball-Binz, the author of the U.N. report on femicide, says that "those reactions are part and parcel of the problem. If you didn't have those reactions you wouldn't need the movement that is underway in Kenya."

Advocates such as Irũngũ Houghton , the executive director of Amnesty International Kenya, have spoken out about what they say is rampant toxic masculinity and misogyny in tabloids and social media which suggest the women were killed because they disrespected and disobeyed men, or were "immoral" — with widespread speculation that some of the murdered women, particularly those who were murdered in short-term rental accommodations, engaged in sex while unmarried, which many Kenyans consider taboo, or may have been sex workers.

Participants in the country-wide protests held signs in response to these sentiments, including one stating: "Every time you blame the victim, you affirm the murderer."

Jacky Habib is a freelance journalist based in Nairobi. She reports on social justice, women's rights and global development. Follow her on X @jackyhabib and read more of her work on her website.

Florida law blasted after permission slip sent to hear Black author’s book

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A controversial “parental rights” law in Florida is facing renewed scrutiny after a rule about parental permission slips sparked confusion at a Miami elementary school when it asked parents to sign a slip allowing their children to hear a guest speaker read a book “written by an African-American.”

Charles Walter, a parent of two at Coral Way K-8 Center in Miami, shared a Miami-Dade Public Schools permission slip on social media Monday that described an in-school library event for his daughter’s first-grade class. The students would “participate & listen to a book written by an African-American,” while guests for the activity were described as “fireman/doctor/artist.”

“I had to give permission for this or else my child would not participate???” Walter wrote on X. He told The Washington Post in an interview this was the first parental permission slip he received since the policy took effect last fall but has since received others.

The state rule in question is an extension of a “parental bill of rights” Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed in 2022. DeSantis touted the bill of rights and other education reforms as a way to help parents combat what he and other conservative figures claimed was “liberal indoctrination” woven through the K-12 and higher education system. Now, critics of the law are saying its vague language and the lack of clarification by state officials is sowing confusion and having a chilling effect on educators.

The Miami-Dade Public School District did not respond to specific questions about the permission slip protocols but in a statement acknowledged the description of the event “may have caused confusion, and we are working with our schools to reemphasize the importance of clarity for parents in describing activities/events that would require parental permission.”

“However, in compliance with State Law, permission slips were sent home because guest speakers would participate during a school-authorized education-related activity,” the statement continued.

Florida Board of Education Chairman Ben Gibson argued that Coral Way leaders misread the rule — and said the rule is so obvious that those advising Coral Way on the permission slip policy were “grossly misinterpreting” the rule or intentionally misapplying it for political reasons.

“Obviously, it is wrong to interpret the rule to require parental permission for students to receive ordinary instruction, including subjects required by state law and Department rule,” Gibson wrote in a letter to Coral Way’s principal.

While Gibson’s letter said Coral Way was the only school he knew of to misinterpret the state law and called the rule “obvious,” another Miami-Dade County school ran into similar confusion just one week earlier.

Parents at iPrep Academy in Miami were asked to sign a permission form if their child wanted to participate in “ … class and school wide presentations showcasing the achievements and recognizing the rich and diverse traditions, histories, and innumerable contributions of the Black communities,” Miami news station WPLG reported.

IPrep’s permission slip request similarly drew confusion and anger, while the Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said in a statement that “Florida does not require a permission slip to teach African American history or to celebrate Black History Month.”

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education did not provided clarification on whether the department’s rule requires parental permission slips any time guest speakers are present, regardless of the activity, saying, “The Commissioner’s comments and the letter from Chairman Gibson speak for themselves.”

Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, is among the law’s critics who believe parents have the right to guide their child’s education, but that Florida’s laws are hamstringing educators.

“The issue in Miami underscores the confusion created by the Governor and the Florida Department of Education — they have created a climate of fear in our state and districts are concerned that any education decision can be challenged,” Spar said in a statement.

State Sen. Shevrin Jones (D) took particular umbrage with Commissioner Diaz and other DeSantis-aligned leaders at the FDOE dismissing the confusion over a policy they crafted as a “hoax” or a media invention.

“Let’s be clear: it’s not a hoax, it’s a reality,” Jones said, noting DeSantis followed up the parental bill of rights with the “Stop WOKE Act” that limits how concepts about race can be taught in schools.

“And if it’s a hoax in [Diaz’s] opinion, I’d like to have any leader clarify what does the law say? What should admins in school districts be doing? It was presented by the legislature, by the governor, through the Department of Education. So if it’s not true, the commissioner should clarify.”

Walter, the Coral Way parent, believes most parents were surprised to get the parental consent form. He praised Coral Way’s principal as doing a “great job” at navigating confusion created by the school district and the state.

And while Walter said he welcomes strong communication between parents and schools, he sees clear flaws in the permission-slip policy, including the fact that it’s opt-in, meaning by default, students can’t participate in a designated activity unless their parents have given written consent.

“I commend the school for continuing to offer enrichment activities in light of additional policies that are being requested,” Walter said. “My only concern is how this gets rolled out statewide, and if it might discourage other schools from offering extracurriculars.”

Walter also worried about what the permission-slip policy means for student’s getting exposure to activities their parents dislike, regardless of merit. He never learned specifically which book “written by an African American” was read at his daughter’s library activity on Tuesday but said none of the parents opted out.

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A Legal Showdown on the Border Between the U.S. and Texas: What to Know

A court in Austin heard oral arguments in the federal government’s bid to block Texas from imposing a wide-ranging new immigration law.

Officers in Border Patrol uniforms talk to several people standing near a large border wall.

By J. David Goodman

Reporting from Austin

The Biden administration is suing the State of Texas over a new state law that would empower state and local police officers to arrest migrants who cross from Mexico without authorization.

On Thursday, a federal court in Austin heard three hours of arguments over whether to halt the implementation of the law, which is set to go into effect on March 5.

The case has far-reaching implications for the future of immigration law and border enforcement and has been closely watched across the country. It comes amid fierce political fighting between the parties — and within them — over how to handle illegal immigration and follows the impeachment by House Republicans of the secretary of homeland security , and the failure of a bipartisan Senate deal to bolster security at the border.

Texas has argued that its law is necessary to deter migrants from crossing illegally, as has happened in record numbers over the past year. The Biden administration argues that the law conflicts with federal law and violates the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government authority over immigration matters.

The judge hearing the case, David A. Ezra of the Western District of Texas, was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan. He had frequent questions, particularly when the lawyer representing the Texas attorney general was speaking, and appeared skeptical of the law.

“Let’s say for the purpose of argument that I agree with you,” Judge Ezra told the state’s lawyer, Ryan Walters. California might then want to pass its own immigration and deportation law, he said. Maybe then Maine would follow, he added, and then other states.

“That turns us from the United States of America into a confederation of states,” Judge Ezra said. “What a nightmare.”

What does the Texas law say?

The law passed by the Texas Legislature, known as Senate Bill 4 , makes it a crime to cross into Texas from a foreign country anywhere other than a legal port of entry, usually the international bridges from Mexico.

Under the law, known as S.B. 4, any migrant seen by the police wading across the Rio Grande could be arrested and charged in state court with a misdemeanor on the first offense. A second offense would be a felony. After being arrested, migrants could be ordered during the court process to return to Mexico or face prosecution if they don’t agree to go.

Texas lawmakers said they had designed S.B. 4 to closely follow federal law, which already bars illegal entry. The new law effectively allows state law enforcement officers all over Texas to conduct what until now has been the U.S. Border Patrol’s work.

It allows for migrants to be prosecuted for the new offense up to two years after they cross into Texas.

How does it challenge federal immigration authority?

Lawyers for the Biden administration argue that the Texas law conflicts with numerous federal laws passed by Congress that provide for a process for handling immigration proceedings and deportations.

The administration says the law interferes with the federal government’s foreign diplomacy role, pointing to complaints already lodged against Texas’ border actions by the government of Mexico. The Mexican authorities said they “rejected” any legislation that would allow the state or local authorities to send migrants, most of whom are not Mexican, back over the border to Mexico.

The fight over the law is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, legal experts have said . If so, it will give the 6-to-3 conservative majority a chance to revisit a 2012 case stemming from Arizona’s attempt to take on immigration enforcement responsibilities. That case, Arizona v United States, was narrowly decided in favor of the power of the federal government to set immigration policy.

Immigrant organizations, civil rights advocates and some Texas Democrats have criticized the law because it could make it more difficult for migrants being persecuted in their home countries to seek asylum, and it does not protect legitimate asylum seekers from prosecution in state courts.

Critics have also said that the law could lead to racial profiling because it allows law enforcement officers even far from the border to arrest anyone they suspect of having entered illegally in the previous two years. The result, they warn, could lead to improper traffic stops and arrests of anyone who looks Hispanic.

Wait, didn’t the Supreme Court already rule against Texas?

Not in this case.

Texas and the Biden administration have been battling for months over immigration enforcement on several legal fronts.

One case involves the placement by Texas of a 1,000-foot barrier of buoys in the middle of the Rio Grande, which Gov. Greg Abbott said would deter crossings. The federal government sued, arguing that the barrier violated a federal law over navigable rivers. In December, a federal appeals court sided with the Biden administration, ordering Texas to remove the barrier from the middle of the river while the case moved forward.

A second case involves Border Patrol agents’ cutting or removing of concertina wire — installed by the Texas authorities on the banks of the Rio Grande — in cases where agents need to assist migrants in the river or detain people who have crossed the border. The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, filed a lawsuit claiming that Border Patrol agents who removed the wire were destroying state property.

It was a fight over an injunction in that case that reached the Supreme Court on an emergency application. The justices, without giving their reasons, sided with the Biden administration , allowing border agents to cut or remove the wire when they need to while further arguments are heard in the case at the lower court level.

Why the stakes are higher now

Unlike the other cases, the battle over S.B. 4 involves a direct challenge by Texas to what courts and legal experts have said has been the federal government’s unique role: arresting, detaining and possibly deporting migrants at the nation’s borders.

“This will be a momentous decision,” said Fatma E. Marouf, a law professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the Texas A&M University School of Law. “If they uphold this law, it will be a whole new world. It’s hard to imagine what Texas couldn’t do, if this were allowed.”

The federal government is seeking an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect next month.

“S.B. 4 is clearly invalid under settled precedent,” said Brian Boynton, who presented the Justice Department’s case.

“There is nothing in S.B. 4 that affords people the rights they have under federal law,” he said, later adding that the law would interfere with foreign affairs and the actions of the Department of Homeland Security.

Lawyers for Texas argued that the new law would not conflict with existing federal law. “This is complementary legislation,” said Mr. Walters, a lawyer for the state.

But Judge Ezra expressed concern that the law did not allow a judge to pause a prosecution for illegally entering Texas in the case of someone applying for asylum, calling that provision of the Texas law “troublesome” and “very problematic.”

“It just slaps the federal immigration law in the face,” he said.

Texas argued that the record number of migrant arrivals at the Texas border constituted an “invasion” that Texas had the power to defend itself against under Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits states from engaging in war on their own “unless actually invaded.”

The state has cited the same constitutional provision in the other pending cases between Texas and the federal government. But legal experts said the argument was a novel one.

And Judge Ezra appeared unconvinced on Thursday, as he had been when the same argument was presented last year in the buoy barrier case, which he decided in favor of the federal government .

“I do not see any evidence that Texas is at war,” he said on Thursday.

Before adjourning, the judge turned to Mr. Walters, the Texas lawyer, and said that he would work quickly to issue his decision so that if the state wanted to appeal before March 5, “you can.” He then turned to the federal government’s lawyers and added: “Either of you.”

J. David Goodman is the Houston bureau chief for The Times, reporting on Texas and Oklahoma. More about J. David Goodman

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Gabriela Rodriguez.

‘Common practice’ to take leftovers, says cleaner sacked over tuna sandwich

Gabriela Rodriguez, who is taking former employer to tribunal, thanks trade union for its support

The cleaner sacked for taking a discarded £1.50 tuna sandwich from a meeting room at a top City law firm has said it was “common practice” for staff to take leftovers for their own lunches.

Gabriela Rodriguez was let go by contractor Total Clean for taking “client property … without authority or reasonable excuse” after she was accused of taking a sandwich from the offices of Devonshires Solicitors from a platter after a meeting.

She said she had been “thankful” for the protests on her behalf by the United Voices of the World (UVW) union, and is overwhelmed by the widespread public outrage.

“I feel listened to, protected and supported, and I’m thankful because the union has poured themselves on to this situation to support me,” Rodriguez said.

She added: “On a normal day some sandwiches were left in the canteen after meetings of lawyers; it was a common practice for people to help themselves for lunchtime.

“It was almost at the end of my shift – quarter to two in the afternoon – and I took one and put it in the fridge.

“A week later, I was called 15 minutes before the end of my shift. I was then suspended without pay pending further investigation.”

The UVW contends that the request for Rodriguez’s removal from the site was discriminatory and is taking Total Clean and Devonshires Solicitors to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Rodriguez intends to study English and complete a health and social care university qualification. She now feels a duty to “work like crazy” to support her 10-year-old daughter and her elderly mother due to the rising cost of living.

Ecuadorian-born Rodriguez, who has Spanish citizenship, has lived in London since 2008, having been a human resources administrator at a big corporation in Spain.

Since the tuna affair, she has been working as a cleaner in other office spaces. She still sees England as a “land for opportunity”, she said.

Rodriguez currently works from the morning until late evening with a “small gap” at 3pm. Her mother helps her with childcare but that has not prevented her from dreaming of overcoming what she describes as a “temporary” situation.

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“I have to work really hard as a single mother,” she said. “I am indignant about the way they have treated me. People are too scared, they have fear [and] don’t look for help.

“Because they don’t join a union, they have left their job when they have been treated badly and … there has been no punishment for treating people like this. I told myself I’m not going to be like that – I’m going to speak up and this is my right.”

A Total Clean spokesperson said the company would be making no further comment on the matter.

Devonshires Solicitors said it had not made a formal complaint against Rodriguez and had expressly told Total Clean not to take any action against her. The firm would not object to Rodriguez working on its premises if Total Clean changes its position, a spokesperson said.

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