Latin America Project


LL.M. Specialization in Gender and the Law

Law schools are being challenged today to address effectively, creatively and critically the "globalization" of the economy, politics, and legal norms. Emerging theory on gender and the law increasingly has explored the meaning of women?s experiences in diverse cultural, political and economic contexts. This theory has enhanced our understanding of how the law does and can, in these different contexts, affect the relationship among the state, society and individuals. Furthermore, gender theory has contributed to modifications in the traditional law school curriculum and to the development of new pedagogies, including in the area of clinical education. 

In the Fall of 1997, the Washington College of Law of American University established a new LL.M. specialization in Gender and the Law as part of its International Legal Studies Program. The specialization includes a set of courses incorporating international, comparative and domestic approaches to legal issues of importance to women?s lives. It has been designed to meet the needs of LL.M. students interested in an advanced legal studies program focused on gender, as well as students concentrating in international human rights, trade, business and environmental law who would like to enrich their academic experience.

The Washington College of Law, with established programs in international law and women?s rights, is an ideal institutional setting for such program. It was founded in 1896 by two women and has a long tradition of commitment to women?s full and equal participation in society. In 1984, the Law School renewed this commitment by starting a Women and the Law Program directed by Professor Ann Shalleck. The program?s goals include changing legal education to incorporate the experiences of women into all aspects of curriculum and teaching; contributing to research and advocacy concerning women and the law; and furthering awareness of the ways that the law affects women?s lives. 


The Women and the Law Program?s two-fold approach to curriculum development --developing specialized courses that analyze the relationship of gender and the law and focus on the impact of the law on women?s experiences and integrating gender throughout the law school curriculum-- has guided us in creating an advanced legal studies program. Courses that address issues involving women and the law are an integral part of our curriculum. Many of these courses form part of the LL.M. specialization in Gender and the Law. In addition, current course offerings within the LL.M. program, including International Law, Human Rights and Comparative Law, have been enriched or modified to form part of the new specialization. Course offerings include the following:


619. Comparative Law
626. Human Rights
636. Family Law
637. Battered Women & the Law 
656. Asylum and Refugee Law
660. International Law 
663. Jurisprudence
665. Private Workplace Law
666. Employment Rights Law
668. Employment Discrimination
669. Worker Rights in the Global Economy
676. Gender & the Law
678. Women?s Legal History 
682. Private Law & Public Rights: Equality & Discrimination in

691. Sex-Based Discrimination 
808. International Business& Human Rights 
815. Feminist Jurisprudence 
816. Economic, Social, & Cultural Rights


714. Human Rights in Comparative Criminal Procedure
720A. Advanced Family Law Theory & Policy
720B. Advanced Family Law Practice
725A. International Protection of Human Rights
725B. Gender, Cultural Difference & International Human Rights
725C. International Protection of Refugees & Displaced Persons
739B. Ethnic Identity and International Law
741. Contemporary Problems in Antidiscrimination Law:

Race & Gender Intersection
769. Feminism in Theory & Practice
827. Sexual Orientation & the Law
832. AIDS & the Law
833. International & Comparative Law Regarding

Indigenous Peoples
843. Advanced Issues in Immigration Law: 

Policy, Enforcement, & Review
866. Asian Pacific Americans & the Law
880. Frontiers of Legal Thought
886. Theories of Pedagogy
889. Legal Issues of Work & Parenting
893. Global Public Interest Practice

We also are developing new courses as part of this specialization. Several courses will have an international or comparative dimension and will address such issues as the way in which gender affects international law, including the development and application of rules governing the conduct of states; how traditional and evolving frameworks for structuring international transactions, trade, development, and employment relations have an impact on women and take account of their actual and potential contributions to sustainable development and the global economy; how the situation of women is affected by the ways different laws and legal systems structure the relationship of state and family and relationships among family members; the situation of children within the family, the labor force, and criminal justice systems from a gender, comparative, and human rights perspective; and the legal, ethical, economic and political issues posed by developments in medical care in this country and abroad, and the gender, race and class dimensions of health care, including reproductive health care.


Advanced legal studies in Gender and the Law will give LL.M. candidates an opportunity to expand and deepen their understanding of the law and do advanced research and writing under the direction and guidance of members of the faculty who integrate gender into their course work and scholarship. LL.M. candidates will have the opportunity to do a substantial piece of writing under the direct supervision of a member of the faculty. We plan to develop advanced research seminars to give LL.M. students (and qualified J.D. students) the opportunity to conduct serious legal scholarship in a setting that combines classroom dialogue about student research with individual faculty supervision.

Teaching and Pedagogy

Our faculty is particularly attentive to and thoughtful about teaching, and for some faculty members, advocacy is integrated into their teaching and scholarship. Women from different parts of the world with a commitment to scholarship, teaching and advocacy will benefit from an advanced legal studies program focused on gender that also will give them an opportunity to profit from a systematic examination of teaching experiences and methodologies, including in the area of clinical education. We plan to develop seminars in pedagogical theory and practice that would be particularly useful to candidates with serious teaching interests.


The Washington College of Law, through its curriculum and programs, and through the scholarship and activities of its faculty, has shown a strong commitment to preparing both our J.D. and LL.M. students to contribute to social change. Many of our foreign LL.M. students have returned to their countries to work in and create human rights NGOs. LL.M. students specializing in Gender and the Law have had the opportunity to engage in externships and to participate in seminars examining the effectiveness of different paradigms for advancing the legal status of women around the world. Some of them have also worked closely with faculty at the Washington College of Law through independent studies to develop law school curriculum and legal doctrine on Gender and the Law, and have returned to teach and integrate a gender perspective at law schools in their respective countries.

For more information, contact:
Professor Ann Shalleck
Director Women & the Law Program
Washington College of Law, American University
4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016