Hofstra Law

J.D./Master of Linguistics: Forensic Linguistics (M.A.L.F.L.) Program

The J.D./M.A.L.F.L. program is a joint-degree program offered by the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and the Graduate Program in Linguistics: Forensic Linguistics of the Hofstra University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (HCLAS).

The well-established science of linguistics analyzes all aspects of human language. It has a subfield, forensic linguistics, which emerged because language is at the basis of most legal problems — whether they arise in statutory or contractual interpretation, the authenticity of confessions, the clarity of jury instructions, the meaningfulness of product warnings, the truthfulness of advertising, the originality of an infringing work, the sting of a defamatory statement, or innumerable other contexts.

Forensic linguistics augments legal analysis by applying rigorous, scientifically accepted principles of language analysis to such problems. Experts in the field are employed in a variety of institutions, including law enforcement agencies and academia, and they testify regularly in court. In recent years, forensic linguistics has been attracting increasing attention from courts, and litigators.

The joint program allows students to obtain a J.D. and an M.A.L.F.L. in four years, rather than the five that are ordinarily required. Students are able to integrate both fields by participating in internships and coursework that specifically link legal and forensic linguistic training.

For example, through Hofstra’s Institute for Forensic Linguistics, Threat Assessment, and Strategic Analysis, law students and linguistics students analyze live case data, participate in the drafting of reports and provide consultation to criminal lawyers.

Program of Study

The Law School will accept up to a total of 9 credits of approved coursework from the M.A.L.F.L. program toward the J.D. degree. The M.A.L.F.L. program will award up to 3 credits toward the M.A.L.F.L. degree for Law School courses, with the possibility of awarding an additional 3-6 credits based on the student’s undergraduate experience in Linguistics and their successful completion of a placement exam in particular courses.

Students must receive at least a B in any M.A.L.F.L. course in order for the credit to transfer for purposes of the J.D. degree. Likewise, students must receive at least a B in any Law School course in order for the credit to transfer for the purposes of the M.A.L.F.L. degree.

With the approval of the academic advisor, law students in this program may:

  • use their M.A.L.F.L. thesis to satisfy the Law School’s Writing requirement, and
  • be granted experiential credit for work on cases in which Dr. Leonard or one of his colleagues is serving as an expert.

In addition, students will be permitted to enroll in summer session courses in both schools, as appropriate.

By maintaining a cumulative average of at least 3.0 throughout Law School and the M.A.L.F.L., a student will be able to complete the requirements of both degrees within four years. (A student who fails to do this, and therefore must take the additional 9 Law School credits, and the additional 3 M.A.L.F.L. credits, will nonetheless be able to earn both degrees; it will just take five years as it normally would.)

Students must meet all academic requirements of each program in order to earn the joint-degree. Conferral of each degree is contingent on conferral of the other, and the J.D. and M.A.L.F.L. degrees will not be awarded until all course requirements are satisfied under both programs. Students will not be bar-certified until both degrees have been conferred.

Students in the joint-degree program will be ranked in the Law School as follows: After the 1L year, joint-degree students will be ranked at the Law School with other full-time 1Ls; after the second year in the joint-degree program, students will be ranked with the then current 1Ls; after the third year, students will be ranked with the then current 2Ls; and after the fourth year, students will be ranked with the then current 3Ls.

In any semester in which a student is registered for classes in both the Law School and the HCLAS, the maximum number of credits that may be taken is 17.

More complete J.D. program requirements can be found in the Law School Student Handbook (PDF).

More complete M.A.L.F.L. program requirements can be found on the Hofstra University website.


Students may apply to the joint-degree program as they apply to, or during their first year in, either program. However, because of the timing of the various Law School activities, potential participants are strongly advised that they will have the smoothest student experience if their four years consist, in order, of:

  • first-year M.A.L.F.L. studies,
  • first-year Law School studies,
  • completion of second-year Law School requirements, plus appropriate electives/requirements in either school,
  • completion of remaining program requirements in either school.

Suggested Schedule of Courses: Full-Time, 4 Years

Course scheduling is subject to change.

36 credits in Linguistics/87 credits in Law = 123 total (with 12 shared credits: 3 credits LING / 9 credits LAW

Year 1 — LING (9 credits)
  • LING 202 Phonetics/Phonology (3)
  • LING 206 Sociolinguistics (3)
  • LING 239 Language and Law (3)
  • (LING 101 Intro to LING, if needed)
Year 1 — LING (9 credits)
  • LING 203 Morphology/Syntax (3)
  • LING 205 Semantics and Pragmatics (3)
  • LING 221 Field Methods (3)
Year 2 — LAW (16 credits)
  • LAW 1600 Intro to Law (1)
  • LAW 1735 Torts (4)
  • LAW 1700 Civil Procedure (5)
  • LAW 1720 Legal Analysis, Writing and Research I (3)
  • LAW 1710 Criminal Law (3)
Year 2 — LAW (14 credits)
  • LAW 1705 Contracts (5)
  • LAW 1730 Property (4)
  • Law 2783 Legal Analysis, Writing and Research II (2)
  • LAW 3760 Constitutional Law I (3)
Summer — LING (3 credits)
  • LING 290 Internship (3)
Year 3 — LING and LAW (15 credits)
  • LING 207 Dialectology (3)
  • LING 231 Discourse Analysis (3)
  • LAW 3761 Constitutional Law II (3)
  • LAW 3200 Foundational Lawyering
    Skills (3)
  • Law elective (3)
Year 3 — LING and Law (15 credits)
  • LING 250 Corpus Analysis (3)
  • LAW 4761 Evidence (4)
  • Law Writing I elective (2)
  • Law elective (3)
  • Law elective (3)
Summer — LAW
  • Law firm experience
Summer — LAW
  • Law firm experience
Year 4 — LAW (15 credits)
  • Lawyers’ Ethics (3)
  • Law experiential credit elective (3)
  • Law elective (3)
  • Law elective (3)
  • Law elective (3)
Year 4 — LING and LAW (15 credits)
  • LING 301 Thesis (or 303 Capstone) (3)
  • Law Writing II elective (3)
  • Law elective (3)
  • Law elective (3)
  • Law elective (3)

Scheduling Notes

  • The LING 290 Internship is offered every term as well as during the summer and it runs as a regular course (i.e., one two-hour period each week). Students work in groups outside of class on real-world cases where language is the evidence. This may be taken any term, but it is strongly advised that students have one year of linguistics experience prior to enrolling.
  • LING 301 thesis and LING 303 capstone can be taken any term or during the summer. Please consult the LING adviser for details. Other courses are only offered in the term provided above.
  • For students entering with a strong background in LING, a test-out option for LING 202 and LING 203 is provided. If students receive a B or higher on the exam, an elective may be substituted for the course. Consult with the LING adviser for more information.
  • Constitutional Law II and Foundational Lawyering Skills must be taken in the fall of year 2.
  • Evidence and Ethics can be taken at any point in Years 3 and 4.
  • Writing I can be completed by working on one of our law journals in years 3 and 4 or by a Writing I seminar that can be taken at any point in years 3 and 4.
  • Writing II can be completed by taking a seminar at any point in years 3 and 4.
  • Foundational Lawyering Skills earns 3 of the 6 required experiential credits.

Advisement of Students

The joint-degree program is administered by its faculty advisors, supported by personnel designated by each school’s respective deans to ensure that all school, University, American Bar Association, New York Bar, and similar requirements are met. Professor Eric M. Freedman serves as the Law School’s faculty advisor, and Professor Tammy Gales serves as the M.A.L.F.L.’s faculty advisor.

Students in the joint-degree program are required to meet with the faculty advisors from both schools each semester before they register for courses. Students are strongly encouraged to bring any questions or issues to the attention of the advisors as soon as they may arise.

Because the Law School has its own academic calendar, the end of each semester may result in some overlap between coursework in the M.A.L.F.L. program and final exams at the Law School. The joint program will attempt to accommodate any conflicts that might arise as a result of the calendar mismatch.

Journal Participation and OCI Programming

Joint-degree program students are eligible to participate in the Law School Journal Writing Competition as part of the selection process for the Law School journals in the May before their third year in the joint-degree program, and are eligible to participate in the on-campus interview process through the Office of Career Services in the August before their third year in the J.D.-M.A.L.F.L. program.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Students in the joint program pay tuition as follows:

When they enroll in the first-year curriculum at the Law School, students pay the flat rate of a full-time law student. Likewise, if they take a year of courses only in HCLAS, students pay the flat rate of a full-time M.A.L.F.L. student.

After beginning the joint-degree program, students are charged at a per-credit rate by each school, based on the courses they are taking within each school.

For any student who receives a Law School scholarship, the remaining scholarship after the first year is allocated over the remaining Law School credits. If the student takes longer than four years to complete the joint-degree, the scholarship will not apply after the fourth year of the joint program.

The packaging of students’ financial aid will be handled by the Hofstra University Student Financial Services Office.

Applying to the J.D./M.A.L.F.L. Program

Students seeking admission to the J.D./M.A.L.F.L. joint-degree program must be admitted separately to the Law School and to HCLAS’s M.A.L.F.L. program. All applicants must meet the requirements for full-time admission to the Law School. A check box is included on each school’s application that allows students to indicate their interest in being considered for the joint program.

View the J.D. application and admission requirements.

View the M.A.L.F.L. application and admission requirements.