SJD Degree

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Students with outstanding academic credentials who intend to pursue an academic career are welcome to apply to the SJD program.

SJD applicants must hold a first degree in law - the JD, LLB, or the equivalent - from an accredited or comparably recognized law school or law faculty program. Candidates must also have completed an LLM degree at an accredited American law school. In exceptional cases, consideration will be given to applicants who have completed LLM programs of study in common law countries. Each SJD candidate will be assigned a primary faculty supervisor with expertise in the student's research area and at least two additional faculty members who form the student's doctoral committee. Duke SJD graduates hold academic positions in many countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Greece, India, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the United States.



Didi Yeshurun (Israel)

After a great LLM experience at Duke Law it was only natural for me to pursue my SJD at Duke as well. The high bar of academic rigor together with the relatively small size of the law school provide the perfect opportunity for personal and professional growth while forming strong relationships with a diverse and compassionate community of top students and world-renowned scholars.  The many courses offered on international law and taught by some of the most leading scholars in the field provide a rich and all-around baseline for further research during the SJD program. Renowned scholars like Professors Madeline Morris, Laurence Helfer and Timothy Meyer all played a formative role in my advancement as a striving scholar of international law.”

Didi Yeshurun, Israel

Degree Overview

The SJD program normally takes a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years. The program requires one to two semesters of course work, as recommended by the faculty supervisor, completed in residence at Duke Law School. The student must successfully pass written and oral examinations in the general field of study before formal admission to candidacy. The student will be asked to prepare a research proposal, which must be accepted before research on the dissertation begins. The SJD student's faculty committee will assess the student's progress, make recommendations, and hold an oral examination on the final draft of the dissertation.

The application deadline for the SJD program is March 1. The application should include transcripts from all previously attended academic institutions. A minimum of three recommendation letters are required, including at least one recommendation from a faculty member well acquainted with the applicant's performance in an LLM degree program. A substantial sample of the applicant's writing should be submitted as well as a brief research proposal (approximately 2-5 pages) describing the applicant's research interest. Applicants are requested not to contact individual Duke Law School faculty members. The entire application will be reviewed by faculty members on the SJD Committee, and that committee will arrange for an appropriate faculty supervisor for applicants who are admitted. If further information is necessary, the applicant will be notified. Admissions decisions will be made starting in March.

An example of the SJD course of study is as follows:

A student with a professional civil service background is accepted into the SJD program to research adaptive regulation.  Based on her previous work and future professional interest, her research will examine the use of adaptive regulation principles in areas of law related to the environment and climate change.  Her previous LLM concentrated on Environmental Law.  Twenty-four credits from this LLM program count toward the total SJD credit requirement of forty-eight credits.  In her first SJD year, she enrolls in courses totaling a minimum of twelve credits related to risk regulation, energy, and quantitative research.  She also develops a reading list and prepares for her qualifying exam, to be administered in the following academic year. Once she passes the qualifying exam, she will submit a detailed dissertation proposal and then research and write her dissertation, earning an additional twelve SJD dissertation research and writing credits.