Frequently Asked Questions
Below are frequently asked questions relating to the SJD degree. For information about Duke's LLM program, please see the LLM website.
How long is Duke’s SJD degree?
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.
Do I need a first degree in law to apply to the SJD program?
Applicants ordinarily hold a first degree in law from an accredited institution outside the United States. SJD applicants also must 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.
What are Duke Law School's English language test requirements?
Duke's SJD program is similar in structure to a PhD program requiring applicants have excellent English language skills.
To assess English language skills, Duke accepts either TOEFL or IELTS scores but prefers to review the TOEFL. Waivers of the TOEFL or IELTS requirement are granted only for applicants for whom English is their first language or who have studied for three years or longer in a degree-granting program taught in English at a university in a country in which English is an official language. To request a waiver, please include with your application a statement describing why you believe you are eligible. Please note that applicants who receive a TOEFL or IELTS waiver will not receive extra time on Duke Law exams that allow extra time for eligible SJD applicants.
Duke’s minimum TOEFL score requirement is 100 and minimum IELTS score requirement is 7.0 and test scores should be no more than two years old from the date of application. All aspects of applications are closely reviewed, however. Applicants whose scores are below 100 or 7.0 but whose academic background and experience are otherwise strong may explain in their personal statement why they think their test score does not reflect their English language ability.
Duke reviews all scores in all categories from all TOEFL or IELTS tests reported. It does not accept the TOEFL MyBest Score or the new Essentials score reports. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on TOEFL and IELTS testing, we will also accept official scores from the TOEFL Special Home Edition, as well as the IELTS Online test.
Does Duke accept the MyBest Score?
No, we do not accept the MyBest Score. Duke reviews all scores in all categories from all TOEFL or IELTS tests reported in the two-year period.
How much does it cost to attend Duke Law School?
Duke Law School's tuition is set each year in February. The current year's tuition and expenses are listed on the Estimated Budget web page. Tuition is generally comparable to other private universities in the United States, but the cost of living in Durham is considerably lower than that of larger U.S. cities.
Do you offer scholarships?
Duke Law School awards full-tuition scholarships unless SJD candidates are sponsored by home governments or universities. Please note, however, that financial assistance is not provided for fees or living expenses, and Duke Law does not provide stipends to SJD candidates.
How do I apply?
You can apply via LSAC or complete and submit an application to us in hard copy format to:
Duke Law School
210 Science Drive
Durham, NC, 27708-0365
Who should write my letters of recommendation?
Selecting the right recommenders is crucial as it provides insights into your research interests, academic performance, and professional credentials. Given the highly individualized nature of the SJD program, it is important to consider individuals who can speak authoritatively and comprehensively about your unique research pursuits.
Do you grant application fee waivers?
Application fee waivers are not available for SJD applicants.
What is your SJD application deadline?
March 1. You may send in your application any time before the deadline. If you cannot submit all the required application documents before the deadline, send in all completed materials before the deadline. Your application will be initially reviewed, but a final decision will not be made until your application is complete.
Is there an advantage to applying early?
No. The SJD Admissions Committee begins its deliberations after the March 1 application deadline.
How do I reapply if I was not accepted?
Applicants are welcome to reapply utilizing either the LSAC application website or by submitting application materials directly to the International Admissions office.
May I contact Duke Law Faculty before or during the application process? Would this help my chances of admission to the program?
No. Please do not contact individual faculty members at any stage of the application process. Admission decisions are made by an SJD Admissions Committee. If a positive admission decision is made, the Committee will contact relevant faculty member(s) directly.
To learn more about applying to the SJD program visit this page.
How many credits does it take to complete the SJD degree?
The SJD degree requires completion of 48 credits in law. Up to 24 credits earned in a previous LLM degree can be counted toward the SJD course credits. An additional 12 credits will be granted for mentored study during the dissertation research stage. The remaining 12 credits will ordinarily be earned in graduate-level coursework during the initial year or years of study in the SJD program.
Do I need to have a car in Durham?
It is desirable to have a car while living in Durham. Many students buy inexpensive used cars (sometimes from graduating students) or lease cars. If you decide not to buy a car, it is recommended that you live close to campus. There is good bus service around the campus, but less reliable bus service off-campus.
Is there good childcare in Durham?
Durham is a friendly place for children and families. Many of our LLM and JD students bring their young children with them to Durham and have been pleased with the local childcare and schools. You may contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be put in touch with a current student with young children.
What about housing at Duke?
Durham has many attractive apartment complexes and other housing options close to the University and Law School at competitive rates. They are usually not furnished, but furniture can be rented or bought for a reasonable cost.
What is special about Duke’s location?
Duke is located in a beautiful forested setting, midway between the ocean and the mountains. The quality of life is exceptional and the cost of living reasonable; the climate is moderate; amenities such as good restaurants and shopping are available in the Triangle formed by Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill; and the area has more PhDs than almost any other part of the U.S. Duke students take advantage of the excellent golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, basketball courts and more.
I chose Duke because of its strong expertise in comparative law. Professor Shitong Qiao is a leading expert in Chinese law and comparative property law. Professor Jack Knight, on the other hand, produces great scholarship in many areas including comparative constitutional law and judicial studies. Duke SJD program offers plenty of opportunities to explore my research interest. I am able to tailor make my own list of courses provided by the law school and other departments. I personally find it really helpful to take Professor Qiao’s comparative law and Professor Knight’s comparative constitutional law, which offer me great insights into my research work on China's judicial system.