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To qualify for the S.J.D. degree, candidates must fulfill the following requirements, discussed at length in the Graduate Program Handbook, and incorporated by reference herein.

1. Study Plan

Each S.J.D. candidate must submit an approved study plan, including arrangements for course work and reading lists, in the first year of candidacy. Candidates must submit drafts of their study plans to their principal supervisors and orals committee members early in September of the first year of the program and should discuss with them the desirability of pursuing specific courses, selected readings, interdisciplinary study, skills enhancement (e.g., languages, mathematics, statistics), and other academic projects in their specific fields of study. On the basis of these discussions, candidates should put their study plans in final form, have them approved by their principal supervisors, and submit the plans for approval by the Committee on Graduate Studies by no later than September 30; and, if revised, for final approval by no later than October 31 of the first year of study.

2. First Year in Residence

Candidates must complete the first year of study in residence at the Law School, under the supervision of a faculty member selected by the candidate and approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies; the first year of study is spent reading for fields under the supervision of an orals committee and completing, ordinarily, at least eight credits of course work (typically on an audit basis).

a) S.J.D. candidates in the first year must normally complete course work carrying a minimum of eight credit hours (typically on an audit basis) at the Law School or, if appropriate, at other departments of the University. Arrangements for fulfilling the course work requirement must be set forth in the Study Plan. Any S.J.D. candidate who does not hold a primary degree in law from a U.S. law school

i. must complete, during the first year of S.J.D. studies if not completed during the LL.M. year, at least one course in U.S. law.

ii. is strongly encouraged to complete, during the first year of S.J.D. studies if not completed during the LL.M. year, at least one course in legal history, legal process, or legal thought.

The content of courses pursued in connection with the fields of study will typically be examined in the context of the oral (general) examination.

b) Attendance Policy: S.J.D. candidates taking classes on a for-credit basis must adhere to the class attendance policy set forth above and are subject to the protections of the Massachusetts law set forth therein.

c) Grades: All Harvard Law School courses, seminars, clinics and written work—with the exception of courses offered Credit/Fail—will be graded Honors, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail (“H, P, LP or F”). S.J.D. students must receive a minimum grade of P in any course taken for credit.  Grades of LP or F are not passing grades for the S.J.D. degree.

3. Oral Examination

Candidates must successfully complete an oral (general) examination in each of the fields of study outlined in the study plan. Candidates must sit for the S.J.D. oral (general) examination in their fields of study during the first or second year of study, and in any event by no later than the 19th month from the beginning of S.J.D. studies, which is typically March of the second year. The examination must be completed before starting work on the dissertation. Each student and his or her principal supervisor will agree on a target month (no later than the deadline set out earlier in this paragraph) for completion of the oral (general) examination at the time the student develops his or her study plan.

4. Two presentations at the S.J.D. Colloquium

Twice during the program, S.J.D. candidates are required to present their dissertation work at the S.J.D. Colloquium. The first presentation must take place after completion of the oral examination, and by no later than the 28th month from the beginning of S.J.D. studies (which for most candidates would mean by December of the third year) or 12 months from the completion of the oral examination, whichever is earlier. The second presentation must be completed prior to graduation, and may, though it need not, take place in the last year of study.

5. Submission and acceptance of the doctoral dissertation

Within 36 months of successful completion of the oral examination, the S.J.D. candidate must complete and submit a dissertation on a subject previously approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies and the candidate’s principal supervisor. Each dissertation must represent a sustained and substantial scholarly effort and must be suitable for publication.

Prohibited Submissions: Commissioned studies, committee reports, and writings of joint authorship will not be accepted in fulfillment of the dissertation requirement.

Permission and Required Format for Multiple Essay submissions: The dissertation is generally expected to be in the form of a monograph.  In cases where the dissertation explores law and another discipline, a series of related essays may be acceptable with the approval of the Graduate Committee. Where this format is approved, the candidate must also submit for approval an introductory and/or concluding synthetic essay that draws on and comprehensively synthesizes the other essays by establishing a general thesis supported by these essays.

To request permission to submit a dissertation in the form of multiple essays, candidates should present for the Graduate Committee’s review – as soon as possible but in any event no later than six months before the intended graduation date – a petition that: (a) sets forth the substance of the dissertation project as a whole and an explanation of why a multiple-essay format is more appropriate than a monograph in light of the nature and focus of the dissertation project and the norm for dissertations in the relevant discipline; (b) acknowledges the requirement to include a synthetic essay that draws on the other essays and establishes a general thesis supported by these essays; (c) sets forth in sufficient detail the substance of the synthetic essay ( or submit a draft of the concluding essay).  Candidates should also ask their principal supervisors to provide a statement of support for the multiple-essay format in light of the norm for dissertations in the relevant discipline.

NOTE: While such requests – when presented in a timely manner and in compliance with the above specifications – are generally granted, candidates should not assume that requests for multiple-essay submissions are automatically granted.

6. Oral Defense Examination

Following completion of the dissertation, each candidate must pass an oral defense examination in the candidate’s principal field of research (not limited to but including the subject of the dissertation). The examination is to be given by a dissertation defense committee, consisting of the principal supervisor, the second reader and, if necessary, a representative of the Committee on Graduate Studies. The examination is normally conducted within two months of the submission of the dissertation.

7. Submission of Dissertation to the Library

Once the principal supervisor and second reader approve the dissertation and corrections, if any, are made, two copies printed on acid-free paper must be submitted (unbound) to the Graduate Program for deposit with the Law School Library. At this time, a Library Authorization form must also be signed.

Detailed specifications for each of the preceding requirements and for other relevant information, including dissertation deadline parameters, are provided in the Graduate Program Handbook.