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Students sit at a table and study in front of shelves of books in the Harvard Law Library.

The Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) is Harvard Law School’s most advanced law degree, designed for aspiring legal academics who wish to pursue sustained independent study, research and writing. In recent years we have created a vibrant intellectual community of young scholars from around the world, most of whom will secure teaching positions in their home countries, the U.S., or third countries. We typically have over 70 S.J.D. candidates overall (some 50 in residence) representing more than 30 countries, drawn primarily from among Harvard’s top LL.M. graduates. Ultimately, candidates are expected to produce a dissertation that will constitute a substantial and valuable contribution to legal scholarship.

There are five stages to the S.J.D. program:

  • Completion of a study plan which includes course work
  • Successful completion of an oral examination
  • Two presentations at the S.J.D. Colloquium
  • Submission and acceptance of a doctoral dissertation
  • Successful oral defense of the dissertation

The first two of these requirements—preparation and completion of a study plan, and successful completion of the oral (general) examination—are normally completed during the first year of study. The S.J.D. candidate normally completes the remaining requirements—presentations at the S.J.D. colloquium, submission and acceptance of the dissertation, and oral defense of the dissertation—during the 36-month period following completion of the oral examination.

Each S.J.D. candidate pursues the degree under the supervision of an overall faculty supervisor selected by the candidate and approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies. Normally this supervisor must be a full-time member of the Harvard Law School faculty.