The Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) is Harvard Law School’s most advanced law degree, designed for aspiring legal academics from the United States and abroad who wish to pursue sustained independent study, research, and writing. Candidates are expected to produce a dissertation that will constitute a substantial and valuable contribution to legal scholarship. Graduates of the program are expected to contribute to the furtherance of knowledge and understanding about law and legal institutions through their dissertations and other academic work.
Awarding of the S.J.D. degree is conditioned on the candidate’s timely fulfillment of eight academic requirements:
- Submission of an approved study plan, including arrangements for course work and reading lists, in the first year
- Completion of the first year of study in residence at the law school, under the supervision of a faculty member and an orals committee, including reading for fields and completing at least eight credits of course work (normally on an audit basis)
- Successful completion of an oral (general) examination, in each of the fields outlined in the study plan
- Submission of a prospectus approved by the candidate’s principal supervisor
- Two presentations at the S.J.D. Colloquium, the first to obtain feedback from the S.J.D. community regarding the candidate’s prospectus, and the second to obtain feedback regarding the candidate’s near-complete dissertation
- Submission and acceptance of the doctoral dissertation
- Successful oral defense of the dissertation
- Provision of two copies of the final dissertation to the Graduate Program for deposit with the HLS Library
The first of these requirements — preparation and submission of a study plan — is completed in the initial months of study. Successful completion of the oral (general) examination is also often accomplished during the first year of study, but must be completed by March 31 of the second year of S.J.D. study. By December 15 of the third year (typically within nine months of passing the oral examination), an S.J.D. candidate must complete and submit a prospectus that has been approved in writing by the candidate’s principal supervisor. The S.J.D. candidate normally completes the remaining requirements — presentations of the prospectus and later of a dissertation chapter at the S.J.D. colloquium, submission and acceptance of the dissertation, and oral defense of the dissertation — during the first four to five years of the program. (See the “S.J.D. Milestone Chart” and “Completing the S.J.D. Program: An Illustrative Timetable,” below.)
S.J.D. Milestone Chart
|Study Plan||January 31, first year in program|
|Completion of Audit Requirement||End of first year|
|Oral Exam||Second year, but no later than March 31, second year|
|Prospectus||Second year or fall of the third year, but no later than December 15, third year|
|First Colloquium||Second or third year, but no later than April 30, third year|
|Declare Intended Graduation Date||Between 6 and 12 months before intended graduation|
|Second Colloquium||Between 6 and 12 months before graduation|
|Dissertation Submission (or Extension Request)||January 15, each applicable year, starting in the fourth year|
|Successful Dissertation Defense||See “S.J.D. Graduation Timelines” below|
|Final Graduation Deadline||May, seventh year|
Each S.J.D. candidate pursues the degree under the supervision of a faculty member selected by the candidate and approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies. This principal supervisor must be a tenured member of the Harvard Law School faculty.
It is essential that S.J.D. candidates consult periodically with their faculty supervisors not only during the first year of residence but continually until the dissertation is completed. The purpose of these consultations is to increase the chances that the candidate’s research and writing-in-progress are likely to lead to an acceptable dissertation.
Following the successful completion of the oral (general) examination (see “The Oral (General) Examination” below), S.J.D. candidates should begin working on a prospectus under the guidance of their principal supervisor and other members of their supervisory team. The prospectus must be approved in writing by the principal supervisor and submitted to the Graduate Program no later than December 15 of the candidate’s third year (though candidates wishing to complete the program in four years should plan to submit their approved prospectus well before this deadline). (See “Prospectus,” below, for more information on the content and format of a prospectus.)
Following the submission of the prospectus, candidates should meet or consult regularly (at least once every two months) with their principal supervisor and begin the process of selecting a second reader in conjunction with their principal supervisor (see “Dissertation Defense Committee” below). Candidates are strongly recommended to have a second reader in place by the time of the First Colloquium. An effective way to ensure that the principal supervisor and second reader are aware of the approach, themes, and direction of the dissertation is to prepare an outline at an early stage and to submit draft chapters as they are written. Usually, principal supervisors and second readers find it easier to deal with chapters of a dissertation from time to time rather than receiving very large portions of the dissertation at once. Periodic submission of draft chapters will also help ensure that the candidate is proceeding in the right direction.
In some instances, S.J.D. candidates who have submitted dissertations written without adequate consultation have found that their principal supervisor and second reader were unable to approve what the candidate considered to be a completed dissertation. In such cases, the dissertation may either be rejected altogether (leading to a withdrawal from the program) or require very substantial reworking.
Candidates are advised to keep the Graduate Program apprised of their meetings with their principal supervisors. If candidates find that, despite reasonable efforts, they are not receiving adequate supervision from their principal supervisor, the matter should be brought to the attention of the Graduate Program, which will apprise the Committee on Graduate Studies.
Special Provisions for Non-Resident S.J.D. Candidates: All non-resident candidates must stay in periodic oral and/or written communication with their principal supervisor and second reader concerning the progress of their dissertation work. Circumstances permitting, non-resident candidates also are strongly encouraged to return to Cambridge at least once a year for consultations with their principal supervisor and second reader. If, in the opinion of a candidate’s principal supervisor, the candidate is not maintaining adequate contact, the Committee on Graduate Studies may require the candidate to submit periodic written progress reports, actual dissertation chapters, or other appropriate work.
All S.J.D. candidates must be in residence at the law school during their first year of study (please see “Residency Status” below).
The first year of study is designed to prepare candidates in the various fields of study that will form the basis for the dissertation. During this first year, all candidates must attend courses and read in three or four fields under the guidance of a faculty orals committee (see “The Orals Committee” below). In conjunction with this study, candidates may also pursue interdisciplinary work at other faculties of the university.
First-year S.J.D. candidates who are hired as Teaching Fellows or Teaching Assistants elsewhere at Harvard University may not undertake more than one section of any course in a given semester, and are strongly discouraged from combining a Teaching Fellow or Teaching Assistant position with any other campus employment.
A. Preparation of the Study Plan
The study plan represents the candidate’s academic itinerary for the period of time (typically the first year of study) leading to the oral examination, and should lay a foundation for later work on the dissertation. An acceptable study plan should be built around the candidate’s specific fields of study and should include a combination of courses, readings, and other academic work. The oral examination must take place by no later than March 31 of the second year. The study plan must also include the candidate’s deadline for completion of the oral (general) examination (see “The Oral (General) Examination” below). The study plan should be organized around three or four fields chosen with reference to the candidate’s dissertation proposal and future teaching plans. These fields normally include one interdisciplinary field — a field that seeks to combine study of the law with insights from another discipline (such as anthropology, economics, history, philosophy, or political science).
Fields: Definition of fields is difficult and in all cases requires careful consideration. Candidates should use the field definition stage as an opportunity to engage their principal supervisor and orals committee members to clarify their academic projects. General guidelines for field definition are listed below.
- Field definition goes together with creating a bibliography.
- Fields should not be so broad that they would be impossible to master in one year; however, the opposite may apply when fields are defined too narrowly. A good way to think of a field is that it should be sufficiently extensive to form the framework of a course on the subject.
- The typical number of fields in a study plan is three. This usually means that a candidate will have three orals committee members, including the principal supervisor acting as the orals committee member for one of the fields. Any candidate proposing more than four or fewer than three fields, and any candidate proposing fewer than three orals committee members, must petition the Committee on Graduate Studies for approval.
- In general, skills areas (languages, statistics, calculus, etc.) are not appropriate subjects for fields. These are skill deficiencies that should be made up outside the fields, preferably during the first year of S.J.D. study. Appropriate exams should be scheduled to ensure acquired proficiency.
- Once the study plan has been approved and filed with the Graduate Program, any changes a candidate proposes to a field (i.e., addition or deletion of a field or the applicable field supervisor, change of field title, etc.) require prior written approval by the principal supervisor, the supervisor(s) of the field(s) in question, and the Committee on Graduate Studies.
Course Work: S.J.D. candidates in the first year must normally complete course work carrying a minimum of eight credits (normally on an audit basis) at the law school or, if appropriate, at other departments of the university. Arrangements for course work 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:
- must complete at least one course in U.S. law during the first year of S.J.D. studies or during the LL.M. year
- is strongly encouraged to complete at least one course in legal history, legal process, or legal thought during the first year of S.J.D. studies or during the LL.M. year.
The content of courses pursued in connection with the fields of study will typically be examined in the context of the oral (general) examination.
S.J.D. candidates usually complete course work on a nonregistered (audit) basis. Any candidate interested in auditing a Harvard Law School course must submit an audit request form to the Office of the Registrar. The form requires the signature of the instructor of the course. The form will be held in the Registrar’s Office until the end of the Add/Drop period (see “Add/Drop and Waitlist Processing” in the section on Course Registration and Course Changes). If space becomes available, the candidate will be notified that they may attend the course. Potential auditors may, subject to available seating, sit in on the course until an official decision is made. Audited courses do not appear on student transcripts. Exceptions to the policy on auditing procedures may be made only with the approval of the Office of Academic Affairs.
Cross-Registration: First-year S.J.D. students who have not waived the LL.M. degree (see “Course Work Undertaken for Credit” below) may also cross-register for courses outside the law school as long as the course pertains to their fields of study and approval is obtained from the faculty supervisor and the Committee on Graduate Studies. For first-year S.J.D. students, cross-registered courses, if any, should be listed in the draft S.J.D. study plan to be submitted no later than October 15 of the first year (see “Approval of the Study Plan” below).
Course Work Undertaken for Credit: If a principal supervisor advises a candidate who has waived the LL.M. degree (see “LL.M. Waiver” below), or who is beyond the first year of study, to complete certain course work for credit, the candidate must petition the Committee on Graduate Studies for approval to complete such work for credit. First-year candidates who have not waived the LL.M. degree and who wish to take courses for credit need not petition the Committee. All Harvard Law School academic work — with the exception of specified courses offered on a credit/fail basis — will be graded Honors, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail (H, P, LP, or F). S.J.D. candidates taking courses for credit must receive a minimum grade of Pass (P) in any given course offered at Harvard Law School.
Class Attendance and Participation: S.J.D. candidates who enroll in courses are subject to the Class Attendance and Participation guidelines set forth in the section on Policies.
B. The Orals Committee
In the course of preparing the study plan, S.J.D. candidates must assemble an orals committee consisting of the principal supervisor and two or three other faculty members. Members of the orals committee should be selected with a view to the fields that the candidate intends to pursue in the study plan (see “Preparation of the Study Plan” above). In addition to the principal supervisor, at least one other member of the orals committee must be a member of the Harvard Law School faculty, while the remaining member(s) of the committee may be selected from the Harvard Law School faculty, from other departments of the University, or from other universities. Candidates pursuing an interdisciplinary field or fields are encouraged to choose their orals committee members from faculty who are specialists in those fields, which may involve selections from within or outside Harvard University.
The principal supervisor and orals committee members will be responsible for consulting with the student throughout the year and administering the oral (general) examination. Orals committee members (other than the principal supervisor) do not participate in the supervision or oral defense of the dissertation, unless they have individually agreed to do so.
Candidates should consult with their principal supervisors, with senior Graduate Program staff, and/or with members of the Graduate Committee concerning any questions on the selection of members of the orals committee.
C. Approval of the Study Plan
Candidates must submit drafts of their study plans to their principal supervisors and orals committee members early in September of the first year of study, and should discuss with them the desirability of pursuing specific courses, selected readings, interdisciplinary study, skills enhancement (e.g., languages, mathematics, or statistics), and other academic projects in their specific fields of study. On the basis of these discussions, candidates must put their study plans in writing, following the guidelines in “Preparation of the Study Plan” (above), and have them approved by their principal supervisor. Candidates are strongly encouraged to avail themselves of the assistance of Dr. Jane Fair Bestor, Graduate Writing and Academic Preceptor, in formulating this study plan. A draft study plan must be submitted to Jane Bestor no later than October 15, and a final draft of the plan approved by all supervisors must be submitted to the Graduate Program, for review and approval by the Committee on Graduate Studies, by January 31 in the first year of study. Upon review, the Committee on Graduate Studies may request adjustments to the study plan. These adjustments should be made on the timeline set forth by the Committee on Graduate Studies. Once a plan has been finalized and filed with the Graduate Program, a candidate must consult with the Graduate Program before making any changes to a field and/or supervisor (and resubmit the plan thereafter).
D. Periodic Consultation with Supervisor and Orals Committee
It is essential that S.J.D. candidates consult regularly with the members of their orals committee during the course of their first year of study and up to the time of the actual oral examination. The frequency of meetings with faculty during the year will vary. Typically, candidates meet with their advisors every two to four weeks. Some faculty may prefer to meet less often but more intensely; others may prefer to meet in small groups rather than individually. More importantly, candidates should keep their supervisors and orals committee members informed of their progress and engage them substantively on the materials in prescribed readings and courses.
E. The Oral (General) Examination
Candidates must sit for the S.J.D. oral (general) examination in their fields of study during the first or second year in the S.J.D. program. The examination must be completed before starting work on the dissertation. In rare cases, a written examination may be substituted for an oral examination in one or more of the fields. Any changes in field supervision, content, structure, or title made to the fields between the time the study plan is submitted and the time the oral examination takes place must be approved in writing, in advance of the oral examination, by the faculty supervisor(s) and the Committee on Graduate Studies.
The purpose of the S. J. D. general examination is to test the candidate’s competence in the fields set out in the study plan. The oral examination is conducted by a panel consisting of the principal supervisor and the supervisor of each field covered in the study plan. Typically, half an hour is devoted to questions in each field. Candidates may be examined on any of the material covered in the study plan and are typically questioned on the more salient themes developed during consultations with their supervisors and orals committee members.
Each student and the student’s principal supervisor will agree on a target month (no later than March 31 of the second year) for completion of the oral examination at the time the student develops the study plan. In selecting a date, the parties should take into account such factors as the student’s background in the fields, whether the fields should be tailored more narrowly towards a dissertation or more broadly towards the student’s teaching interests, the amount of time the student can spend in residence, and other relevant factors.
Note: It is the candidate’s responsibility to schedule a time and location for the oral examination with the candidate’s orals committee members. Once scheduled, the candidate must provide this information to the Graduate Program at least two weeks in advance of the date of the exam.
Upon completion of the oral examination, the faculty supervisor will prepare a brief report for the Committee on Graduate Studies providing a grade for each field (Distinguished, Good, Pass, or Fail, with pluses and minuses as appropriate), an overall grade of “Pass” or “Fail” for the examination, and comments on the candidate’s performance. The overall grade of “Pass” or “Fail” for the examination will appear on the candidate’s transcript. If the overall grade is “Pass,” the transcript notation will indicate the specific fields of study in which the candidate was examined. Apart from the “Pass/Fail” result, oral exam grades are not made available to the candidate and may not be disclosed beyond the Graduate Program.
By December 15 of the third year of study, an S.J.D. candidate must submit to the Graduate Program a prospectus of between 2,000 and 3,500 words of text (with no more than an additional 1,000 words in footnotes) that has been approved by the candidate’s principal supervisor.
While the Committee recognizes the variety of projects that S.J.D. candidates undertake and appreciates that particular subdisciplines of law (e.g., law and economics, legal history, and socio-legal studies to mention but three) may entail very different approaches, and therefore wishes to provide students and their supervisors considerable leeway as to how to structure their prospectus, its expectation is that each prospectus will address the following:
- What is the principal issue (or issues) that you wish to investigate in the dissertation? Why do you believe it to be significant in light of previous scholarship in your field? How do you propose to develop, challenge, or depart from existing positions or themes in the relevant scholarship?
- What is your working hypothesis? In the case of a dissertation likely to be comprised of three separate articles, what is the overarching theme (that would be the subject of the dissertation’s synthetic chapter) and what are the working hypotheses of at least two of the three articles?
- What methodology or conceptual framework will you be employing to approach the issue(s) you wish to address in your dissertation? The more detailed the manner in which it is stated, the more likely that the colloquium audience will be able to offer useful feedback.
- We appreciate that the prospectus comes at an early stage in your work on your dissertation, but to the extent you now can, please specify how you intend to structure the dissertation (i.e., provide a tentative outline of chapters).
- What challenges do you foresee in undertaking this work (e.g., access to archives, a need to conduct survey research, conceptual challenges)?
- How might the Graduate Program and the S.J.D. community be most helpful to you? Are there particular questions you would like us to consider in advance of the colloquium?
Candidates should develop their prospectus in conjunction with the principal supervisor and other members of their orals committee, taking advantage of this opportunity to avail themselves of the full range of faculty expertise on their supervisory team. After the prospectus is completed, a candidate must secure written approval from the principal supervisor for the prospectus before submitting it to the Graduate Program.
A candidate planning to submit a dissertation comprised of three or more separate essays and a synthetic essay should incorporate into (or submit with) the prospectus a formal petition for approval of the multiple-essay format that satisfies the requirements set forth in “Permission and Requirements for Multiple-Essay Submissions” under “Dissertation Requirements,” below. Prospectuses containing requests for approval of the multiple-essay format will be referred to the Graduate Committee for review of the multiple-essay format request, including the plan for the synthetic essay. A primary supervisor’s written approval is required but is not a substitute for Graduate Committee approval of the multiple-essay format.
As noted above, a candidate’s prospectus is due by December 15 of the third year of study (though candidates wishing to complete the program in four years should plan to submit their approved prospectus well before this deadline). Once the prospectus has been received, the Graduate Program will work with the candidate and the supervisory team to schedule the First Colloquium, which must take place by April 30 of the third year of S.J.D. studies.
Twice during the program, S.J.D. candidates are required to present their dissertation work at the S.J.D. Colloquium, a weekly gathering of S.J.D. candidates, members of the Committee on Graduate Studies, the presenter’s principal supervisor, and other faculty members (including, among others, those invited by the candidate). The S.J.D. Colloquium Series is facilitated by a faculty member or a senior Graduate Program administrator. Attendance at the S.J.D. Colloquium is mandatory for all in-residence S.J.D. students.
A. First Colloquium
The first presentation takes place after completion of the oral examination and the submission of a prospectus (above), and must be held by April 30 of the third year (though candidates wishing to complete the program in four years should plan to complete this requirement well before this deadline). The prospectus will be circulated to other Colloquium participants one to two weeks in advance of the scheduled event.
The candidate’s principal supervisor must be present at this colloquium; the presentation should last no more than 20 minutes and will be followed by a question-and-answer period. Presenters should assume that the audience will have read the prospectus and therefore use their time in a way best designed to get across their central ideas and secure the feedback of the S.J.D. community.
B. Second Colloquium
The second presentation must be completed at least six months prior to graduation and may take place up to 12 months prior to the intended graduation date (preferably well before the dissertation is finalized for submission so that the student can still benefit from feedback given at the Colloquium). It is a formal presentation of the completed dissertation (or, in certain circumstances, a paper emanating from the dissertation research) to academic colleagues, similar in form to a job talk or conference paper. Candidates interviewing for teaching jobs are encouraged to use their Second Colloquium presentation as a mock job talk, and are strongly urged to schedule their presentations well before such interviews. The presentation should last for no more than 20 minutes, and will be followed by a question-and-answer period.
For presenters of the Second Colloquium, a chapter of the dissertation (or a paper emanating from the dissertation research), accompanied by an abstract or précis, must be submitted to the Graduate Program no later than eight days prior to the scheduled event. These documents will be distributed to other Colloquium participants one week prior to the scheduled events. In all cases, the abstract or précis, which should be no more than seven pages in length, is designed to encourage thoughtful and grounded exchange during the presentations.
It is the responsibility of the S.J.D. candidate to schedule a Second Colloquium date before the appropriate deadline.
IMPORTANT: Please consult the S.J.D. Graduation Timelines (below) for information about the deadlines for submitting a dissertation and completing the (second) S.J.D. Colloquium in advance of an intended graduation date.
S.J.D. candidates should generally expect to complete and submit their dissertation within three years of passing the oral examination. Dissertations based on substantial fieldwork or archival research, however, may take longer to complete.
A candidate’s dissertation should make a substantial contribution to the existing scholarship in its chosen area. It will do so most commonly (a) by formulating a research problem that probes some aspect of the conceptual framework for thinking about an issue and investigating the problem systematically from this angle to construct an original argument, or (b) by developing a new approach to addressing a recognized and significant problem and showing how understanding of its dimensions is advanced by this methodology. The claim the dissertation advances should be clear and the supporting arguments should be well structured and appropriately referenced. A dissertation that merely surveys, catalogs, or compiles relevant literature, legislation, case material, or the ideas of others will not satisfy the standard.
Prohibited Submissions: Commissioned studies, committee reports, writings of joint authorship, and academic work, papers, or dissertations written in or submitted as part of another degree program or academic requirement at another academic institution will not be accepted in fulfillment of the dissertation requirement. Academic work, papers, or dissertations written in or submitted as part of another degree program or academic requirement at Harvard will not be accepted in fulfillment of the dissertation requirement without permission from the Graduate Committee (and the corresponding department or program, as applicable).
Length of Dissertation: While there is no prescribed length, a majority of dissertations are approximately 250 to 300 pages (the equivalent of a book-length manuscript), but in certain areas such as law and economics the norm tends to be shorter. (Dissertations substantially exceeding 300 pages require permission from the principal supervisor.) Length is in part a function of the subject chosen and methodology and should be determined in consultation with the principal supervisor, subject to the final approval of the Graduate Committee.
Form of Dissertation: Depending on the nature of the project, the dissertation may be in the form of (a) a monograph; or (b) multiple (at least three) essays connected with a comprehensive synthetic essay that draws on and establishes a general thesis supported by the other essays. Projects that are historically, sociologically, or philosophically oriented are generally best served by a monographic form, but in other cases a series of related essays may be acceptable with the approval of the Graduate Committee.
Permission and Requirements for Multiple-Essay Submissions: To request permission to submit a dissertation in the form of multiple essays, candidates must submit a petition for the Graduate Committee’s review. The petition should be incorporated in, or submitted together with, the prospectus. If a candidate with a project originally envisioned as a monograph later decides to petition for approval of a multiple-essay submission, the candidate may submit a “late petition” at that time, but in no event less than one year before the candidate’s intended graduation date. Petitions submitted within a year prior to graduation will not be accepted.
NOTE: Inclusion of essays submitted for publication prior to the supervisor’s approval of the prospectus is strongly discouraged.
Petition for Multiple-Essay Dissertation: Whether submitted with the prospectus or thereafter, a petition for a multiple-essay dissertation must:
- set forth the substance of the dissertation project as a whole
- explain why, in light of the nature and focus of the dissertation project and the norm for dissertations in the relevant discipline, a multiple-essay format is more appropriate than a monograph
- acknowledge the requirement to include a comprehensive synthetic essay that draws on and establishes a general thesis supported by the other essays
- set forth the general thesis of the synthetic essay
- specify the details of publication and provide applicable citations for any of the essays that have been published or submitted for publication (as noted above, inclusion of essays submitted for publication prior to the supervisor’s approval of the prospectus is strongly discouraged)
- be accompanied by a statement from the candidate’s principal supervisor (a) supporting the multiple-essay format in light of the norm for dissertations in the relevant discipline; and (b) if applicable, providing a justification for inclusion of any essay submitted for publication prior to the supervisor’s approval of the prospectus, which is strongly discouraged
A Late Petition must also set forth in detail the substance of the synthetic essay (or the candidate may submit a draft of the synthetic essay).
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.
A. Dissertation Defense Committee
The dissertation defense committee (hereafter the “defense committee”) is comprised of the candidate’s principal supervisor and a second reader, who must be full-time Harvard Law School faculty members (although tenure is not required in the case of the second reader). The second reader will be selected by the candidate in consultation with the principal supervisor as soon as possible upon completion of the prospectus (see “Prospectus” above). If the candidate and the principal supervisor deem it useful, an additional reader (who need not be on the faculty of Harvard Law School) may be included on the defense committee. Once the second reader (or readers) has been identified, the candidate should report their name(s) to the Graduate Program.
B. Format of Dissertation
Manuscripts must be page-numbered and double-spaced, with a margin of 1½ or 1¾ inches on the left side of the page to allow for reader comments and to permit binding. While there is no predetermined format for the cover page, each candidate should check with that candidate’s principal supervisor for specific requirements or preferences. At a minimum, the page should include the candidate’s name, “S.J.D. Dissertation,” the dissertation title, the names of the members of the defense committee, and the date of submission.
Multiple-essay dissertations composed of one or more published articles can include the articles as published, but they must be paginated with a sequential numbering system to capture their inclusion in a unitary project and to facilitate library storage in a monographic form.
At no stage should candidates submit permanently bound copies of the dissertation; dissertation copies do not require hard covers.
C. Submission of Dissertation
Candidates are expected to submit drafts of dissertation chapters or essays to each member of the defense committee for timely comments, instead of waiting to complete a whole draft of the dissertation or until submitting an essay for publication.
Deadline for submission: The completed dissertation (or a request for an extension) must be submitted to the Graduate Program by January 15 of the fourth year of study and, for candidates who have received initial dissertation submission extensions, by January 15 of the fifth and sixth year, as applicable.
NOTE: If the dissertation is submitted around the winter holiday break and one or more members of the defense committee will be teaching during the January term, the evaluation period may take up to two months; in such cases the dissertation must be submitted by no later than December 15 if the candidate wishes to graduate in May of the following year.
Dissertations submitted after the expiration of this limit will be accepted only if approval for an extension has been obtained from the principal supervisor and the Committee on Graduate Studies (see “Extension of Dissertation Period” below).
Please see “Degree Deadlines” below for further information regarding deadlines and degree dates.
D. Evaluation of Dissertation
Typically, within one month after submission of the completed dissertation to the Graduate Program (which will in turn circulate copies thereof to the principal supervisor and second reader or readers), the defense committee will provide an initial evaluation with written comments as to whether the dissertation needs (1) minimal revision, (2) significant revision, or (3) major rewriting.
(For candidates with approved multiple-essay dissertations, the comments should also address the quality of the synthetic essay, in particular whether the synthetic essay adequately draws on and establishes a general thesis supported by the other essays.)
If a dissertation needs only minimal revision, a date for the dissertation defense can be scheduled within the following two months, but in any event not later than six weeks before the intended graduation date. If a dissertation needs significant revision, the candidate will have up to six weeks to complete the necessary revisions and submit the revised document to the Graduate Program. If the defense committee deems the revisions to be satisfactory, the defense may then be scheduled within the following two or three weeks, but in any event not later than six weeks prior to the intended graduation date.
If a dissertation requires major rewriting, the candidate may need to spend one or more additional semesters to complete this work. In cases where such a candidate is approaching a completion deadline, the candidate will need to petition for an extension in order to spend one or more semesters to work on these revisions (see “Extension of Dissertation Period” below on how to apply for an extension). If the candidate is not eligible for another extension, the Graduate Committee will require the candidate to withdraw from the S.J.D. Program. (The Graduate Program staff will address logistical details regarding such withdrawal with the candidate at that time.) If the candidate subsequently completes the necessary revisions in a satisfactory manner, the candidate may then petition for readmission in order to carry out the dissertation defense. In cases where a dissertation requires major rewriting, any member of the defense committee may refer the matter to the Graduate Committee.
E. Oral Defense of Dissertation
Following completion of the dissertation, each candidate must pass an oral defense of the dissertation as a whole, which may include a discussion of publication possibilities. This examination is to be given by the dissertation defense committee and may, if warranted, include a representative of the Committee on Graduate Studies. A report on the oral defense must be completed and signed by each member of the defense committee and be submitted to the Graduate Program by the relevant due date (see “Degree Deadlines” below for applicable deadlines).
NOTE: It is the candidate’s responsibility to schedule a time and location for the oral defense with the dissertation defense committee members within the necessary timeframe leading up to graduation. Once scheduled, the date must be reported to the Graduate Program at least two weeks in advance of the date of the defense.
Once the defense committee gives final approval to the dissertation and corrections, if any, are made, two unbound copies printed on acid-free paper must be submitted to the Graduate Program Office for deposit with the Law School Library. At this time, a Library Authorization form must also be signed. The Library will arrange for permanent binding.
F. Degree Deadlines
In order to determine whether to recommend to the Law School faculty that a candidate be awarded the S.J.D. degree, the Graduate Committee must receive written reports from the principal supervisor and the second reader(s) evaluating the final dissertation, as well as a separate report of the oral defense. These reports—as well as the final version of the approved dissertation (for deposit with the HLS Library)— must be received by no later than September 15 to qualify for a November degree, January 15 to qualify for a March degree, or May 1 to qualify for a May degree. (Please note: Reports on the oral (general) examination, described above, should already be a part of the candidate’s file.) The Committee on Graduate Studies will not consider recommendations from supervisors after the relevant dates listed above.
The following charts illustrate the applicable completion milestones leading up to each of the university’s key graduation dates.
S.J.D. Graduation Timelines
Intended Graduation: May
|Declare intended graduation date (no later than)||November 15|
|Complete Second Colloquium (no later than)||November 15|
|Submit dissertation to Graduate Program (no later than)||January 15*|
|Evaluation from Defense Committee to candidate (no later than)||February 15|
|If necessary, revised dissertation to Defense Committee (no later than)||April 1|
|Dissertation defense (no later than)||April 15|
|Final Reports by Defense Committee to Graduate Program and all other deliverables from candidate to Graduate Program (no later than)||May 1|
|Declare intended graduation date (no later than)||May 15||September 15|
|Complete Second Colloquium (no later than)||May 15||September 15|
|Submit dissertation to Graduate Program (no later than)||May 15||September 15|
|Evaluation from Defense Committee to candidate (no later than)||June 15||October 15|
|If necessary, revised dissertation to Defense Committee (no later than)||August 1||December 1|
|Dissertation defense (no later than)||September 1||January 4|
|Final Reports by Defense Committee to Graduate Program and all other deliverables from candidate to Graduate Program (no later than)||September 15||January 15|
G. Extension of Dissertation Period
Extensions for completion of the S.J.D. dissertation beyond the fourth year of the program will be granted on a case-by-case basis pursuant to the procedure described in the next paragraph. Candidates seeking an extension beyond the fourth year of the program must request an extension no later than January 15 of the fourth year, and no later than January 15 of each subsequent year for which an extension is requested. Extensions will not be granted beyond 72 months from the end of the first year of S.J.D. candidacy.**
To apply for an extension, a candidate must submit the SJD Extension Request Form (which is circulated to eligible students around December) to the Graduate Program by the January 15 deadline. The Graduate Program will then solicit the approval of the candidate’s primary supervisor. Extension requests must be approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies. The results of the Committee’s review are typically communicated to candidates by the end of March.
** The Graduate Committee may grant extensions of up to (but under no circumstances exceeding) 108 months from the end of the first year of S.J.D. residence to candidates pursuing second doctoral degrees provided: (1) the candidate has been pursuing a second doctoral degree concurrently with the S.J.D. candidacy, and (2) the candidate has completed the other doctoral degree within 72 months after the end of the first year of S.J.D. candidacy.
Candidates must complete all course requirements during the first year of study (the required year in residence). Candidates must complete the oral examination by March 31 of the second year of study (see “The Oral (General) Examination” above). The period for completion of the S.J.D. dissertation will be influenced by a number of factors, including whether field research is involved. An illustrative timetable follows.
First Year-Residency Period
August: Discussion with principal supervisor and orals committee members
September: Assemble reading lists and consult with members of the orals committee; prepare study plan
October 15: Submit draft study plan to Graduate Program office
By the end of the Thanksgiving Holiday Break (as set forth in the HLS Academic Calendar):
Final revisions, if any, to the study plan; submit copy to Graduate Program Office
May: Completion of eight credits of course and seminar work; oral examination held; orals committee sends oral examination report to Graduate Program Office
NOTE: Candidates should discuss their progress with their principal supervisors and orals committee members regularly throughout the year.
Begin research and writing; draft prospectus
Present prospectus draft to principal supervisor; continue research and writing
Finalize prospectus and obtain approval by principal supervisor; submit prospectus to Graduate Program Office and schedule first colloquium
In conjunction with principal supervisor, identify and select second reader (must be a member of the HLS full-time faculty) for dissertation, ideally before the First Colloquium
Continue research and writing
Conduct first presentation of work at the S.J.D. Colloquium (must be completed no later than April 30 of the third year of study)
NOTE: Candidates should meet or consult with their principal supervisor at least every two months throughout the year.
Continue research and writing; send draft chapters to principal supervisor and second reader
NOTE: The following timetable applies to May degree candidates; for November and March degrees, see “Degree Deadlines” above.
Conduct second presentation at the S.J.D. Colloquium
No later than January 15*:
Submit completed dissertation to the Graduate Program Office for distribution to defense committee
*December 15 if one or more members of the defense committee will be teaching during January term
No later than February 15:
Defense committee sends evaluation of dissertation to candidate; if only minor revisions are needed, may schedule defense at any time up to April 15
No later than April 1:
Submit revised dissertation in cases where significant revisions are required
No later than April 15:
Hold dissertation defense
Defense committee submits final report on dissertation and oral defense to the Graduate Program
Candidate provides two copies of completed dissertation to the Graduate Program
Awarding of S.J.D. degree
NOTE: Candidates intending to finish the dissertation within 24 months of the end of the required residency period should follow the “Fourth Year” schedule during their third year.
S.J.D. candidates who fail to meet or consult periodically with their principal supervisors, fail to timely complete milestones or degree requirements or to timely obtain required program extensions, fail to pay all fees each year, or who otherwise violate residency or other requirements will be withdrawn from the S.J.D. program. Exceptions may be made in limited cases for students with special circumstances.
Candidates who have not completed the requirements for the degree within 72 months from the end of the first year of S.J.D. candidacy may apply after their dissertation is complete for readmission to register for the purpose of receiving the degree.
Beyond the mandatory first year in residence, four different enrollment statuses are available to S.J.D. students: Resident, Traveling Scholar, Leave of Absence, and Enrolled Full-Time at Another Harvard School. The latter three categories are collectively referred to as “non-resident.”
- Resident Students are those students who, for the entire academic year or semester in question, are physically resident in the Cambridge area and are engaged primarily in their S.J.D. studies. Such students have full access to Harvard’s resources and facilities, including residence halls and Harvard-owned housing, and are eligible for Harvard visa sponsorship. Only Resident students are eligible for such benefits as Graduate Program-sponsored fellowships and conference funding (below). All first-year S.J.D. students must register for Resident status.
- Traveling Scholars are those students who are physically located outside of the Cambridge area but are engaged primarily in their S.J.D. studies. Such students have full access to Harvard’s online resources and access to Harvard’s library facilities during their visits to campus and are also eligible for Harvard visa sponsorship. Traveling Scholars are not eligible for Graduate Program-sponsored fellowships or conference funding and are eligible for financial aid only if funds are still available after the needs of the Resident Students have been met.
- Leave of Absence Students are those students who are devoting less than half of their time to their S.J.D. studies, regardless of their physical location. Such students retain their Harvard e-mail accounts only; they do not have access to Harvard’s other resources and are not eligible for Harvard visa sponsorship, conference funding, Graduate Program financial aid, or Graduate Program-sponsored fellowships. Students in this category with outstanding student loans may have to begin repayment.
- Students Enrolled Full-Time at Another Harvard School will retain their Harvard Law School e-mail accounts, but are not eligible for Graduate Program financial aid, conference funding, or Graduate Program-sponsored fellowships. Access to other Harvard resources (including library privileges and visa sponsorship) will be available through the Harvard school in which they are enrolled full-time.
Note: Students must update their residence status each summer (even if it will not be changing) and may change their status on a semester-by-semester basis, but not more frequently.
B. Registration Procedures
The Registrar’s Office administers an online registration check-in process that is available for all S.J.D. candidates who plan to be in residence during fall 2023. This process will be available online by no later than August 7, 2023. All continuing S.J.D. students who will be in residence during 2023-2024 must complete this online registration process by no later than September 5, 2023. S.J.D. students will receive an e-mail in August from the Graduate Program with detailed information on how to complete the online registration/check-in process. Please note that all new S.J.D. students must complete this online registration process by September 5, 2023. First-year S.J.D. students are also required to check in with the Graduate Program in person by appointment; appointment requests may be sent to email@example.com.
In order to register for Resident status, continuing S.J.D. students should also obtain financial clearance from the Graduate Program by 4 p.m. on September 5, 2023. Otherwise, their Resident status will be suspended until they complete their financial clearance.
All S.J.D. students who will not be in residence during the 2023-2024 academic year must have completed the Application for Non-Resident S.J.D. Status and submitted it to the Graduate Program no later than June 21, 2023. This form indicates, among other things, the student’s planned activities for the coming academic year, where the student expects to be physically located, and the status for which the student plans to register (e.g., Traveling Scholar or Leave of Absence). In order to be valid, the form must be signed by the student’s principal supervisor; in the case of students holding a non-U.S. passport who wish to be non-resident, the form must also be signed by a representative of the Harvard International Office. Failure to submit a properly completed form by the applicable deadline may result in the student being placed on Leave of Absence status by default.
A. LL.M. Waiver
Current Harvard LL.M. students applying to the S.J.D. program are permitted to “waive” the LL.M. degree prior to graduation. The LL.M. waiver option is not available to those who have already received their LL.M. degrees from Harvard when applying to the S.J.D. program.
Provided they have fulfilled the requirements for the LL.M. degree, an applicant who waives the LL.M. degree but does not enroll in the S.J.D. Program will receive the LL.M. degree at the University’s next regularly scheduled date for the awarding of degrees in early November. Applicants who are not admitted to the program and wish to reapply for admission in the next application cycle may extend the LL.M. waiver for up to one additional year.
An applicant who waives the LL.M. degree and enrolls in the S.J.D. program will not be awarded the LL.M. degree. The waiver is permanent and irrevocable. An S.J.D. candidate who waived the LL.M. degree may subsequently elect to receive the LL.M. degree only by withdrawing from the S.J.D. program.
An S.J.D. candidate who has waived the LL.M. degree be permitted to count the tuition paid for the LL.M. year in satisfaction of the Harvard University requirement that a student pay at least one year’s full tuition for every degree that the student receives. For the first year of S.J.D. studies, students who have waived the LL.M. degree are charged tuition of $500. Otherwise, tuition for the first year of S.J.D. studies is the same as tuition for the LL.M. degree.
The election to waive the LL.M. degree has no effect on admissions decisions or the academic requirements for the S.J.D. degree. Waiving the LL.M. degree does, however, preclude the applicant from taking courses for credit during the S.J.D. studies. (In exceptional cases, the Committee on Graduate Studies may approve a candidate’s petition to take a particular course for credit if the candidate’s supervisor supports the request on academic grounds.)
S.J.D. students who have waived their Harvard LL.M. degrees should reflect their LL.M. studies on their résumés and in similar contexts by language such as the following: “Harvard Law School LL.M. Program [date] (requirements completed, degree waived).” Under no circumstances should they represent themselves as having actually received the LL.M. degree.
B. Graduate Program Advisors and Coordinators
The Graduate Program generally expects to hire Advisor and Coordinator positions such as LL.M. Advisor, Writing Workshop Advisor, Harvard Empirical Legal Studies Coordinator, and the like. Selections for these positions are made based on an application process held in the spring of each academic year. In general, the Graduate Program expects to have application materials for these positions available in April or May; questions should be directed to Nancy Pinn, the Graduate Program’s Senior Director of Administration and Student Affairs.
C. Conference and Outside Examiner Funding
S.J.D. students who are in residence and who have completed the oral exam are eligible for limited funding to cover certain expenses related to their studies. First, resident S.J.D. students may apply for a stipend of up to $750 per academic year for expenses incurred in order to speak at academic conferences outside of the Boston area (provided that such travel is permissible under Harvard policies). Students must request eligibility through the S.JD. Conference Stipend Request Form. Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis; submission of a stipend request does not guarantee approval.
In order to be eligible for this stipend:
- the travel must be for a conference that takes place between June 1 and May 31 in an academic year in which the student is in residence (for avoidance of doubt, students attending a conference in June, July, or August must be in residence for the following fall term, and any funding received for such conference will be applied to the annual conference funding limit for the following academic year)
- the student must have completed the oral examination
- the student must not be eligible to receive funding from other sources to cover these expenses
- the student must seek written confirmation of eligibility from the Graduate Program at least three weeks in advance of the planned travel
- the student must submit an Assumption of Risk form to the Graduate Program at least three weeks in advance of the planned travel
- the student must comply with all HLS and university travel policies in effect at the time of travel, including completing all HLS International Travel Procedures no later than two weeks before commencing travel
- the student must submit the requisite post-travel paperwork, along with receipts, to the Graduate Program no later than three weeks after the applicable conference date
NOTE: Receipts submitted more than three weeks after the applicable conference date will not be processed.
Second, the Graduate Program will reimburse orals committee members who are affiliated with an academic institution outside the Boston area up to $500 for expenses incurred for travel to Cambridge for the student’s oral examination, as appropriate, if the examiner’s own academic institution will not bear the cost of such travel. Requests for reimbursement must be submitted at least three weeks in advance of the intended travel.
Reimbursement is made after the fact upon presentation of actual receipts and completion of forms required by Harvard University. Please note that requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and that a request does not guarantee reimbursement of travel expenses for conference attendance or for outside examiners.
D. Dedicated Work Space
Provided the Harvard Law School campus is open for normal campus activities, dedicated work space will be made available to resident S.J.D. candidates based on availability. If demand for work space exceeds capacity, priority will be given to students in their first three years of the S.J.D. program. Nonresident S.J.D. candidates are not eligible for work space. Work space assignments are made for the academic year or for a single term; desk occupancy begins in September and ends in May. S.J.D. candidates who wish to remain in their assigned desks during the summer must send a request to the Graduate Program by April 15.