JSD Program

The JSD program normally takes a minimum of three years, including up to four semesters of course work. JSD candidates are assigned a primary faculty advisor with expertise in the student’s research area.

Learn more about the life of a JSD Candidate below.

First Year

During the first year of the program, JSD candidates are expected to:

  • Participate in JSD Seminar
  • Take law classes (32 credit hours or graded courses)
  • Take individualized reading course with faculty advisor
  • Study research methodology
  • Attend law-school faculty workshops
  • Develop relationships with faculty experts in their field
  • Attend academic conferences
  • Have annual progress review with graduate dean

Following the first year of the JSD program, candidates are required to pass a qualifying examination demonstrating general proficiency in the student’s field of study. This examination is administered by a qualifying committee consisting of three faculty members in addition to the primary Advisor. The field of study, for the purposes of the qualifying examination, encompasses, but is broader than, the topic of the student’s dissertation topic.

For example, a student planning to write a dissertation on the no-fault accident system in New Zealand may (in consultation with the primary Advisor) define the field of study to be tort law, or an interdisciplinary approach of interest to the student (including, but not limited to, law and economics, law and history, law and psychology, or empirical methods), or some combination thereof.

The requirement of general proficiency in the student’s field of study is intended to ensure breadth as well as depth in the student’s training, and reflects the JSD program’s objective of equipping students to become well-rounded citizens of the global scholarly community, as well as experts in the topic of their dissertation research.

Second Year

In the second year, JSD candidates are expected to:

  • Pass JSD qualifying exam (September)
  • Review scholarly literature for dissertation
  • Attend and present at conferences
  • Begin gathering data and evidence for dissertation
  • Draft dissertation proposal
  • Pass preliminary defense of dissertation

Candidates will pursue their research under the guidance of their primary Advisor and an additional three faculty members who form the student’s doctoral committee. This may, but need not, be composed of the same faculty members as the qualifying examination committee.

Third Year and Beyond

The student will finalize dissertation research and collaborate with the dissertation committee on the development of the project. The student’s doctoral committee will conduct a second oral preliminary examination on the student’s research proposal. The student’s doctoral committee then will assess the student’s thesis research and writing progress, make recommendations, and conduct a final oral examination on the final draft of the dissertation. The final dissertation will then be completed and deposited with the Graduate College of the University of Illinois.

Meet Our JSD Candidates