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J.S.D. Program

The Doctor of Juridical Science is the law school’s most advanced degree. It makes full use of our creative and interdisciplinary faculty to prepare students for careers as law professors, judicial and other public offices, as well as high-level policy positions in international organizations.

In their doctoral dissertation, the successful J.S.D. student will produce an original, innovative piece of scholarship that makes a contribution to our understanding of law.

Our Program

The University at Buffalo's research doctorate is for lawyers throughout the world interested in analyzing, understanding, assessing and using law as a mode of social organization and an instrument of governance.  Our program trains legal scholars to employ interdisciplinary tools to observe, analyze and assess legal doctrines, policies and institutions. Located within a leading U.S. university (UB is a member of the Association of American Universities, composed of prominent research institutions), our program is designed to enable students to:

  • explore law in its social context and from a comparative perspective in an American setting; 
  • understand different schools of legal theory and bring them into dialogue with their previous legal training;
  • apply such theoretical approaches to the analysis of legal problems and institutions; 
  • understand and critically assess the full range of research methods used in legal scholarship; and 
  • identify and master those methods most appropriate to their proposed project.

The program draws on the strengths of our research centers and our welcoming and interdisciplinary faculty. Students are encouraged to address legal issues and institutions theoretically and comparatively, topically and from an interdisciplinary policy perspective. The program inculcates the research skills most relevant to each student's research agenda and culminates in the preparation of a substantial work of original legal scholarship.

Our Approach The Curriculum Program Timing Admission Tuition

Program Timing

The J.S.D. degree can typically be completed within three years – one year in residence of full-time study with coursework, followed by a period of research and writing (generally an additional one to two years).

The First Year
Study in the J.S.D. begins with a year-long colloquium (LAW 762) that familiarizes students with contemporary issues in legal theory. The colloquium also exposes students to a variety of research methods efficacious for identifying, analyzing, situating and critically assessing legal norms, institutions and behavior. These approaches will include those drawn from the social sciences and humanities.

While enrolled in the colloquium, each student will also undertake a year-long independent study under the supervision of their thesis advisor (LAW 799). This study will first introduce the student to the formal conventions of U.S. scholarly writing about law and legal institutions. Students will frame and refine their thesis topic, work with reference librarians to identify useful resources, and develop a plan of work. In most cases, it is expected that the thesis topic will grow out of the draft thesis proposal required as part the application.

The balance of the first-year program will be devoted to such substantive coursework (concentration electives) as may be appropriate to the dissertation topic. These courses will be selected in consultation with and subject to the approval of the thesis advisor. With approval, J.S.D. students will be free to take courses outside the School of Law that are relevant to their research programs.

By the beginning of the second semester, a three-member Dissertation Committee will be assembled for each student. This Committee will help the student develop a formal thesis proposal that will include a complete reading list. Qualification for candidacy will be conditioned on an examination on the reading list, as well as approval of the thesis proposal.  The examination may be written or oral at the discretion of the Committee.  First year students will submit a written self-evaluation to the thesis advisor at the end of each semester.

After the First Year
In subsequent years, students proceed with the necessary research and writing for their thesis (LAW 899).  This work may be undertaken while in residence or at any place where the necessary work can be done, and should be completed in one to three additional years.  Candidates will report progress to their Dissertation Committee at least once each semester, including providing a written self-evaluation, and will submit draft chapters for comment. Upon completion of the thesis, the student will present an oral defense to the Committee.

For international students on F-1 visa
J.S.D. candidates on student visas are permitted to remain in the country for a period of two years.  This includes the one academic year of full-time study and research in residence at the law school followed by a second year of research. After each academic year students are required to provide documentation regarding their plans to the Office of International Student Services.

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