S.J.D. Degree

The Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) is the Law School's most advanced degree, which is designed for legal academics who wish to pursue advanced independent study, research and writing. The Law School's S.J.D. program offers candidates the opportunity to become active members of a vibrant legal community.

 

The S.J.D. program is only open to exceptionally well-qualified candidates who have an LL.M. degree, or the equivalent.  We generally require that the LL.M. degree was completed in English, and preference will be given to students who have completed their LL.M. degree at the University of Pittsburgh.  Applicants who have completed a non-English language LL.M. Program are strongly encouraged to enroll in the LL.M. program prior to entering the S.J.D. program. 

The S.J.D. degree must be completed under the supervision of a faculty member who is selected by the S.J.D. candidate and who has consented to serve as the faculty advisor. No student may apply for the S.J.D. program without first obtaining consent from a faculty member, who will serve as both the advisor and the chair of the dissertation committee. Faculty advisors must be full-time tenured faculty members of the law school. A directory of the School of Law's fulltime faculty members can be found here.

The S.J.D. is a research degree. There is no formal requirement for candidates to pursue additional course work. However, a candidate may be required by his advisor to take or audit courses and participate in seminars and discussions which will further the student's understanding of his or her field of knowledge and its relation to other fields. Each candidate will be allowed 2-4 years to complete the program, the first year of which must be spent in residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. The year of residency is in addition to the LL.M. year for Pitt Law LL.M. graduates. A candidate is required to conduct rigorous research and produce an original dissertation that will contribute significantly to legal scholarship and further understanding of the law. Specifically, a candidate is required to submit a dissertation overview, defend that overview, submit a doctoral dissertation, and successfully defend the dissertation.

The S.J.D. is a research degree. There is no formal requirement for candidates to pursue additional course work. However, a candidate may be required by his advisor to take or audit courses and participate in seminars and discussions which will further the student's understanding of his or her field of knowledge and its relation to other fields. Each candidate will be allowed 2-4 years to complete the program, the first year of which must be spent in residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. The year of residency is in addition to the LL.M. year for Pitt Law LL.M. graduates. A candidate is required to conduct rigorous research and produce an original dissertation that will contribute significantly to legal scholarship and further understanding of the law. Specifically, a candidate is required to submit a dissertation overview, defend that overview, submit a doctoral dissertation, and successfully defend the dissertation.  

The degree will be completed under the supervision of a faculty adviser. No student may enter the S.J.D. program without first obtaining consent from the faculty member who will serve as the adviser and chair of the dissertation committee. Faculty advisers must be full-time tenured faculty members of the law school.   The faculty adviser, or "major adviser" as specified in the University of Pittsburgh Regulations for Graduate Study, should consult with the student to plan a program of study and research. The adviser may require coursework within the Law School or outside the department as appropriate. The faculty adviser will also be required to supervise the student's research, approve the dissertation, and serve as chair of the dissertation committee.

The dissertation committee for each candidate shall include a minimum of three, and a maximum of four members. At least two members of the committee shall be full-time tenured faculty members of the School of Law. At least one other member shall be a full-time tenured member of a graduate faculty of the University of Pittsburgh outside the School of Law. The committee may also include a practicing lawyer, judge, or faculty member of another law school. Each candidate will be responsible for selecting and organizing his or her committee. The faculty adviser must approve the dissertation committee, and serve as its chairperson. The faculty adviser is also responsible for obtaining approval for the doctoral committee from the Director of the Center for International Legal Education and the Dean of the School of Law.

The dissertation committee's role is to advise a student as the student researches and writes his or her dissertation. The committee has the authority to request revisions of the dissertation, conduct the final oral examination, and determine whether the dissertation meets acceptable standards and makes a significant contribution to the legal field. A student must meet at least once a year with the committee. During these meetings, the committee will assess the student's progress and discuss objectives and a timetable to complete degree requirements. This program does not have formal preliminary and comprehensive examinations.

The dissertation must establish the historical context upon which the research is based and identify how the student's work contributes to the field. The dissertation must analyze and synthesize a broad body of literature and present a clear explanation of the area of research. The work must be of publishable quality and of sufficient detail to allow other scholars to build upon this work. The characteristics of the dissertation are set out in the University of Pittsburgh Regulations Pertaining to PhD Degrees. The candidate is required to publicly defend the dissertation overview at the end of the first academic year, and to defend the dissertation at the conclusion of the process. The overview will provide a complete projection of the body of the dissertation. Both the dissertation overview meeting and the dissertation defense shall be open to the public, with reasonable notice given in advance to the Law School faculty. The announcement of the dissertation defense must appear in the University Times at least five (5) weeks before the scheduled defense. The dissertation shall result from work completed substantially during the student's enrollment in the S.J.D. Program, and shall not be based on work substantially completed prior to admission.

After completion of the year of residency, students must register as full time dissertation to remain active in the program for each semester until graduation. Students using University facilities must register each term for a minimum of one credit, and may register for additional courses if recommended by their advisor. The per credit rate for additional courses will be the same as that of the LL.M. Program. Students must pay mandatory University of Pittsburgh fees for each year of their candidacy.

Admission Information:
The S.J.D. program is only open to exceptionally well-qualified candidates who have an LL.M. degree, or the equivalent.  We generally require that the LL.M. degree was completed in English, and preference will be given to students who have completed their LL.M. degree at the University of Pittsburgh.  Applicants who have completed a non-English language LL.M. Program are strongly encouraged to enroll in the LL.M. program prior to entering the S.J.D. program. 

APPLICATION: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. You can complete the application here.

PROCESS:

The first step in the process is to obtain a faculty member's commitment to serve as your faculty advisor and chair of your dissertation committee. A faculty member's consent to do so must be secured before applying to the program. You should select a faculty member whose research interests fit well with your proposed dissertation topic. You must submit a written (email is acceptable) statement from the faculty member committing to be your adviser and to chair your committee with your SJD application. No student may enter the S.J.D. program without first obtaining consent from the faculty member who will serve as the faculty adviser and chair of the dissertation committee. Faculty advisers must be full-time tenured members of the law school. A directory of the School of Law's full-time faculty members can be found here.

Along with the statement of faculty commitment and the S.J.D. program application, the following documents are required to complete your admission packet:    

Academic Records
Submit original or certified (notarized) copies of all original language academic records/mark sheets/transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended. Copies or student copies of transcripts are not acceptable. Applicants must include certified copies of their LL.M. degree and transcript. Applicants who are graduates of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law LL.M. program need not submit academic records for post-secondary institutions attended prior to attending the University of Pittsburgh LL.M. program.

Writing Sample
The writing sample, the legal subject matter of which does not need to be related to the dissertation proposal, must be in English, typed and double-spaced. There is no page limit.

Dissertation Proposal
The dissertation proposal must be typed, double-spaced, and in the range of 2,500 words (ten pages), with a two-page bibliography attached that lists relevant works that proved significant in the formulation of the applicant's thinking about his or her proposal. The substance of the proposal should: (a) demonstrate the originality of the research project; (b) indicate the importance of the project within the applicant's field of study; and (c) indicate the methodology the applicant expects to employ in the development of the dissertation.

Statement of Interest
S.J.D. applicants are required to provide a narrative statement (approximately 2 - 3 pages) detailing why he or she wishes to pursue a S.J.D.

Curriculum Vitae or Resume
S.J.D. applicants are required to enclose a current curriculum vitae or resume with his or her application.

Certification of English Language Skills
University of Pittsburgh School of Law course work, and related academic activities, require written and spoken fluency in English. Official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) must be sent directly to the University of Pittsburgh by the Educational Testing Service. Copies of TOEFL test results are not acceptable.

S.J.D. applicants who are graduates of the University of Pittsburgh LL.M. program do not need to resubmit TOEFL results. Applicants may request a waiver of the TOEFL if they have received an LL.M. degree from an English-speaking institution.

For information or to apply for the TOEFL, contact the Educational Testing Service, P.O. Box 6151, Princeton, New Jersey, 08541-6151, U.S.A. (http://www.toefl.org) The University of Pittsburgh ETS code is 2927 and the department code for Law is 03.

Recommendations
Prior to applying for the S.J.D. program, S.J.D. applicants are required to obtain a recommendation from a University of Pittsburgh School of Law faculty member who is interested and available to supervise the applicant's S.J.D. and to serve as the chair of the applicant's dissertation committee if admitted to the S.J.D. program.

Additionally, S.J.D. applicants must identify and seek the recommendations of two other individuals who are in a position to evaluate the applicant's ability, motivation and potential for succeeding in the University of Pittsburgh S.J.D. program.

All completed recommendation forms must be submitted by the individual completing the Recommendation Form. For their convenience in assessing your skills, please provide those persons from whom you seek recommendations with a copy of your dissertation proposal. Also, please provide those persons from whom you seek recommendations with a stamped envelope addressed to the Center for International Legal Education. The recommendation form, a component of the S.J.D. application, may be downloaded in PDF format.

COST:
During the first year of the S.J.D. program, the one required year in residence, the tuition will be the same as the tuition for the LL.M. program. See the University's tuition page for the current rate. Tuition beyond the first year of the S.J.D. program is charged based on the full time dissertation credit rate.

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Abdullah Alaoudh (Saudi Arabia) received his bachelor’s degree in law from Al Qassim University in Buraydah, Saudi Arabia, in 2006 and he studied in the Master’s degree program of Comparative Law at the International Islamic University in Malaysia in 2009.  He completed the English as a Second Language Program at Duquesne University in 2010 and is a 2011 LL.M. graduate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  Alaoudh has published articles in Arab newspapers on cultural matters, developmental projects in Islamic law, and critiques of current legal practice in Saudi Arabia.  He published an article in English in the Arab Law Quarterly (Brill) called “The Notice Requirement of Article 39 and Islamic Law: Developed vs. Developing Countries.”   The title of his dissertation is “The Constitutionalism and religion in Post-revolution Arab Countries.”

Zvenyslava Opeida (Ukraine) received her first degree in law from Donetsk National University, Ukraine, in 1998, and her LL.M. in International Trade and Intellectual Property Law from the University of Illinois in 2001. She was as senior lecturer on the economics and law faculty at Donetsk National University from 2001 to 2013, where she taught courses on World Trade Organization (WTO) law, international economic law, and intellectual property law. Opeida also served as Deputy Director of Donetsk National University’s Center of International and European Law, and was a founding member of the University’s Economics and Law Faculty Moot Court Board. She has over one dozen publications that focus on international trade law, franchising, and intellectual property law. She will teach a course on international trade law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in spring 2014. Her dissertation proposal focuses on a comparative analysis of the law on subsidies in the WTO and European Union.

Hisham Ababneh (Jordan) received his bachelor of laws from University of Jordan in 2011 and an LL.M. in Comparative Law from McGill University in 2012. His master’s thesis was titled "The Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards Annulled in their place of origin: An Analysis of the Different Interpretations of the New York Convention." After receiving his LL.M., Mr. Ababneh worked at the law firms of Aljazy & Co. and Eversheds LLP in Amman, Jordan. His SJD dissertation will be in the field of Private international law.