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Admission to the S.J.D. Program 

Admission to the S.J.D. program is highly selective. Students can be admitted to the S.J.D. program in one of two ways: 

1. LL.M. students enrolled at Michigan Law may, during their second semester, apply for admission to the S.J.D. program. The admission decision is made after completion of the LL.M. program. The criteria in such cases will include a judgment that the student’s scholarly background including prior academic performance, publications, and professional experience, suggests the potential for successful completion of the S.J.D.; that the student’s work in the LL.M. program was of very high quality; that the dissertation prospectus indicates the capacity for significant, original contribution to legal literature, and that a faculty member strongly endorses the candidate and is available to act as his/her S.J.D. supervisor and chair of his/her S.J.D. committee. When admitted to the S.J.D. program through this route, students must remain in residence for at least one additional academic year following completion of the LL.M. program, working full time on their dissertations under the supervision of their dissertation committee.

2. In a smaller number of cases, applicants with prior legal training in the Anglo-American tradition may be directly admitted to the S.J.D. program (the LL.M./S.J.D.) prior to arrival in Ann Arbor. The criteria in such cases will be the same as above. When admitted to the LL.M/S.J.D. program through this route, students must satisfy the requirements for an LL.M. degree at the University of Michigan as an initial step toward the S.J.D. degree, even if they already hold an LL.M. degree from another institution. However, the master’s portion of their program of study is not the same as the standard LL.M. program: LL.M./S.J.D. students must complete a minimum of 5 credit hours in approved courses and seminars, and earn the remaining credits toward a total of 24 credit hours in the form of supervised research and writing on a subject approved as the student’s S.J.D. dissertation topic. Although this initial “LL.M. year” satisfies the one-year residency requirement for the S.J.D. program for those admitted to the LL.M./S.J.D. program, most students choose to remain in residency for additional terms.

Following the first year of residency in the LL.M. or LL.M./S.J.D. program, for which students are charged full tuition, students enrolled in the S.J.D. program are awarded a Michigan Grotius Fellowship to cover doctoral tuition and fees for up to two semesters of residency, provided the student is working full time on the dissertation and not enrolled in any coursework. In addition, S.J.D. students may apply for another Michigan Grotius Fellowship to assist with living expenses during this time period; such fellowships are awarded in a competitive process, based on the student’s scholarly promise and quality of progress on the dissertation. Students should simultaneously seek funding from alternative sources as the award of a Michigan Grotius Fellowship cannot be guaranteed.

Requirements for the S.J.D. Degree
By way of brief summary, the S.J.D. degree is conferred upon a student, who, following receipt of the LL.M. degree, has:

  • been admitted to S.J.D. candidacy. The decision on admission to S.J.D. candidacy is made by the student’s dissertation committee at the end of the student’s year of required residence, after the student has completed a significant portion of the dissertation. The student will be admitted to S.J.D. candidacy if the dissertation committee determines that the student’s research and writing on the dissertation topic is of sufficiently high quality to permit continuation in the S.J.D. program. Even though students are admitted to the S.J.D. program with the expectation that they are likely to achieve admission to S.J.D. candidacy, admission to the program does not assure admission to candidacy;

  • participated actively in the Law School’s S.J.D. colloquium during each year of residence, and made at least one substantive presentation of his or her dissertation work;

  • passed an oral examination on his or her dissertation administered by the dissertation committee;

  • demonstrated the capacity for excellence in legal scholarship by completion of an original dissertation of publishable quality approved by the student’s dissertation committee within five years after admission to S.J.D. candidacy. The S.J.D. dissertation may be completed in absentia following the required residency period, although S.J.D. students frequently remain in residence longer. 

Please review the academic regulations governing the S.J.D. program.


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