Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

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 three 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.; the student’s work in the LL.M. program was of very high quality; the dissertation prospectus indicates the capacity for significant, original contribution to legal literature; and a tenured Michigan Law professor 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 admitted to the LL.M./S.J.D. The LL.M./S.J.D. program requires students to first complete a modified one-year Michigan LL.M. degree followed immediately by the S.J.D program. The modified LL.M. comprises five credit hours of courses or seminars plus at least 19 credit hours of supervised research and writing on the dissertation topic. The modified LL.M. degree year is charged at regular LL.M. tuition and fulfills the one-year residency requirement of the S.J.D. program. Admissions criteria for the LL.M./S.J.D. are identical to those described in scenario 1 above. To obtain a faculty member endorsement and commitment to serve as the dissertation chair, LL.M./S.J.D. applicants should NOT contact faculty directly, but should include their thesis proposal and the names of their preferred dissertation chairs in their application materials. Only fully tenured Michigan Law professors qualify to serve as dissertation chairs.

LL.M/S.J.D. applicants who are not admitted directly to the doctoral program will automatically be considered for admission to the LL.M program, and may apply for admission to the S.J.D. program upon successful completion of the LL.M.  

3. In an even smaller number of cases, exceptionally qualified candidates with demonstrated excellent credentials relevant to their proposed dissertation will be considered for direct admission to the S.J.D. program at Michigan Law. However, direct admission to the S.J.D. is very uncommon and reserved for the most extraordinary applicants. Their thesis proposal and application must show that they are ready to hit the road running immediately upon their arrival in Ann Arbor.  Admissions criteria are identical to those in scenario 2 above, including the instruction that applicants should not contact professors directly, but should include their preferences in their application materials.

Direct SJD applicants will not be considered for the LL.M/S.J.D or LL.M unless they explicitly indicate that they would be interested in either of these options.  


Applicants admitted to the S.J.D. program after completing the Michigan LL.M. (scenario 1) or as a direct S.J.D. admit (scenario 3) are awarded a Michigan Grotius Fellowship to cover the SJD tuition for their first two semesters in residence.  After this year in residence, students are expected to achieve candidacy after which no further tuition is charged.
Students who enter through the LL.M./S.J.D. path (scenario 2), achieving candidacy at the end of the LL.M. year, are not charged tuition for any subsequent semesters in residence.

Living Stipends

All Michigan Law S.J.D. students may apply for a Michigan Grotius Fellowship to assist with living expenses during any semester they are in residence. Such fellowships are awarded in a competitive process, based on the students’ scholarly promise, financial need, and quality of progress on the dissertation. Preference is typically given to students in their first or second year of the program. 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.

Michigan Law Wordmark Print View