JSD Online

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About the Program

The online Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD) Degree Program is a postdoctoral program designed for aspiring legal academics wishing to pursue sustained independent study, which includes substantial legal research and writing. It is Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s most advanced law degree designed for academics seeking to pursue careers as professors and distinguished law scholars. This highly selective program is open only to applicants holding a prior distinguished academic track record in law, demonstrating promise of future quality scholarship.

The program is 60 units to complete (contact us about transfer units), and is designed to take 3-5 years to complete. There is one incoming class each year in July.

Term Dates

Typically, students receive 20 transfer credits from their Masters degree into the program. This leaves the 40 remaining units outlined above.


The online Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD) Degree Program is a postdoctoral program designed for aspiring legal academics wishing to pursue sustained independent study, which includes substantial legal research and writing. It is Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s most advanced law degree designed for academics seeking to pursue careers as professors and distinguished law scholars. This highly selective program is open only to applicants holding a prior distinguished academic track record in law, demonstrating promise of future quality scholarship.

The program is 60 units to complete (contact us about transfer units), and is designed to take 3-5 years to complete. There is one incoming class each year in July.

Transferring Units

Students may transfer up to 20 qualifying units from their LLM program upon approval of the program director.

Curriculum / Stages

In order to be awarded the J.S.D. degree, the candidate must successfully complete 60 units of required coursework, the writing of a doctoral dissertation of a minimum of 80,000 words (180 to 300 pages), and participate in a public defense over a course of four stages. To be eligible for acceptance into the program, students must have a Master’s of Law (LL.M. or equivalent).

Thomas Jefferson School of Law will provide a Supervisory Panel who will guide each candidate through the entire process. The Supervisory Panel will consist of individuals either on full-time faculty at an ABA accredited school; or hold either a J.S.D., S.J.D., LL.D., Ph.D., or D.Phil. (or equivalent). It is the candidate’s responsibility to obtain a suitable Subject Matter Expert (“SME”) as outlined below.

Thomas Jefferson School of Law will provide a Supervisory Panel, which will guide each candidate through the entire process. The candidate will secure a Subject Matter Expert to discuss the specific topic with in addition to the Supervisory Panel (described under “Stage 1” below).

The members of the Supervisory Panel are:

Dr. Richard Gendler, Co-Faculty Director, JSD Program

Dr. Robert Munro, Co-Faculty Director, JSD Program

The first stage shall consist of eight units of coursework. To be eligible for Stage Two, the following must be completed:

1) Passing grades in 635A and 635B. These courses cover American Jurisprudence, dissertation research methodology and dissertation writing.

2) Develop a suitable research topic and receive approval from the Supervisory Panel.

3) Develop a research roadmap of between 7,500 and 10,000 words.

4) The student shall secure a suitable Subject Matter Expert, approved by the Supervisory Panel. The Subject Matter Expert must have undertaken research or published scholarly work having some relevance to the dissertation or law review topic area.

A student must finish Stage One within one year of commencement. If the student does not satisfy this requirement, then the student will be administratively withdrawn from the program and have to petition for re-enrollment. The petition must describe why Stage One was not completed within a year, and propose a timeline for completion of Stage One.

The second stage shall consist of independent research and writing under the supervision of the Supervisory Panel and Subject Matter Expert. This process is candidate driven, and is the responsibility of the candidate to meet all administrative requirements. The candidate is required to write a full length JSD dissertation manuscript (minimum 80,000 and maximum of 100,000, words), of publishable quality. Candidates may enroll in four units a term and must submit a J.S.D. progress report at the conclusion of each term to the Subject Matter Expert and Supervisory Panel. Such progress report must be prepared by the candidate and contain a recommendation for term credit by the Subject Matter Expert before the candidate can be considered for approval to proceed to future term registration by the Supervisory Panel.

Stage Two is broken into two parts.

Part 1: A candidate may not progress past 45 units earned towards the degree unless the candidate has written 30,000 words of a dissertation in addition to the Table of Contents.

Part 2: A candidate completes the dissertation. This will take the candidate to the 60 units required to complete the degree.

Stage Two must be completed within three years from commencement. If the student does not satisfy this requirement, the student will be administratively withdrawn from the program and have to petition for re-enrollment. The petition must describe why Stage Two was not completed within three years, and propose a timeline for completion of Stage Two.

If a candidate has completed Stage Two, but chooses to not continue to Stage Three, the candidate may choose to finish as “ABD” (“All but dissertation”). If this option is chosen, the student's transcript will indicate ABD; no certificate or degree will be awarded.

The third stage shall commence upon both the Subject Matter Expert and the Supervisory Panel issuing a passing score to the written dissertation. The candidate shall then bear the responsibility of securing two experts in the field of study to serve as J.S.D. Evaluators. The Evaluators must have a record of research and publications in the area of the candidate’s dissertation and must be approved by the Supervisory Panel. Upon approval of the J.S.D. Evaluators, the dissertation shall be provided to each J.S.D. Evaluator to review and issue a passing score.

The fourth stage is the oral defense of the dissertation. Upon the Subject Matter Expert, the JSD Supervisory Panel, and the two J.S.D. Evaluators issuing a passing score to the dissertation, the oral defense shall be scheduled. Upon the Subject Matter Expert, the JSD Supervisory Panel, and the two J.S.D. Evaluators issuing a passing score to the oral defense, the J.S.D. degree shall be conferred. Students who complete the 60 credits but do not complete all of the other requirements contained in the four stages detailed herein within five years of commencing the program will be have their status in the program noted as ABD (“All But Dissertation”) on their transcripts.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Graduates will demonstrate:
  2. Critically apply theories, methodologies, and knowledge to address fundamental questions in their primary area of study;
  3. Pursue research of significance in the discipline or an interdisciplinary or creative project. Students plan and conduct this research or implement this project under the guidance of an advisor while developing the intellectual independence that typifies true scholarship; and
  4. Demonstrate skills in oral and written communication sufficient to publish and present work in their field.

Important Information