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IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law


S.J.D. Admissions

The Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree is the terminal degree in law designed for individuals interested in academia. If you are seeking an academic position at a college or university, an S.J.D. will stand you in good stead. The McKinney S.J.D. program is extremely selective in the students it accepts.

The McKinney S.J.D. is extremely selective in the students it accepts. It is not a degree that is conferred lightly—and you should not make a casual application.

Curriculum and Timeline

There is no set curriculum for the S.J.D. Instead, it’s a research-based degree. To complete your candidacy, you’ll be required to produce a dissertation of publishable quality constituting an original and scholarly contribution to the area of law you have chosen.

It ordinarily takes three years to complete an S.J.D. degree, and you are required to complete, submit, and successfully defend your dissertation within five calendar years of the date of admission.

As an S.J.D. graduate, you will have the opportunity to publish your work on the ScholarWorks network at Indiana University.  This network makes your research available to lawyers and legal scholars worldwide.


Admission to the S.J.D. program at the McKinney School of Law is highly selective and limited to a small number of candidates. To be eligible, you must:

  • Hold a J.D. or LL.B. degree (minimum GPA of 3.0/B or the equivalent)
  • Hold a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from an ABA-accredited law school (minimum GPA of 3.0/B or the equivalent) *
  • Have a high level of English proficiency (TOEFL of 100+ or IELTS of 7.5+), if English is not your native language
  • Submit a detailed and comprehensive dissertation proposal. You must demonstrate that the dissertation will constitute an original and substantial contribution, of publishable quality, to legal scholarship
  • Have prior written work of high quality (a thesis from a Master's program is highly preferred)

* For students who are currently in an LL.M. program, we will only accept applications during your final term of study.

To gain admission to the S.J.D. program at McKinney Law, you must submit prior scholarship of sufficient quality to show that you will be able to successfully complete a lengthy dissertation of publishable quality.  We prefer to see a master's thesis, although prior scholarship other than a thesis can provide evidence of English language writing ability.  If you have not completed a thesis you will be at a distinct disadvantage during the admissions process.  The admissions committee may view the lack of a master's thesis as evidence that you lack confidence in your writing ability or that you lack the commitment necessary to complete a doctoral dissertation.   If your native language is not English, you must also show that you have written extensively in the English language.

For more detailed admissions information, visit preparing your application.

S.J.D. Requirements

The heart of the S.J.D. program is the dissertation. To be awarded the S.J.D. degree, you must complete and successfully defend your dissertation.

A dissertation is usually between 100,000 and 150,000 words in length. However, a large word count is not considered evidence of quality, and length can vary.

After your dissertation is successfully defended and unanimously approved by the Dissertation Defense Committee appointed by the Graduate Affairs Committee, you'll receive your S.J.D.

S.J.D. Residency Requirement

As an S.J.D. candidate, you are required to be in residence at the law school for the first two semesters following admission. Your dissertation supervisor can increase your required residency period at his or her discretion. You can also choose to remain in residence for the duration of your studies.

To learn more about the S.J.D. program and find out how you can become a candidate, Miki Hamstra, Director of Graduate Programs, will be happy to talk with you about specifics. She can be reached at mhamstra@iupui.edu or 317-274-0402.

Last Updated: April, 2018.