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IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Degree Programs

Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)

The S.J.D. is the terminal degree in law, offered by a distinct minority of law schools. At Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, it is a research-based dissertation degree. It is not based upon a structured set of courses in which a candidate must enroll. Successful completion of candidacy requires production of a dissertation of publishable quality constituting an original and substantial scholarly contribution to the area of law in which it is written. This degree is designed for academic lawyers and persons seeking a career in academic law in the United States or abroad, or who seek affiliation with other scholarly/public policy enterprises.

The degree is not lightly conferred and application for admission should not be routinely or casually sought. Admission to study toward the S.J.D. at I.U. Robert H. McKinney School of Law is highly selective and limited to a small number of candidates. Applicants will be evaluated only when their completed applications and supporting documents are received. Careful consideration of applications may take several weeks. Consequently, applicants should plan accordingly and make application as early as possible.


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: March, 2016.