After graduating with a Juris Doctor a person is eligible for practicing law in the particular state where they pass their bar examination. A person may then go on to specialize in a specific area of the law and study for a Master of Laws degree. For those individuals that prefer to work in academia or in other types of work that has an emphasis in legal scholarship, the Doctor of Laws is the next step.
A Doctor of Laws degree is the highest level of law degree that is offered in the United States. The Doctor of Laws degree falls into four general categories including a Doctor of Juridical Science, Doctor of Jurisprudence, Doctor of Philosophy, and a Doctor of Comparative Law. The American Bar Associate states that there are around 20 law schools in the United States that currently offer doctor of laws degrees. The majority of the programs are exclusive and limit enrollment to only one or possibly two exceptional and extraordinary candidates each year.
Degree and Application Requirements
While the number of doctoral programs is limited, the requirements for application and degree requirements vary greatly. Almost all of the programs will require that an individual complete a master of laws program or a comparative program such as a Master in Comparative Law, Juris Master, or a Master of Jurisprudence. There are some law schools that limit enrollment in their doctoral programs to only those that have completed a LL.M. program with their particular school. This means that if you complete a master program at one law school you may not be eligible for admission into a particular law school for your doctorate. It is important to factor this limitation into the decision making process when considering law schools for your master program if you are considering a doctorate program afterwards.
There are numerous doctorate programs that require individual applicants to gain approval from a member of the faculty stating that they are willing to be the applicant’s advisor and committee chairperson for their dissertation. This must be accomplished before a person applies to the program.
Doctorate Program Considerations
When considering a doctorate program it is important to evaluate each of the programs carefully. It is important to look at the programs and weigh your own particular area of interest against the specializations of the faculty of each of the schools. If interested in writing a dissertation and conducting specific research, consider a school that has a faculty member that has similar interests.
There are some doctoral programs that will require the student to pursue coursework in additional areas and other programs do not have this requirement. Almost all of the programs will require the student to write a dissertation that could be published and that makes a contribution of value to the literature of law. Most programs will require that a doctoral student conduct their research under the supervision of a faculty advisor.
The majority of these programs will require that the degree be completed in a time frame of two to five years, with the first two years being completed “in residence.” The rate for these programs will vary, but there is typically no financial aid available for a doctorate program.