Juris Scientiae Doctoris (JSD) Program

The WashULaw JSD program is designed for attorneys pursuing a career in academia, policy, or scholarly legal research. The JSD program is very small and is focused on exceptional candidates with a sophisticated scholarly focus. The JSD degree program requires 2 years of residency on campus in St. Louis, Missouri and typically takes an additional year or more to complete.

If you are interested in a broad-based understanding of the U.S. legal system or in developing a specialty in a particular area, please contact our Admissions Office to discuss the LLM programs.

Typically JSD students take courses during their first year of residency with the option of earning an LL.M. at the end of that year. (If a student already has an LLM, a second LLM is not required but is allowed). Those students may still take courses during their first year as auditors. If an entering JSD student has already earned an LL.M. that student will be able to audit courses during their first year. J.S.D. students pay two years of tuition. Beyond the second year, students are required to pay a continuation or administrative fee (approximately $3,000) until they finish their degree program. The expectation is that the program will take 2-3 years to complete but must be completed in no more than five years.

Year 1 Residency - LLM Coursework: During the first year of residency, each JSD student must complete course work sufficient to earn an LLM degree at WashULaw. JSD students may elect to pursue coursework in any of the LLM programs offered by WashULaw, allowing students to choose between broad exposure to US Law and pursuing a specialty in a particular substantive area. JSD admissions advisors are available to assist prospective JSD students in identifying the most beneficial LLM degree path.

Continuation to the second year of residency in the JSD program is contingent upon successful completion of the coursework for an LLM degree.

Year 2 Residency - JSD Research and Dissertation: In the second year of residency in the JSD program, JSD students focus on refining and advancing their dissertation proposals with the assistance of an assigned Faculty Advisor. The JSD program emphasizes original research and writing culminating in the preparation of a significant and extensive dissertation of publishable quality. In consultation with the Faculty Advisor, each JSD student will identify any advantageous additional coursework; however, additional coursework is not a requirement of the program.

The J.S.D. dissertation should demonstrate not just awareness of a body of material but also synthesis of that material into a rigorous high quality analysis. It should be a work that, when published, will contribute to the field.

JSD Dissertation Committee: Following admission to the J.S.D. program, the J.S.D. Admissions Committee will appoint a Dissertation Committee. Each Dissertation Committee is made up of at least three members, and the chair of the committee serves as the primary Faculty Advisor to the JSD candidate.

The dissertation must be completed and accepted by the candidate’s Dissertation Committee within (a) five years of receipt of the LL.M. degree, for students who obtain their LL.M. from Washington University Law; or (b) five years after admission to the J.S.D. program. All J.S.D. candidates will be expected to defend their dissertation vive voce. In extenuating circumstances, a dissertation can also be defended via a videoconference or similar computer facilitated meeting.


To file an application for admission to the JSD program, an applicant must have earned a first degree in law from another country or a JD and demonstrate academic and scholarly distinction. Applicants are expected to possess significant knowledge in the area of scholarly interest prior to beginning the JSD degree program.

Application Materials

A successful application will include:

  1. Application 
  2. Dissertation Proposal
  3. Letter of Recommendation from faculty advisor/mentor/professor of the school where studied law
  4. Official transcripts and English translations of transcripts from the applicant’s first degree in law

the JSD program, the program administrators will match you with an appropriate faculty

Application for the JSD program is a rolling review and admission process (applications are reviewed as they are received, throughout the academic year). You are encouraged to submit your application as early as possible. JSD students begin their studies in August of each academic year.