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J.S.D. Degree Requirements

The requirements for the J.S.D. degree include the following:

  • Admission -- Applications to the J.S.D. program are welcomed from all students having completed LL.M.-level work. Except in unusual circumstances, however, students are admitted to the J.S.D. program only after initial candidacy for the LL.M. degree at Cornell Law School, in which they must have received all honor grades. A J.S.D. student is accepted only when, in the judgment of the law school faculty, the student is exceptional and the law school faculty is in a position to provide proper supervision of the student's proposed course of study.
  • Special Committee -- A candidate for the J.S.D. degree is required to work under the direction of a Special Committee chosen by the candidate (after consultation with the student’s Special Committee chair and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Field of Law in the Graduate School of Cornell University), of which the chair and at least one other member are members of both the Cornell Law School faculty and the Graduate School Faculty in the Field of Law. Under Cornell University Graduate School rules, a student’s Special Committee must consist of at least three members of the Graduate School faculty.
  • Residency -- The minimum residence requirement for the J.S.D. Degree is two full terms (the first year of the J.S.D. program). Completion of the degree normally requires four to six semesters (not all necessarily in residence). It is highly recommended – and a student’s Special Committee may require – that the J.S.D. student also be in residence during the final semester before submission of the dissertation.
  • Coursework -- During their first year in residence, J.S.D. students must take an active part in one required course, The Cornell Graduate Colloquium (Law 7991), in which they must present their research in progress. During the first year a student’s Special Committee chair may also require that the student successfully audit or complete specific courses or seminars that the Special Committee chair deems to be useful for the student’s development as a scholar.
  • Prospectus -- In order to be permitted to begin work on the dissertation, a J.S.D. student must successfully submit and orally defend a dissertation prospectus before his or her Special Committee (if constituted) or his or her Special Committee chair and at least one other member of the Graduate School faculty in the Field of Law (normally the Director of Graduate Studies in the Field of Law). The prospectus, which should be submitted by the end of the first year, must outline in detail the structure, content and methodology of the student’s proposed dissertation.
  • Dissertation -- The J.S.D. student must pursue and complete with distinction the program of study and investigation as set forth in the prospectus approved by his or her Special Committee and acceptable to the Field of Law, producing a dissertation that constitutes a significant contribution to legal scholarship. Following submission of the dissertation to his or her Special Committee, the student must pass a final examination (usually on the subject matter of the dissertation) and any other examinations that the Special Committee requests. Following the examination and the Special Committee's approval of the dissertation, the student must submit the dissertation to the Graduate School of Cornell University.