The degree of Doctor of Juridical Science is the highest postgraduate law degree offered by the Dedman School of Law. The S.J.D. primarily is a research and writing degree (as opposed to a course-oriented degree such as the LL.M. degree) during which the S.J.D. candidate conducts extensive postgraduate-level legal research with a view toward submitting an acceptable doctoral dissertation of publishable quality within a five-year period. Additional information is found in this section under Requirements for the Degree.
Nature of the Degree
The S.J.D. is not a professional degree, such as the Dedman School of Law’s J.D. degree; it is intended to be an intense postgraduate, academic research experience.
The S.J.D. is a postgraduate degree. The following are criteria for admission:
- Career goals. The S.J.D. is primarily intended for highly qualified candidates seeking a legal academic career or a high-level, policy-oriented governmental or intergovernmental position, and the candidate must demonstrate such a career goal.
- Academic achievement. An applicant must demonstrate outstanding achievement in previous academic programs.
- Research and writing. An applicant must demonstrate the ability to conduct graduate-level legal research and writing in English. Preference is given to Dedman School of Law LL.M. students who have excelled in their LL.M. degree and have shown an ability to conduct graduate-level legal research and write in English as evidenced by a course paper or a directed research paper submitted as an LL.M. candidate at SMU. Applicants who hold an LL.M. degree or equivalent from another law school and who demonstrate excellent legal research and legal writing abilities in English may be considered for admission. Also, individuals who have an established academic, legal professional, governmental or intergovernmental career, who have suitable career objectives for pursuing the S.J.D. degree and who have demonstrated significant legal research and legal writing abilities in English may be considered for direct admission into the S.J.D. (with or without an LL.M. degree).
- Primary supervisor. The applicant must obtain as a primary supervisor a faculty member of the SMU Dedman School of Law. The primary supervisor must have particular expertise in the S.J.D. candidate’s general area of doctoral research. Additional information is found in this section under Role of Primary Supervisor.
- Statement of subject of dissertation. The applicant, with the assistance of the primary supervisor, must submit a document of no more than 2,000–3,000 words explaining the research topic the applicant will undertake for the purpose of preparing the dissertation.
Admission to the S.J.D. Program
An applicant who is granted admission to the S.J.D. program initially is admitted in a probationary status. The S.J.D. candidate must demonstrate progress toward completion of the requirements for the degree to continue as an S.J.D. candidate. The S.J.D. candidate is matriculated as of the first day of the first term in which the S.J.D. candidate commences the S.J.D. program. The date of matriculation is relevant for purposes of the various time periods.
Probationary Status for First Two Years
The S.J.D. candidate must be in residence at the Dedman School of Law for not less than two academic years, during which time the S.J.D. candidate is in probationary status. During the first probationary year, the S.J.D. candidate (subject to the overall direction of the primary supervisor) will be concerned primarily with conducting extensive research for the purpose of identifying all relevant legal and other materials in the dissertation subject matter. In addition, the S.J.D. candidate will prepare and submit to the primary supervisor (in the following order): 1) a suitable research abstract indicating the thematic and analytical framework and proposition(s) to be proved, and the objectives to be achieved by the dissertation; 2) a detailed subject-matter outline for the dissertation; 3) an extensive working bibliography; and 4) an introductory draft chapter (or equivalent writing) that is at least 10,000 words and that indicates doctoral-level legal research and legal writing abilities.
During the first probationary year, the S.J.D. candidate may be required or advised by the primary supervisor to take selected Dedman School of Law or other University courses, classes, seminars, etc., that are directly related to enhancing the S.J.D. candidate’s prospects for completion of the degree. As a general proposition, however, the S.J.D. candidate should be engaged in doctoral research and writing, not taking courses. If the S.J.D. candidate is pursuing other time-consuming objectives (such as, studying for a bar examination or for other professional qualifications) at the same time as pursuing the S.J.D., the S.J.D. candidate must advise the primary supervisor and the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies. The Committee on Graduate Legal Studies looks with disfavor on such activities, as they generally are detrimental to the S.J.D. candidate’s prospects for completing the degree. In any case, an S.J.D. candidate cannot be pursuing two degree programs at the same time.
Annual Progress and Reports to Graduate Committee
An S.J.D. candidate must submit an annual report to the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies. The report must be submitted within two months after the anniversary date of matriculation as an S.J.D. candidate. The report is to inform the committee of the progress of the S.J.D. candidate and is to include a description of the research and writing completed during the reporting period. In addition, the primary supervisor will submit a report to the committee regarding the progress of the S.J.D. candidate toward completion of the degree.
In order for the S.J.D. candidate to continue in probationary status for the second year, the committee must be satisfied that the S.J.D. candidate, during the first probationary year, has made substantial progress toward completion of the degree. If the committee determines that the S.J.D. candidate, during the first probationary
year, has not made substantial progress toward completion of the degree, the status as an S.J.D. candidate is terminated and the person is withdrawn from the S.J.D. program.
By the end of the second probationary year, the S.J.D. candidate must complete a 30,000-word to 40,000-word work product comprising at least two chapters (or equivalent) of the dissertation. This work product must be of “publishable” quality, and the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies will look with favor on the S.J.D. candidate’s publishing in an acceptable medium at least a portion of this work product. In order for the S.J.D. candidate to complete the two-year probationary status (and be admitted unconditionally to the S.J.D. program), the S.J.D. candidate must demonstrate by the end of the second probationary year that there is a substantial likelihood the candidate will successfully complete the degree requirements within the required five-year period. In making this determination, the graduate committee will consider, among other relevant information, the candidate’s annual report for the second year and the primary supervisor’s report for the second year. If the necessary substantial likelihood is not shown, the status as an S.J.D. candidate is terminated and the person is withdrawn from the S.J.D. program.
After an S.J.D. candidate has completed the two-year probationary period, the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies shall appoint other people to comprise a supervisory committee for the S.J.D. candidate. The committee shall be composed of at least three members, including the primary supervisor, another member of the Dedman School of Law faculty appointed by the committee and a senior “external” person qualified in the area of research and appointed by the committee. The primary supervisor has principal responsibility for nurturing and supervising the S.J.D. candidate. The supervisory committee is to read and critique the dissertation submitted by the S.J.D. candidate and to advise the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies as to whether the S.J.D. candidate has produced a satisfactory dissertation.
After the Probationary Period
After successful completion of the two-year probationary period, an S.J.D. candidate has up to three additional years to satisfy all requirements for the S.J.D. degree. The S.J.D. candidate need not be in residence at SMU during this period. During the post-probationary period, the S.J.D. candidate will have general continuing access to the primary supervisor, but on a less intense and less frequent basis than during the first two years of probationary status.
Requirements for Degree
Within a five-year period from first matriculation as an S.J.D. candidate, the S.J.D. candidate must satisfy the following requirements:
- Completion of the two-year probationary period.
- Submission of a doctoral dissertation of at least 80,000 words but no more than 100,000 words (including footnotes, but excluding bibliography, front pages, table of contents, and any annexes or appendices) on a coherent, analytical and focused theme of a substantially legal nature or submission of an equivalent doctoral dissertation in the form of a series of interrelated articles/chapters on a more general topic, but which collectively comprises a topically coherent volume.
- The dissertation must constitute the original work product of the S.J.D. candidate.
- The dissertation must represent and show evidence of substantial doctoral-level research work.
- The dissertation must display significant legal analyses on a doctoral-level subject.
- The dissertation must be of a publishable quality according to acceptable U.S. law review standards.
- The dissertation must make a substantial contribution to the advancement of the understanding of the relevant research subject matter.
- It is within the discretion of a S.J.D. candidate’s supervisory committee to require a viva voce (oral examination), at which the S.J.D. candidate will be asked “to defend” orally his/her dissertation in the presence of the members of the supervisory committee.
- The dissertation must be approved by each member of the supervisory committee.
The award of the S.J.D. requires approvals of the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies, the law faculty and University. Such decisions cannot be appealed, except as provided. If the S.J.D. candidate’s doctoral dissertation is not approved, the graduate committee will provide the S.J.D. candidate with an explanation of the reasons why it was disapproved, and the S.J.D. candidate then will be given one further 12-month period within which to endeavor to satisfy such comments and to resubmit a revised dissertation. If the S.J.D. candidate then does not, within the 12-month period, satisfy all doctoral requirements, the person is withdrawn from the S.J.D. program.
Role of Primary Supervisor
The primary supervisor will serve as the S.J.D. candidate’s academic adviser and will provide the S.J.D. candidate with general and specific guidance on the S.J.D. candidate’s research and written work product. The supervisor is not to serve as an editor of the S.J.D. candidate’s work product. While the supervisor will make general comments on the submitted work product and may make selective specific comments or otherwise may help arrange for the S.J.D. candidate to take advantage of available University/Dedman School of Law postgraduate legal writing resources, the burden is on the S.J.D. candidate to make any needed editorial arrangements at the candidate’s own expense (such as a qualified J.D. student who may be willing to assist in the editorial process). During the required two-year residency period, the supervisor will meet on a periodic basis with the S.J.D. candidate. However, it is to be understood that the S.J.D. degree is a research degree requiring extensive independent legal research by the S.J.D. candidate in the area of the dissertation.
Termination of Status as Candidate
The status of an S.J.D. candidate may be terminated, and the person withdrawn from the S.J.D. program, for any of the following reasons:
- Failure to satisfy the requirements of the first probationary year.
- Failure to satisfy the requirements of the second probationary year.
- Failure to submit a dissertation within the prescribed five-year period.
- If a dissertation is submitted in a timely manner, failure to satisfy all requirements and standards for the dissertation.
- Failure to pay in a timely manner any required fees.
An S.J.D. candidate whose status is terminated may make a formal appeal in writing to the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies. This appeal must set forth all relevant and/or extenuating circumstances and reasons why the committee should reconsider the termination. It is within the sole discretion of the committee whether to reconsider or not, and, if it chooses to reconsider, then any decision of the committee is final. If the committee does reconsider, it may impose any general and/or specific conditions/requirements as it wishes.
For the first two years of the program, S.J.D. candidates will be charged the equivalent of full-time tuition and fees applicable to LL.M. students. Thereafter, S.J.D. candidates will be assessed a special fee for each fall and spring term until approval of the final dissertation. This fee will be set at the beginning of each term. The 2020-2021 fee is $5,844 per term.
There are no Dedman School of Law scholarships or research/teaching assistantships available for the S.J.D. degree. On an individual basis, an S.J.D. candidate may apply to be the research assistant of a particular faculty member, but any such arrangement must be made individually with the faculty member, who reserves full discretion in such a matter.