SJD Program Courses and Requirements

gavel, scales justice, law books

The SJD program is a 3-year degree program. The first year will be spent in residence at Miami Law, where students will focus on the development of a final dissertation proposal to be subject to the approval of faculty advisor before the student can progress to the writing stage of the SJD program. The second and third years will be spent writing and completing the dissertation under the supervision of the student’s faculty advisor.

In the first year, all SJD students must participate in the SJD Seminar, a two-semester 3-credit course designed to provide students the skills they need to successfully complete their dissertation. The seminar, to be taught by Miami Law faculty and librarian faculty, will cover dissertation formulation, planning and drafting, U.S. and international legal research techniques, critical reading and analysis, legal discourse, and academic presentations. In addition, specific rotating themes will be introduced each semester based on the students’ backgrounds, interests, and goals.

First year SJD students will also be required develop their own course of study for their residency year. The student’s course of study is to be developed with, and is subject to the approval of, the faculty advisor. The course of study may include upper-level courses in their area of specialization selected from the law school’s existing course catalog. It may also include other University of Miami graduate level courses, as well as readings and other academic work framed in the context of the candidate’s specific field of study.

During the second semester of the first year, students will present their final dissertation proposal for approval by their faculty advisor. During this second semester students must also form a dissertation committee containing at least 3, but no more than 4 members. At least two members of the committee must be members of the Miami Law faculty. The committee may also include a practicing lawyer, judge, or faculty member of another law school. The faculty advisor approves the dissertation committee and serves as its chairperson. The faculty advisor is also responsible for obtaining approval for the doctoral committee from the Director of the SJD Program and the Dean of Miami Law.

In the second and third years of the program students will focus on the writing of the dissertation. If the student chooses to remain in Miami during this period the student may continue to participate in the SJD seminar and audit classes, and will be encouraged to participate in the intellectual life of the School. Students will receive regular assessments of their progress form their faculty advisor, and the SJD committee will review these assessments annually. The aim is that students will complete the writing of the dissertation by the end of their third year in the program.

A student may apply for up to two additional years of study with the supervisor’s support. However, students will have a maximum period of 5 years within which to complete the writing of the dissertation, subject to the ability of the SJD Committee to extend the time period if a student petition justifies the extension to the satisfaction of the Committee. 

Sample 3-year SJD Course of Study

  First Semester (Fall or Spring)

Second Semester (Fall or Spring)

Year 1

SJD Seminar (3 credits)

Additional credits of upper-level law courses

SJD Seminar (3 credits)

Additional credits of upper-level law courses

Year 2 Dissertation Research and Writing (6 credits) Dissertation Research and Writing (6 credits)
Year 3
Dissertation Research and Writing (6 credits) Dissertation Research and Writing (6 credits)


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