SJD Degree

The Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) is the Law School's most advanced degree, which is designed for legal academics who wish to pursue advanced independent study, research and writing. The Law School's SJD program offers candidates the opportunity to become active members of a vibrant legal community.

 

The SJD program is only open to exceptionally well-qualified candidates who both (a) earned their first law degree outside of the United States and (b) have successfully completed an LLM degree at an ABA accredited law school in the US. (Only in exceptional circumstances will we consider admitting a student whose LLM comes from a law school outside the US, and then only if the sole language of instruction was English.)  Preference will be given to students who have completed their LLM degree at the University of Pittsburgh.

The SJD degree must be completed under the supervision of a faculty member who has consented to serve as the faculty advisor. You must follow the procedures described under the “Admissions” tab of this page in selecting a prospective faculty advisor.

The SJD is a research degree. There is no formal requirement for candidates to pursue course work, whether for credit or otherwise, other than required participation in a non-credit, ungraded colloquium for SJD students during their first year in the program. However, a candidate may be required by his advisor to take or audit courses and participate in seminars and discussions which will further the student’s understanding of his or her field of knowledge and its relation to other fields. Each candidate will be allowed 2-4 years to complete the program, the first year of which must be spent in residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. The year of residency is in addition to the LLM year for Pitt Law LLM graduates. A candidate is required to conduct rigorous research and produce an original dissertation that will contribute significantly to legal scholarship and further understanding of the law. Specifically, a candidate is required to submit a dissertation overview, defend that overview, submit a doctoral dissertation, and successfully defend the dissertation. 

The SJD is a research degree. There is no formal requirement for candidates to pursue additional course work, whether for credit or otherwise, other than required participation in a non-credit, ungraded colloquium for SJD students during their first year in the program. However, a candidate may be required by his advisor to take or audit courses and participate in seminars and discussions which will further the student’s understanding of his or her field of knowledge and its relation to other fields. Each candidate will be allowed 2-4 years to complete the program, the first year of which must be spent in residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. The year of residency is in addition to the LLM year for Pitt Law LLM graduates. A candidate is required to conduct rigorous research and produce an original dissertation that will contribute significantly to legal scholarship and further understanding of the law. Specifically, a candidate is required to submit a dissertation overview, defend that overview, submit a doctoral dissertation, and successfully defend the dissertation.  

The degree will be completed under the supervision of a faculty adviser. You must follow the procedures described under the “Admissions” tab of this page in selecting a prospective faculty advisor.

The faculty adviser, or “major adviser” as specified in the University of Pittsburgh Regulations for Graduate Study, will consult with the student to plan a program of study and research. The adviser may require coursework within the Law School or outside the department as appropriate. The faculty adviser will also be required to supervise the student’s research, approve the dissertation, and serve as chair of the dissertation committee.

The dissertation committee for each candidate shall include a minimum of three, and a maximum of four members. At least two members of the committee shall be members of the faculty of the School of Law. At least one other member shall be a member of a graduate faculty of the University of Pittsburgh outside the School of Law. The committee may also include a practicing lawyer, judge, or faculty member of another law school. Each candidate will be responsible for selecting and organizing his or her committee. The faculty adviser must approve the dissertation committee, and serve as its chairperson. The faculty adviser is also responsible for obtaining approval for the doctoral committee from the Director of the Center for International Legal Education and the Dean of the School of Law.

The dissertation committee’s role is to advise a student as the student researches and writes his or her dissertation. The committee has the authority to request revisions of the dissertation, conduct the final oral examination, and determine whether the dissertation meets acceptable standards and makes a significant contribution to the legal field. A student must meet at least once a year with the committee. During these meetings, the committee will assess the student’s progress and discuss objectives and a timetable to complete degree requirements. This program does not have formal preliminary and comprehensive examinations.

The dissertation must establish the historical context upon which the research is based and identify how the student’s work contributes to the field. The dissertation must analyze and synthesize a broad body of literature and present a clear explanation of the area of research. The work must be of publishable quality and of sufficient detail to allow other scholars to build upon this work. The characteristics of the dissertation are set out in the University of Pittsburgh Regulations Pertaining to PhD Degrees. The candidate is required to publicly defend the dissertation overview at the end of the first academic year, and to defend the dissertation at the conclusion of the process. The overview will provide a complete projection of the body of the dissertation. Both the dissertation overview meeting and the dissertation defense shall be open to the public, with reasonable notice given in advance to the Law School faculty. The announcement of the dissertation defense must appear in the University Times at least five (5) weeks before the scheduled defense. The dissertation shall result from work completed substantially during the student’s enrollment in the SJD Program, and shall not be based on work substantially completed prior to admission.

After completion of the year of residency, students must register as full time dissertation to remain active in the program for each semester until graduation. Students using University facilities must register each term for a minimum of one credit, and may register for additional courses if recommended by their advisor. The per credit rate for additional courses will be the same as that of the LLM Program. Students must pay mandatory University of Pittsburgh fees for each year of their candidacy.

Admission Information

The SJD program is only open to exceptionally well-qualified candidates who both (a) earned their first law degree outside of the United States and (b) have successfully completed an LLM degree at an ABA accredited law school in the US. (Only in exceptional circumstances will we consider admitting a student whose LLM comes from a law school outside the US, and then only if the sole language of instruction was English.)  Preference will be given to students who have completed their LLM degree at the University of Pittsburgh.

Application

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. You can complete the application here (PDF download).

Process

Pitt Law has a three-step process for SJD admissions:

  1. Submit a completed application, including all required documents, to CILE for an initial screening. Your application must designate your preferred faculty advisor to supervise your dissertation writing. We will review your preferred advisors and make initial contact with them on your behalf. Please read carefully the directions in "Components of a Complete SJD Application" below.
  2. Next, the CILE Executive Director will review your application to confirm that it is complete and that it meets our threshold requirements for consideration. The Executive Director will then consult with the potential faculty advisor(s) that you identify in your application and determine whether any of them would be a good fit for your dissertation subject. You may or may not be contacted by one or more faculty members during this stage.
  3. If we determine that one of your preferred faculty members is an appropriate faculty advisor for your dissertation and is willing and able to act as your advisor if admitted, your application will be submitted to the full SJD admissions committee for review and a decision. Success in the first two stages of the admissions process does not ensure that the committee will offer admission to the program.

Components of a Complete SJD Application 

Academic Records

Submit original or certified (notarized) copies of all original language academic records/mark sheets/transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended. Copies or student copies of transcripts are not acceptable. Applicants must include certified copies of their LLM degree and transcript. Applicants who are graduates of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law LLM program need not submit academic records for post-secondary institutions attended prior to attending the University of Pittsburgh LLM program.

Writing Sample

The writing sample, the legal subject matter of which does not need to be related to the dissertation proposal, must be in English, typed and double-spaced. There is no page limit.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal must be typed, double-spaced, and in the range of 2,500 words (ten pages), with a two-page bibliography attached that lists relevant works that proved significant in the formulation of the applicant’s thinking about his or her proposal. The substance of the proposal should: (a) demonstrate the originality of the research project; (b) indicate the importance of the project within the applicant’s field of study; and (c) indicate the methodology the applicant expects to employ in the development of the dissertation.  

Preferred Faculty Advisor(s)

Your application must identify at least one and no more than three current full-time members of the Pitt Law faculty who you believe would be suitable faculty advisors for your dissertation. You should describe in one to three sentences why you believe that the research interests of each such faculty member are relevant to your dissertation topic.

A list of members of the Pitt Law faculty who are permitted to serve as faculty advisors, together with short summaries of the research and teaching interests of each, is linked here (PDF download). You should first identify which of those faculty, if any, have research interests that are directly relevant to your proposed dissertation topic. Confirm that the faculty members that you have identified are appropriate potential advisors by reviewing the lists of publications and presentations included in their biographies and CVs.

Statement of Interest

SJD applicants are required to provide a narrative statement (approximately 2-3 pages) detailing why he or she wishes to pursue a SJD.

Curriculum Vitae or Resume

SJD applicants are required to enclose a current curriculum vitae or resume with his or her application.

Certification of English Language Skills

University of Pittsburgh School of Law course work, and related academic activities, require written and spoken fluency in English. Official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) must be sent directly to the University of Pittsburgh by the Educational Testing Service. Copies of TOEFL test results are not acceptable.

SJD applicants who are graduates of the University of Pittsburgh LLM program do not need to resubmit TOEFL results. Applicants may request a waiver of the TOEFL if they have received an LLM degree from an English-speaking institution.

For information or to apply for the TOEFL, contact the Educational Testing Service, P.O. Box 6151, Princeton, New Jersey, 08541-6151, U.S.A. or visit http://www.toefl.org. The University of Pittsburgh ETS code is 2927 and the department code for Law is 03.

An appropriate score on the IELTS may be used in lieu of a TOEFL score to satisfy this requirement.

Recommendations

SJD applicants must identify and seek the recommendations of two individuals who are in a position to evaluate the applicant’s ability, motivation and potential for succeeding in the University of Pittsburgh SJD program. One of these two individuals must be a professor who taught the applicant in a course taken for credit in the applicant’s LLM program.

All completed recommendation forms must be submitted by the individual completing the Recommendation Form. For their convenience in assessing your skills, please provide those persons from whom you seek recommendations with a copy of your dissertation proposal. Also, please provide those persons from whom you seek recommendations with a stamped envelope addressed to the Center for International Legal Education. The recommendation form, a component of the SJD application, is included in the application (PDF download).

Cost

During the first year of the SJD program, the one required year in residence, the tuition will be the same as the tuition for the LLM program. See the University’s tuition page for the current rate. Tuition beyond the first year of the SJD program is charged based on the full-time dissertation credit rate.

Read about extracurricular activities and student life in Pittsburgh.

SJD Candidates, 2016-17

New SJD Students

Mais Haddad (Syria) is writing her dissertation on a comparative study of legal discrimination against religious, ethnic and other minorities in the different nation states of the Middle East.  Her dissertation advisor is Professor Hamoudi.  She received her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Damascus in Syria in 2004, an LLM in International Law from the University of Damascus in 2008, and her Master of Arts in International Politics from the City University London in the UK in 2009.  She received a Chevening Scholarship from the Foreign Commonwealth Office of Britain in 2008.  She has worked as a financial and investment advisor, and was a practicing attorney in Damascus from 2004 through 2013.

Oday Mahmoud (Iraq) is writing his dissertation on a comparative study of the electoral systems in Iraq and the US and their respective compliance with international standards.  His dissertation advisor is Professor Hamoudi.  He received his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Mosul in Iraq in 1999, a masters degree in public and administrative law from the University of Mosul in 2006, and his LLM from Penn State in 2016.  He was a Deputy Commissioner of the Independent High Electoral Commission in Iraq from 2008 through 2013, and has worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Mosul and at Al Iraqi University in Baghdad, Iraq.

Doris Toyou (Cameroon) is writing her dissertation a comparative study of the legal protections for private equity investors in the US and Europe.  Her dissertation advisor is Professor Branson.  She received her master’s degree in international economic law from the Pantheon – Sorbonne University in France in 1999, and her LLM from Boston University in 2003.  She has worked as a legal analyst with JPMorgan Chase in New York City, and has also working in legal, due diligence and compliance positions with Sullivan & Cromwell, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and others.

Continuing SJD Students 

Hisham Mahmoud Mohamad Ababneh (Jordan) is writing his dissertation on a comparative study of foreign investment laws and their application in Jordan and the United States. His dissertation supervisor is Professor Brand. He received his bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Jordan in 2011 and his LLM degree from McGill University in 2012. He worked in the Amman, Jordan, offices of the law firms of Ababneh & Jarar, of Aljazy & Co. and of Eversheds LLP. He is the recipient of a full scholarship from Petra University in Amman, Jordan.

Abdullah Suliman F. Alaoudh (Saudi Arabia) is writing his dissertation on the role of religious institutions in post-revolutionary Arab countries and the transition to democracy. His dissertation supervisor is Professor Hamoudi. He received his LLM degree from Pitt Law in 2011, and received his bachelor’s degree in Islamic law from Alqassim University in 2005. He is the recipient of a full scholarship from the Cultural Mission of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.

Wasfi H. Abdal Kareem Al-Sharaa (Iraq) is writing his dissertation on the use of criminal law in the fields of energy and environmental regulation. His dissertation supervisor is Professor Hamoudi. He received his bachelor’s degree in law from Shatt-El-Arab University College in 1998 and a master’s degree in law from the University of Baghdad in 2001. He was an assistant professor of law and assistant dean of academic affairs at Basra Law School in Iraq. He is the recipient of a full scholarship from the University of Basra.

Ohud Ali A. Alzahrani (Saudi Arabia) is writing her dissertation on the rights of orphaned children under international and Islamic law. Her dissertation supervisor is Professor Velez Martinez. She received her bachelor’s degree in 2009 from Princess Norah Bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and her LLM degree in 2014 from Pace University School of Law. She is the recipient of a full scholarship from the Cultural Mission of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.

Zvenyslava Iosipivna Opeida (Ukraine) is writing her dissertation on a comparative analysis of the law on subsidies in the World Trade Organization, the European Union and the United States. Her dissertation supervisor is Professor Brand. She received her jurist’s degree with honors in 1998 from Donetsk National University in Ukraine, and her LLM degree from the University of Illinois in 2001. She was a senior lecturer in the economics and law department of Donetsk State University.