phd law meaning

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Doctor of Laws (J.S.D./S.J.D.)

After graduating with a Juris Doctor a person is eligible for practicing law in the particular state where they pass their bar examination. A person may then go on to specialize in a specific area of the law and study for a Master of Laws degree. For those individuals that prefer to work in academia or in other types of work that has an emphasis in legal scholarship, the Doctor of Laws is the next step.

Degree and Application Requirements

While the number of doctoral programs is limited, the requirements for application and degree requirements vary greatly. Almost all of the programs will require that an individual complete a master of laws program or a comparative program such as a Master in Comparative Law, Juris Master, or a Master of Jurisprudence. There are some law schools that limit enrollment in their doctoral programs to only those that have completed a LL.M. program with their particular school. This means that if you complete a master program at one law school you may not be eligible for admission into a particular law school for your doctorate. It is important to factor this limitation into the decision making process when considering law schools for your master program if you are considering a doctorate program afterwards.

There are numerous doctorate programs that require individual applicants to gain approval from a member of the faculty stating that they are willing to be the applicant’s advisor and committee chairperson for their dissertation. This must be accomplished before a person applies to the program.

Doctorate Program Considerations

When considering a doctorate program it is important to evaluate each of the programs carefully. It is important to look at the programs and weigh your own particular area of interest against the specializations of the faculty of each of the schools. If interested in writing a dissertation and conducting specific research, consider a school that has a faculty member that has similar interests.

There are some doctoral programs that will require the student to pursue coursework in additional areas and other programs do not have this requirement. Almost all of the programs will require the student to write a dissertation that could be published and that makes a contribution of value to the literature of law. Most programs will require that a doctoral student conduct their research under the supervision of a faculty advisor.

The majority of these programs will require that the degree be completed in a time frame of two to five years, with the first two years being completed “in residence.” The rate for these programs will vary, but there is typically no financial aid available for a doctorate program.

phd law meaning

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Yale Law School

The Ph.D. in Law Degree

The Ph.D. in Law degree program is designed to prepare J.D. graduates for careers as legal scholars and teachers through a doctoral program aimed at the production of a substantial body of academic research and writing under the close supervision of a three-member faculty dissertation committee. Unlike programs designed for students who wish to learn about law from the disciplinary perspectives of the social sciences or the humanities, the Ph.D. in Law is directed at students who wish to pursue advanced studies in law from the perspective of the law. This program offers emerging scholars an opportunity to contribute to the development of law as an academic field, and it provides an alternate pathway into law teaching alongside existing routes such as fellowships, advanced degrees in cognate fields, legal practice, and clerkships.

Because our entering Ph.D. students will have already completed their J.D. degrees, the anticipated course of study toward the Ph.D. in Law degree is three academic years and two summers in residence. In their first two semesters, Ph.D. students will enroll in courses designed to help them acquire the background and research skills needed to complete a dissertation in their field of interest and to prepare them for qualifying examinations that test the depth and breadth of the literacies and skills they have acquired. During their second year, students will prepare a dissertation prospectus and begin work on a dissertation. The dissertation may take the form of either three law review articles or a book-length manuscript and will make up a portfolio of writing that will be essential for success in the job market. Ph.D. students will also gain experience in the classroom, and receive the full support of Yale Law School’s Law Teaching Program , which has had remarkable success in placing graduates in tenure-track positions at leading law schools.

Ph.D. students receive a full-tuition waiver, a health award for health insurance coverage, and a stipend to cover their year-round living expenses, as well as support for participation in national and international conferences.

Applications for admission to the Ph.D. in Law program are available starting on August 15. The deadline for submission of all materials is December 15. Applicants to the Ph.D. in Law program must complete a J.D. degree at a U.S. law school before they matriculate and begin the Ph.D. program. Any questions about the program may be directed to Gordon Silverstein, Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs, at [email protected] .

Watch Gordon Silverstein, Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs, describe the Ph.D. program at Yale Law School.

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2020 and 2021 Graduate Programs alumni before their in-person ceremony in May 2022

“ Now it is time to pivot and ask, where are your extraordinary gifts needed? How do you make this legal world that you are entering a better world? One where no one is shut out; one where the weak and vulnerable are not exploited; one that produces fair results based on the merits of the issues before it.”

Visiting Lecturer Stephen Bright

2012 Commencement Address

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Doctor of Science of Law (JSD)

January 2023, JSD cohort with Professor Amalia Kessler, Associate Dean for Degree Programs

The Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD) is the Law School’s most advanced law degree, and is considered a doctorate equivalent to a Ph.D.  It is designed for those interested in becoming scholars and teachers of law including interdisciplinary approaches to law.

Study toward the degree is open only to a small number of exceptionally well-qualified students who hold a JD or LL.B earned outside the United States.  Students in the program develop substantive expertise in one or more fields of law and have the opportunity to pursue substantive and methodological training in allied disciplines across the broader university, including but not limited to, the social sciences, humanities, and engineering.  The program culminates in the student producing a dissertation under the personal supervision of a Faculty committee comprised of law school professors as well as, where appropriate given the student’s interests, faculty from other departments of the university.

As of the coming academic year (2023-24), there will be two different tracks for admission into the JSD program.  A minimum of two students will be admitted from among students who have completed the Stanford Program in International Legal Studies (SPILS)  at Stanford Law School.  In addition, students at Stanford and at other law schools in the United States who will have completed LLM degrees prior to the commencement of the JSD program are encouraged to apply for admission and will be seriously considered.  To be competitive, students applying from LLM programs must have completed (and must submit) a serious piece of independent, original research demonstrating their scholarly potential.

Admission to the JSD program is on a highly selective basis. Please note that admission to SPILS or to any Stanford LLM program does not imply a commitment by Stanford Law School to accept a student into the JSD program.

Some need-based funding, as well as funding to conduct research and attend conferences is available to admitted JSD students.

Questions concerning the JSD program should be directed to [email protected] .


JSD Candidates

Luis Bergolla

Luis Bergolla

Silindile 1

Silindile Buthelezi


Rolando Garcia Miron


Yutang Hsiao

Tai-jan huang.


Takuma Iwasaki

Mao-wei Lo

Thiago Nascimento dos Reis

Omar Patricio Vasquez Duque 4

Omar Patricio Vasquez Duque

Having a JSD from Stanford Law School opens up countless career opportunities.

Teaching in us academia, teaching outside the us, working in the public interest sector, working in the private sector.

Pepperdine University Online Graduate Programs - home

Online Graduate Programs / Online Law Programs / Types of Law Degrees

What Are the Different Types of Law Degrees?

If you are a professional seeking a legal career or law-related occupation, it is important to remember that a Juris Doctor (JD) is not the only type of law degree available to you. When pursuing your law degree options, you should first consider the specific legal skills you will need to advance your career.

Some types of law degrees, like the JD, will prepare you to pass the bar exam and practice law as a lawyer in the courtroom or in a more traditional legal setting. Other non-JD law degrees, like the Master of Legal Studies (MLS) or Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR), provide you with legal skills that are useful in almost any field.

Exploring the different admissions requirements, curriculum options, and outcomes of these degrees will help you determine which type of law degree is the best fit for your career goals.

Master of Legal Studies (MLS)

A Master of Legal Studies degree is designed for nonlawyers who could benefit from a deeper understanding of the law but do not want to follow the path of becoming a practicing attorney. A legal studies degree is generally a good fit for professionals who deal with legal procedures or concepts in their daily role and are looking to advance their career.

Admission: MLS programs require applicants to have earned their bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and can sometimes require standardized test scores. In addition, a résumé, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews can be required.

Academic Experience: MLS curriculums typically cover a variety of legal topics to give students a strong foundation in all aspects of the law. Courses can cover legal topics like contracts, regulatory compliance, negotiation theory, and administrative law. In addition, students are sometimes required to attend in-person learning experiences that give them the opportunity to put their newly gained legal skills into practice. MLS programs typically take 16 to 28 months to complete depending on full-time or part-time options.

Program Outcomes: Graduates of legal studies degree programs typically pursue careers in law-adjacent fields such as business, human resources, regulatory agencies, law enforcement, and social work. Skills like working with contracts, understanding the legal procedures involved in transactions, and ensuring compliance with the law can help students advance in these fields.

Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s online Master of Legal Studies program  helps students understand complex legal concepts to make more informed decisions in their role. Students also have the option of choosing a concentration in dispute resolution, with courses from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s Straus Institute—ranked #1 for dispute resolution by U.S. News & World Report . Learn more about Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s online Master of Legal Studies program.

Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR)

A Master of Dispute Resolution degree can be beneficial for professionals who are looking to develop conflict resolution and negotiation skills to better manage conflict and handle difficult situations. MDR programs can attract professionals who are interested in learning how to resolve conflicts between parties, handling change or promoting communication in their organization, and identifying workplace issues before they arise.

Admission: Similar to other non-JD degree programs, individuals pursuing a dispute resolution degree are required to have earned their bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and can sometimes require standardized test scores. In addition, a résumé, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews can be required.

Academic Experience: MDR curriculums typically cover negotiation, mediation, and arbitration strategies in addition to a wide range of dispute resolution topics. Course topics can include negotiation, mediation theory, arbitration practice, and conflict management. MDR programs typically take 16 to 28 months to complete.

Program Outcomes: Since conflict and difficult situations are present in almost every field, students can pursue careers in business management, social work, counseling, human resources, construction management, and labor relations.

Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s online MDR program  assists professionals across a variety of industries to confidently resolve conflicts and negotiate complex transactions. The online MDR program is offered by Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s Straus Institute, which is ranked #1 for dispute resolution by U.S. News & World Report . Learn more about Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s online Master of Dispute Resolution program.

Juris Doctor (JD)

A Juris Doctor degree is the required legal degree for professionals who are pursuing a career as a practicing attorney. JD degree programs at American Bar Association accredited law schools typically focus on all aspects of U.S. law and legal procedure to prepare students to research cases, prosecute or defend lawsuits, and argue on behalf of a wide variety of individual clients and businesses. A JD degree includes preparation for passing a state bar exam, which allows attorney’s to practice in their chosen state.

Admission: Students pursuing a JD degree are required to have earned their bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and must submit LSAT or GRE test scores. In addition, letters of recommendation, personal interviews, and personal statements can be required.

Academic Experience: JD curriculums typically emphasize the tools and strategies used in the courtroom and to conduct research on complex legal issues. Course topics can include U.S. law, constitutional law, civil law, criminal law, torts, contract law, property, and other legal topics. Students typically graduate in three years when taking a full-time course load. In most cases, they are also required to complete internships and clerkships at law firms.

Program Outcomes: Graduates of a JD degree program must pass a bar examination to practice law in the United States. Only after passing the bar exam can students become licensed attorneys.

Learn more about Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s  on-campus Juris Doctor program .

Master of Laws (LLM)

A Master of Laws degree is designed for professionals who already hold a law degree and want to specialize in a particular area of law. Students in LLM programs typically develop expertise in a specific legal subject such as tax law, intellectual property, or human rights law.

Admission: Students pursuing an LLM degree are required to have earned a JD degree from an accredited college or university. In addition, a résumé, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews can be required.

Academic Experience: LLM curriculums provide students with the opportunity to further hone their legal skills by choosing from a range of electives that cover advanced legal topics. Specialized areas of study include international law, human rights law, tax law, commercial law, copyright law, and environmental law. Students typically graduate in one year if taking a full-time course load or two years if taking a part-time course load.

Program Outcomes: After earning this degree and developing expertise in the subject of their choice, LLM degree graduates typically continue their careers as attorneys but serve a more specialized client base. These highly competitive fields can include international law, human rights law, intellectual property law, and health law.

Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s online Master of Laws (LLM) in Dispute Resolution program  prepares lawyers to solve the most pressing conflicts of today through mediation, negotiation, and arbitration. The online LLM program is offered by Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s Straus Institute, which is ranked #1 for dispute resolution by U.S. News & World Report . Request information today to learn more about Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s online Master of Laws in Dispute Resolution program.

Learn more about Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s  on-campus LLM programs .

Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD)

A Doctor of Juridical Science degree is considered the highest level of a law degree and is designed for professionals who are looking to gain an advanced legal education after earning their JD and LLM. Given that these legal professionals have already earned other advanced law degrees, an SJD provides them with the additional legal expertise that is required to become professors and scholars of law.

Admission: Students pursuing an SJD degree are required to have earned their JD and LLM from an accredited college or university. In addition, a résumé, a personal statement, a research proposal, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews can be required.

Academic Experience:  Instead of a traditional curriculum featuring a range of required courses, SJD programs typically require students to conduct legal research in one-on-one sessions with professors and participate in seminars. SJD programs usually take two years to complete on a full-time course load.

Program Outcomes: SJD degree graduates typically pursue careers such as law professor or legal scholar.

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To download an informational brochure about Pepperdine Caruso School of Law's online master's degree programs, request information today.

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Find Your Law PhD

Find Your Law PhD

Phd in law programs, what is a phd in law.

A PhD in Law is an advanced post-graduate degree that equips you with the skills to pursue a legal research, teaching, or practice career. It is designed to give students the highest level of professional qualifications. A PhD in Law can be undertaken in various specializations, such as public law, international law, human rights law, environmental law, or legal history.

Why get a Doctorate in Law?

A PhD in Law can open up a wealth of career opportunities. Students who have attained this degree may be qualified to teach law at the university level, pursue legal research, and work in public policy, government positions, international agencies, or private practice. It also allows aspiring lawyers to gain deep knowledge about their chosen field, explore advanced topics, and develop an in-depth understanding of legal systems.

What are the requirements for a PhD in Law?

To get accepted into a PhD program, you'll need at least a Bachelor's degree in Law or a related field. Additionally, some programs may ask for evidence of your knowledge in the form of a thesis or academic paper. Lastly, you will need to prove your language and research abilities too. All these requirements can vary depending on the school and country you're applying for.

Choosing the right PhD in Law program

As you search for the perfect PhD program, there's much to consider. Consider the depth of specialization, faculty and research chances, student-teacher dialogue, and reputation of the school. On top of that, make sure to identify your interests and objectives to find a program that fits your educational goals. For instance, if you're into environmental law - look for a school with professors specialized in the field and ample research opportunities. Not to mention the location, cost of attendance, financial aid options and living expenses.

If you are ready to take the next step in your legal career, there is no better time than now! Start researching the most popular PhD in Law programs listed below.

Most Popular Fields

Law studies.

Top PhD Programs

PhD in Law programs are offered in a number of various fields. Have a look at some of the most popular PhD in Law programs below!

Top PhD Countries

PhD in Law programs are available at universities around the world. Take your PhD in Law in one of these most popular locations!

Top PhD Cities

There are many popular PhD in Law programs offered by some of the highest ranking universities in the cities listed below!

Newly added programs

University of Pécs

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Queen's University Belfast

University of Latvia

SOAS University of London

Alfred Nobel Open Business School

Zhetysu State University named after Ilyas Zhansugurov

Universidade Santiago de Compostela

University Of Washington School Of Law

University at Albany

University of Cambridge

The University of Texas at Dallas

UAEU United Arab Emirates University

Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes

L’Université Catholique Du Congo

News and Articles

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Have you finally decided on a career in law? Can you see yourself standing up in a packed courtroom defending the innocent and most vulnerable members of society? Are you inspired to make the world a better (and safer) place by prosecuting those who would do otherwise? Or would you like to sit on one of the highest courts of all, where you can help shape and uphold the standards of justice and liberty for generations to come? If so, then the first thing you'll need is a law degree. Thankfully, we've come up with a few pointers that will make the application process as easy as possible. Here are seven tips for securing yourself a place at law school.

Doctor of Philosophy in Law (PhD)

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The PhD in Law is designed to provide advanced training for outstanding graduate students who have already obtained a Master of Laws (LLM) degree or its equivalent. The PhD is a research-intensive degree that prepares graduates for opportunities in law teaching, legal research, policy development, public and governmental service, and the practice of law.

The degree requirements include course work, comprehensive exams, a dissertation proposal and defence, a dissertation, and an oral dissertation exam. Working closely with a supervising faculty member, a student in the PhD program is expected to produce a book-length piece of original legal scholarship and of publishable quality.

The PhD provides an opportunity for focused study in a chosen field of law. It does not, of itself, qualify a holder for entry to the legal profession in British Columbia or any other certification for legal practice.

For specific program requirements, please refer to the departmental program website

I pursued my graduate studies at UBC to integrate my passions for law, learning, and teaching into a research project that could be of real benefit to legal scholarship and Canadians.

UBC graduate student Jason Leslie

Jason Leslie

Quick Facts

Program Enquiries

Admission information & requirements, 1) check eligibility, minimum academic requirements.

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement : 100

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement : 7.0

Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is not required.

Prior degree, course and other requirements

Prior degree requirements.

Completion of either an LLB or JD and a Masters degree.

Document Requirements

Additionally to the required documents please submit: C.V. or resume Dissertation Proposal: PhD degrees in the Allard School of Law at UBC are dissertation-based degrees involving original research. Dissertation (PhD) proposals form an important part of the admissions process and help to guide the assignment of supervisors and supervisory committees. A proposal should outline a research project that could reasonably lead to a dissertation that makes an original scholarly contribution in the chosen field of legal study. The PhD dissertation proposal is approximately 10 pages (2,500 words), excluding bibliography. Clarity of expression is important. Please upload your thesis proposal under "Writing Sample". List of possible thesis supervisors: All applicants must submit a list indicating your first and second choice for a thesis supervisor, this list should be uploaded to your application form. There is no need to secure a thesis supervisor nor is it is necessary to contact potential thesis supervisors prior to submission of an application as many faculty members prefer that applications are referred by the Graduate Committee for their review.

2) Meet Deadlines

September 2024 intake, application open date, canadian applicants, international applicants, deadline explanations.

Deadline to submit online application. No changes can be made to the application after submission.

Deadline to upload scans of official transcripts through the applicant portal in support of a submitted application. Information for accessing the applicant portal will be provided after submitting an online application for admission.

Deadline for the referees identified in the application for admission to submit references. See Letters of Reference for more information.

3) Prepare Application


All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest , sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.


Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Law (PhD)

Citizenship verification.

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Research Information

Research facilities.

Allard Hall, the home of the Peter A. Allard School of Law, was opened in 2011. The latest technology connects the Faculty with campuses, courthouses and offices around the world, and a new, state-of-the-art UBC Law Library serves as a vital academic hub for students and the legal community. Natural light, contemporary classroom designs, expanded student service spaces, a student forum space at the centre of the building, and new research spaces are all part of the new facility. The Law Library has a research collection of approximately 225,000 volumes.

Tuition & Financial Support

Financial support.

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Program Funding Packages

All full-time students who begin a UBC-Vancouver PhD program in September 2021 or later will be provided with a funding package of at least $22,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships. Please note that many graduate programs provide funding packages that are substantially greater than $22,000 per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.

Average Funding

Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union .

Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans .

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement .

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Outcomes

24 students graduated between 2005 and 2013: 1 is in a non-salaried situation; for 1 we have no data (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016). For the remaining 22 graduates:

phd law meaning

Sample Employers in Higher Education

Sample employers outside higher education, sample job titles outside higher education, phd career outcome survey, alumni on success.

phd law meaning

Robert Russo

Job Title Lecturer

Employer Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Law (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.

Enrolment Data

Completion rates & times, upcoming doctoral exams, friday, 31 march 2023 - 12:30pm - 335, allard hall, 1822 east mall.

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

Doctoral Citations

Sample thesis submissions.

Related Programs

Same specialization.

Further Information

Specialization, ubc calendar, program website, faculty overview, academic unit, program identifier, classification, social media channels, supervisor search.

Departments/Programs may update graduate degree program details through the Faculty & Staff portal. To update the application inquiries contact details please use this form .

phd law meaning

Haley Hrymak

Many of the academics I admire and look up to are at UBC. UBC is the ideal place for my work given my focus on BC, my supervisors’ skillsets, and my connection to the legal community and anti-violence sector across BC. I am also very thankful for the funding UBC has offered me to complete my...

phd law meaning

Melanie McPhail

Growing up in the Vancouver area, I was thrilled at the opportunity of continuing my graduate studies close to home after spending over a decade in Ontario. Additionally, studying at UBC provides me with the opportunity to work with Dr. Cristie Ford, a leading scholar in regulatory governance.

phd law meaning

Maira Hassan

I first attended UBC for my Master in Laws (LLM) and then decided to stay for my PhD. Although I did focus on Feminist Legal Theory in my LLM, in my PhD, I wanted the opportunity to work and contribute to the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies (CFLS) at the law school. The Vancouver campus was also...

phd law meaning

Roland Nadler

I already knew firsthand what living and studying at UBC would be like, thanks to my experience as a Master's student in the Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program and a resident at Green College between 2010 and 2012. Between the university's institutional strengths and my abiding love for...

phd law meaning

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DPhil in Law

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About the course

The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) is the most prestigious of the Law Faculty's research degrees. It entails writing a thesis over a period of three, or at most four years (six to eight years for part-time students). 

All students will be admitted to Probationer Research Student (PRS) status in the first instance, and all students except those who have previously completed the faculty's MPhil in Law programme will undertake a course in legal research methods during the first year as a full-time student or in the first two years as a part-time student. This provides training in legal research methodology, but it will also expose you to the diversity of and intellectual challenges involved in legal scholarship and serves as a forum of peers in which you can discuss the methodological challenges involved in your own research. The course comprises seven compulsory two-hour seminars during Michaelmas term while in Hilary term, students must attend eight hours of seminars from a wider range of options, including seminars offered by other social sciences departments and the faculty’s Centres for Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies. Students must also attend the course conference at the start of Trinity term.

The Faculty can provide supervision for a wide range of different topics and a  list of completed doctorates gives a general sense of the breadth and depth of the research undertaken by its students.

A typical week for a student during their first two terms will involve attendance at a legal research training methodology class and perhaps participating in a discussion group (of which there are over 30) or auditing a BCL seminar that relates to their own research topic; apart from which they will be spending their time engaged in their own research. You will also meet with supervisors to discuss your work as explained in the supervision section below. After the third term (providing you transfer to full DPhil status) you may undertake fieldwork and research trips, depending on the nature of your research topics, and there may be opportunities to undertake paid research assistance or to teach undergraduate students.

As a part-time student, you will be required to be physically present in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days per year, normally coinciding with the full terms of the academic year, to be arranged with the agreement of your supervisor. You should expect to meet with your supervisor (either in person or, where available, online) up to nine times throughout the academic year, and in the first two terms, you will be required to undertake the legal research training methodology course (either in person or, where available, online).


The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Law Faculty and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Law Faculty.

On admission as a research student, you will be assigned a supervisor with whom you should meet regularly to discuss your work and provide feedback and advice.  Students generally meet their supervisors nine times per year. For the DPhil, there is likely to be a greater concentration of meetings during the first two terms, while you are in the process of defining your research topic, and in the final stages leading up to submission of the completed thesis.

All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of four terms as a full-time PRS student (eight terms as a part-time PRS student), you will be expected to apply for, and achieve, transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status by submitting a research outline and a substantial piece of written work. These are assessed by two members of the Law Faculty, who will also interview you about your work. This application is normally made by the third term for full-time students (sixth term for part-time students). A similar exercise then takes place between your sixth and ninth terms (twelfth and fifteenth terms for the part-time pathway) when you will apply for Confirmation of DPhil status.

After three or at most four years (no later than eight years for the part-time pathway), your thesis will be read by two examiners, who conduct an in-depth oral examination known as a viva voce. The thesis must make a significant and substantial contribution to its field. On the basis of the examiners’ report, you will either be awarded the DPhil (which may be subject to major or minor corrections) or referred back to make revisions to the thesis.

Graduate destinations

DPhil students will pursue a range of career paths after completion of the doctorate. Many will take up academic posts, or pursue postdoctoral research of one sort or another. Some will enter legal practice as solicitors, barristers, advocates, and judges; others will become legal advisors advising government departments, non-governmental organisations and private companies.

The University of Oxford has an excellent careers service with which the department has close ties. The Careers Service organises a number of events of specific interest to students wishing to pursue a career in law, and offers one-to-one advice from members of staff with knowledge and experience specific to the legal sector.

The Law Faculty has an extensive network of relationships within the legal profession and each year offers a number of talks and events run by law firms and barristers’ chambers.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Law

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24, proven and potential academic excellence, degree-level qualifications.

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

In the absence of an undergraduate degree in law, candidates may be admitted with a postgraduate diploma or master's qualification in law at distinction level.

Most students admitted to the programme have a previous master's qualification but this is not a formal requirement.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's  higher level . If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) † Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides  further information about the English language test requirement .

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The  How to apply  section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The  How to apply  section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References  and  supporting documents  submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our ' After you apply ' pages provide  more information about how applications are assessed . 

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about  processing special category data for the purposes of positive action  and  using your data to assess your eligibility for funding , can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply  pages provide more information about offers and conditions . 

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a  Financial Declaration  in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any  relevant, unspent criminal convictions  before you can take up a place at Oxford.

The Law Faculty is fortunate to have outstanding library facilities provided by the Bodleian Law Library. As part of the Bodleian, the Law Library shares in all the advantages of being part of the largest university library in the country, including the receipt, under legal deposit legislation, of legal material published in the UK and Ireland. 

The Law Library offers the vast majority of its holdings - some 550,000 items - on open shelves across four floors. Selected low-use material is housed in a book storage facility and is retrievable within half a day. The library serves a large community of graduate readers and academics in their research requirements. The strength of the collection lies in the depth of its UK holdings, combined with extensive holdings for European and Commonwealth jurisdictions. In addition the library holds materials relating to international law, Roman law, and jurisprudence. To complement the paper collection, the Law Library provides a wide range of online legal resources. The Bodleian’s collection of Official Papers is also housed in the Law Library.

The library has 40 reader workstations, which provide access to the internet, legal databases, Microsoft Office applications and Endnote. There is a Graduate Reading Room, a large seminar room, two IT rooms and three small ‘discussion rooms’ for private study or group work. The wireless network extends throughout the library. The law librarians offer a range of classes and one-to-one sessions to support the specific research needs of graduate students.

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships , if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Full-time study.

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Part-time study

Information about course fees.

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges .

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Continuation charges

Following the period of fee liability , you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding  section of this website provides further information about course fees , including information about fee status and eligibility  and your length of fee liability .

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel and research expenses. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for grants from the Faculty or your College to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford , as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference . Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students for full-time study on this course:

The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this course:

Before you apply

Our  guide to getting started  provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines  in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance .

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

You are encouraged to  check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver  before you apply.

Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students

If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission .

Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?

You do not need to make contact with academic staff before you apply. However, it is suggested that you consult the  list of research and subject groups on the Law website  to check that your research interests fall within an area in which the Law Faculty has research expertise.

You may also wish to refer to the  list of academic staff  for details of individual Law Faculty members' research interests.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents . If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Proposed field and title of research project

Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.

You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).

Proposed supervisor

If known, under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research. Otherwise, leave this field blank.

Referees: Three overall, academic strongly preferred

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Academic references are strongly preferred, but a professional reference will be accepted as long as you also provide two academic references. If you are currently completing a course at Oxford, then at least one reference must be from someone who has taught you on that course.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation.

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Research proposal: A maximum of 600 words

You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English. The overall word count may exclude any bibliography or footnotes.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Written work: One essay, a maximum of 2,000 words 

An academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. This may be an extract from a longer piece - in such cases, the piece should be prefaced by a note which puts the work in context.

The work must be on a legal topic and written in English. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or footnotes.

This will be assessed for comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please  refer to the requirements above  and  consult our Application Guide for advice . You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide   Apply - Full time Apply - Part time


Closed to applications for entry in 2023-24

Register for monthly email updates and get notified when the new application cycle opens

12:00 midday UK time on:

Friday 20 January 2023 Latest deadline for most Oxford scholarships Final application deadline for entry in 2023-24

*Three-year average (applications for entry in 2020-21 to 2022-23)

Further information and enquiries

This course is offered by the Faculty of Law

Course-related enquiries

Advice about contacting the department can be found in the How to apply section of this page

[email protected] ☎ +44 (0)1865 271496

Application-process enquiries

See the application guide

Visa eligibility for part-time study

We are unable to sponsor student visas for part-time study on this course. Part-time students may be able to attend on a visitor visa for short blocks of time only (and leave after each visit) and will need to remain based outside the UK.

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What is a Juris Doctor degree? An Overview of the J.D. Degree

Ready to start your journey.

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The Juris Doctor degree–or J.D. for short–is a graduate degree awarded by law schools in the United States. A Juris Doctor is technically a Doctor of Jurisprudence just as an MD is a Doctor of Medicine or a PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy. In order to become a licensed attorney in most states, an applicant must graduate from an accredited law school although there are non-accredited law schools which can also confer a Juris Doctor degree.

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The Juris Doctor degree first appeared in the United States during the early 1900’s. During this time, universities such as Harvard began a movement to standardized the legal education for lawyers in the United States. This movement led to the modern day Juris Doctor degree. There are currently over 230 colleges or universities in the United States that have a J.D. program. There is an increasing number of Canadian colleges offering a J.D. program as well as some international universities that offer the degree.

Are there other law degrees besides a J.D.?

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Prior to the creation of the Juris Doctor degree, there were two undergraduate degrees–the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) and the Bachelor of Civil Laws (LL.L.)–which are still available at many international schools. In some countries (most notably in England), there is a Doctor of Laws degree (the LL.D.) which is a more extensive academic study of law more akin to a Doctor of Philosophy degree. In the United States, many law schools offer a Masters of Law degree (the LL.M.) which allows for a law school graduate to focus on a specific field of law that require more precise education such as banking, international, or tax law.

How long does it take to earn a Juris Doctor?

The American Bar Association which accredits most law schools in the United States and Canada requires a minimum of 83 hours to earn a J.D. degree. Therefore, earning a J.D. generally takes 3 years or 6 full time semesters. Individual schools may require more hours to obtain a J.D. from their institution.

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Can i earn a juris doctor online.

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The American Bar Association that accredits most law schools is beginning to open its accreditation to online or distance education. The University of Syracuse College of Law recently started the accredited Juris Doctor program that contains a mixture of distance and in-person instruction.

There are also non-ABA accredited law schools that offer a Juris Doctor degree.

What can I do with a J.D. degree?

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Most students earning a J.D. become practicing attorneys. To practice law in the United States, a law school graduate must be admitted to the Bar in the jurisdiction where they intend to practice. However, many graduates of law school opt not to be licensed or use their degree in other professions . The education required to earn a J.D. emphasizes applying logical solutions to complex problems. Therefore, J.D. graduates often turned to other fields such as finance, regulatory compliance, education, counseling, public relations or politics.

What are Joint Degrees?

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Many law schools now allow for a J.D. to be earned in conjunction with an additional complementary degree. The most common joint programs couple a J.D. with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Other joint degree programs combine a Masters of Public Health (MPH) or a Masters of Public Policy (MPP) with the J.D. Enrolling in a joint degree program allows the student to obtain two degrees in less time then applying separately since certain credit hours are applied to both degrees. The degrees fit together well as they often combine heavily regulated industries such as healthcare. Joint Degrees also allow law school graduates to specialize in a particular field and increase their future job opportunities.

Is a J.D. Worth It?

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Earning a J.D. requires an investment of both time and money. On average, law school graduates incur a little over $100,000 in debt to earn a Juris Doctor degree. However, the average median salary after graduation is $53,000 while the salary for lawyers tends to increase with experience. The average attorney earned $128,000 in 2018. More importantly, there are many public law schools which offer a J.D. at a much lower rate than private institutions. Graduates of the Nebraska College of Law , for example, have the lowest median debt of all law schools in the United States (at just under $60,000).

Additional Resources

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