Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) Degree

The SJD degree offers persons who have completed an LLM degree the opportunity to pursue book-length research and writing in a specific area of interest that makes innovative contributions to legal scholarship. Specifically, the program provides the opportunity for the SJD candidate to write a dissertation, taking the form of either a monograph or a series of articles suitable for publication, under the supervision of a member of the full-time faculty of the law school. The program is tailored to lawyers who seek to become law professors, scholars, or jurists, or who otherwise seek to engage in areas of the law that require extensive research and writing.

Entrance Requirements

U.S. Law School Graduates

For SJD applicants who earned their first law degree from a U.S. law school, the following requirements pertain.

Applicants must hold a BA or equivalent degree from a regionally accredited college or university and a JD and an LLM or equivalent degrees, both earned with excellent records, from law schools that are members of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) or approved by the ABA. (The requirement for an LLM may be waived in exceptional circumstances.) Applicants must submit copies of their master’s thesis or one or more papers or articles they have written. Applicants must include a research proposal and dissertation topic approved by a full-time member of the law school faculty who has agreed to serve as the faculty adviser if the applicant is admitted.

Non-U.S. Law School Graduates

For SJD applicants who earned their first law degree at a non-U.S. law school, the following entrance requirements pertain.

Applicants must have graduated with an excellent academic record from a non-U.S. law school known for high academic standards; such a determination will be made by the Graduate and International Programs Office or by a qualified faculty member. As outlined above for U.S. law school graduates, additional requirements include an LLM (which may be waived in exceptional circumstances), copies of the master’s thesis or one or more papers or articles written by the applicant, and a research proposal and dissertation topic approved by a full-time member of the law school faculty who has agreed to serve as the faculty adviser if the applicant is admitted.

Consideration for admission requires proficiency in the English language, both oral and written, as determined by the Graduate and International Programs Office or by a faculty member designated by the dean.

Degree Requirements

Candidates for the SJD degree must complete the following requirements to be awarded the degree:

  1. Full-time residence enrollment period of no less than one academic year; 
  2. Satisfactory completion of a course of study and research, designated by the faculty supervisor of no less than 8 credit hours, normally to be completed within the first two years of study; and 
  3. Successful completion of a full draft dissertation by the end of the third calendar year, successful oral defense of the dissertation before the dissertation committee, acceptance of the final draft dissertation by the committee, and submission and acceptance of the final dissertation within four calendar years. 
  4. During the first year of their SJD degree, candidates must be enrolled full time and in residence to complete courses, research, and writing under the supervision of a full-time faculty member.
  5. After the first year, candidates are not required to be full-time students unless they are residing in the United States on a student visa. Candidates who are not in residence must maintain regular contact with their faculty supervisor and follow the timeline and benchmarks included in the SJD Program Handbook. 

Candidates are expected at all times to be in compliance with registration policies and if they are not enrolled in any classes, to be registered for SJD Dissertation Research each semester. 

The coursework for the SJD degree will normally be completed during the first two years of study. During this period, tuition is paid in four equal payments and no limit is placed on the number of credit hours for which a degree candidate may enroll with their adviser’s approval. After the first two years from the date of matriculation, tuition will be charged by the credit hour for any additional courses taken by the degree candidate, either for credit or as an auditor.

The Dissertation

Once admitted, the SJD candidate has three calendar years to submit a full draft of their dissertation and four calendar years to complete all SJD degree requirements, although candidates are encouraged to graduate sooner. Five years will be allowed in exceptional circumstances and when the candidate is making consistent progress towards the completion of the research and writing required in a dissertation, according to the requirements outlined in the SJD Program Handbook. 

A dissertation should be innovative and reflect the SJD candidate’s independent critical ability, arguments, and ideas.  It is expected that students will review the scholarly literature on the topic, involving different theoretical perspectives and schools of thought.  

After the final draft of the dissertation is submitted, the dissertation committee will set the date for the oral defense. This defense is conducted by the dissertation committee, whose members will be selected by the faculty supervisor in consultation with the Associate Dean for International and Comparative Legal Studies. To be acceptable, the dissertation must, in the opinion of the dissertation committee, constitute a substantial contribution to the field of law concerned and be suitable for publication.  

No later than one month before the expected date of graduation, the SJD candidate must submit to the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs two complete copies of the dissertation and two copies of an abstract of the dissertation. 

Dissertations are submitted to the University through Proquest/ETD Administrator  as electronic documents

General Information

Day and Evening Classes

Most day classes are scheduled between 8:50 am and 5:50 pm, Monday through Friday. The majority of evening classes meet from 6 pm to 8 pm, Monday through Friday, or 6 pm to 9:05 pm, Monday through Thursday. There may be an occasional Saturday or Sunday course offering.

A 4-credit course, e.g., Evidence, meets two evenings a week; many 3-credit courses, e.g., Administrative Law, meet one evening a week plus alternate Friday evenings throughout the semester; a 2-credit course, e.g., Estate Planning, meets one evening a week. The part-time (evening) program conforms to the academic standards of the day program, with full-time faculty teaching all courses in the core curriculum.

Examinations for both day and evening classes may be given in the afternoon. Examinations for day students may be given in the evening.


Each student must register before attending classes. No student will be registered until proper credentials have been filed. See Admission Process. No registration is accepted for less than a semester or summer session. A student may not register concurrently at the George Washington University and another institution. Registration in more than one school of the University requires the written permission of the appropriate deans concerned prior to registration.

Eligibility for Registration

A student who is suspended or whose record is not clear for any reason is not eligible to register.

New Student

Upon receipt of a final letter of admission, a new student is eligible for registration on the stated days of registration.

Readmitted Student

A student previously registered who was not registered for courses during the preceding semester or summer session and who has not been granted a leave of absence must apply for and receive a letter of readmission before becoming eligible for registration.

Graduation Requirements

Degrees are conferred in January, May, and September.

To be recommended by the faculty for graduation, a student must have met the admission requirements of the law school; completed satisfactorily the scholarship, curriculum, enrollment unit, and other requirements for the degree for which the student is registered; filed an application for graduation by the published deadline date; and be free from all indebtedness to the University.

Enrollment is required for the semester or summer at the close of which the degree is to be conferred.

Participation in the Commencement Ceremony

Participation in the annual commencement ceremony held in May is open to students who have applied to graduate in the current spring semester or who graduated in the preceding fall semester or summer session.

With the exception of doctoral candidates, all graduate students who need no more than 9 credits to complete their degree requirements may participate in May commencement ceremonies if there is a reasonable expectation that they will be able to obtain the needed credits during the following summer. The requirement of a maximum 9 credits is firm and not subject to petition.


Application for Graduation

An application for graduation must be filed by the published deadline date during the last semester or summer session of the final year. Students completing degree requirements during the summer session and fall semester will be awarded diplomas (no formal convocation) in September and January, respectively, provided they have completed all degree requirements and have applied for graduation as part of registration. Such students may participate in the May Commencement.

Transcripts of Record

Official transcripts of student records will be issued by the University’s Office of the Registrar on request of the student or former student who has a clear financial record. A fee is charged for each transcript.

Academic Integrity Code

The law school seeks to foster academic excellence in the study of law and to prepare students for participation in the legal profession. Academic excellence, in any discipline, depends on an environment of honesty, integrity, and fairness. This general requirement is heightened by the special mission of a law school—to prepare students for a practice that relies heavily on the honor of its participants. The law school community expects its members to uphold the highest ethical standards. It expects students to prepare for the duties of honesty and integrity that they will undertake as lawyers by practicing honesty and integrity throughout their time as students.

The responsibility for creating and maintaining academic integrity in the law school community is shared by all members of the community—students, faculty, staff, and deans. The George Washington University Law School Academic Integrity Code defines and prohibits academic dishonesty. It prescribes procedures to be followed in cases of academic dishonesty. It also exhorts all members of the law school community to foster a culture of honesty, integrity, and professional responsibility throughout the law school community.

It is the responsibility of all students to read and familiarize themselves with the Code and also the University’s Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities, both of which are available from the Dean of Students Office. If in light of the law school community’s norm of academic integrity, the propriety of certain conduct is in doubt, students must seek the advice of law school faculty or administrators. Members of the law school community are presumed to be familiar with the Academic Integrity Code and are responsible for conforming to its requirements.

Students who are charged with violations of the Academic Integrity Code or the University’s Code of Student Conduct, whether they are found responsible for such charges and/or applicable sanctions, must report any and all charges and their disposition to state bar examiners if so required on the bar application form. The law school will similarly report any charges or sanctions to state bar examiners when the bar certification form requires such a disclosure.

Academic Integrity Code