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Ph.D. in Law the Latest Innovation in Legal Education Offered by Yale

In the fall of 2013, the inaugural class for the Ph.D. in Law program arrived to New Haven to begin their studies, marking yet another major innovation in legal education at Yale Law School.

Yale Law School’s Ph.D. in Law is designed to prepare students for careers in law teaching. The program gives students the specialized training and mentorship they need to produce their own published work. The Ph.D. stands alongside Yale Law School’s other very successful law teaching degrees—the J.S.D. and LL.M.—which are designed primarily for students who have received their initial legal education outside the United States.

The Ph.D. program is made possible, in part, by a grant from The Mellon Foundation, as well as by the generous support of Meridee Moore ’83, founder of Watershed Asset Management, L.L.C.

“In the past few decades, legal scholarship has matured as an academic discipline,” observed Dean Robert Post ’77. “The portfolio of written scholarship expected of entry-level law professors has risen quite dramatically, and for this reason increasing numbers of candidates for such positions now pursue Ph.D.s in allied disciplines like economics, history, philosophy, or political science. Because such disciplines train students in standards and questions that are different from those of the law, the natural next step for the legal academy is to create our own Ph.D. program that can focus on the questions and practices of the law itself. Students obtaining a Ph.D. in law may of course engage in interdisciplinary studies, but their work will be anchored in the framework of legal scholarship.”

Yale Law School already is the most important institution in the U.S. for the education of future law professors. Despite the Law School’s relatively small size, approximately ten percent of law professors currently teaching in the United States—including the deans of eight of the top ten law schools—received their legal education at Yale.

“It is becoming increasingly hard to transition directly from law practice to teaching,” Dean Post explained. Candidates for entry-level law school positions are now expected to present a relatively mature scholarly profile; they need a defined research agenda and a substantial portfolio of writing. Students who do not pursue a Ph.D. in an allied discipline increasingly seek post-J.D. fellowships, which afford the time and opportunity to write. But such fellowships do not provide in-depth scholarly training.

Students in the Ph.D. in Law, by contrast, are required to take coursework, pass qualifying examinations, and write a dissertation. Students also learn how to teach during the program.

The program is open to those who have earned a J.D. degree at an American law school. Ph.D. students will be entitled to a waiver of the cost of tuition and will receive a stipend to cover their living expenses. For more information, visit www.law.yale.edu/phd.  

Read more about how the Ph.D. program further strengthens the bond between theory and practice at Yale Law School.