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Why a Ph.D. in Law?

Why a Ph.D. in Law?

In addition to the opportunity to study and contribute to the evolution of law as an academic field of study, a Ph.D. in Law will provide an excellent pathway to a career in legal scholarship and law teaching. Whether it is right for any individual candidate will depend on a variety of factors. If you are trying to decide between the Ph.D. in Law and a fellowship or a visiting assistant professorship, you should keep in mind a number of considerations, including that the Ph.D. is a three year course of study beyond the J.D., and that it provides a more structured program – including course work, qualifying exams, and close faculty supervision – than do most fellowships or VAPs.  The Ph.D. in Law requires three years of academic work beyond the J.D., including coursework, an oral and written comprehensive exam, the completion of a dissertation, which may take the form of a traditional monograph or three law-review style articles, and training as well as experience in teaching. You should also consider the availability of appropriate mentors in different programs- you will have a three-member faculty committee advising you through the Ph.D. program and will have an opportunity to work closely with a wide range of Yale faculty in your courses as well as your full participation in the intellectual life of the Law School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Yale. In addition, you should consider differences in stipends, teaching burdens, and eligibility for loan repayment assistance programs.

Is a Ph.D. in Law right for me?

If you are trying to decide between the Ph.D. in Law and a Ph.D. in another discipline, many of the same considerations come into play. Also keep in mind that Ph.D. programs in economics, political science, history and other fields train scholars to produce research responsive to the questions central to those disciplines. The scholarship produced by law faculties, and expected of candidates for teaching positions at law schools, is largely motivated by different sets of questions. While many students are able to apply their training in other disciplines to the study of law, a significant advantage of the Ph.D. in Law is that it is designed specifically to prepare students for careers in legal scholarship, rather than scholarship in another field. We should also stress that the Ph.D. in Law program welcomes applications from candidates with interdisciplinary research interests and it will be possible to receive significant advanced training in other disciplines as part of the Ph.D. in Law program.