J.S.D. Degree

Since 1992, Notre Dame Law School has admitted a small number of students to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.). This program is designed especially for people who wish to pursue an academic career in law and who seek additional education beyond the LL.M. degree level.

The J.S.D. involves two years of residency and requires that individuals admitted to the program demonstrate substantial potential for writing a thesis of publishable quality that will be a significant scholarly contribution to the field in which it is written.

Historically, our program has focused on international human rights law. While we continue this focus, we now accept J.S.D. candidates in any field of legal studies. Prior to application, prospective students are encouraged to seek a potential faculty mentor for their graduate studies by consulting our faculty directory and by contacting the International and Graduate Programs Office at globalaw@nd.edu.

The application will reopen on September 1.

JSD Tuition

Tuition for the first year of residency is the same as the J.D. and LL.M. tuition rate. (This rate changes each year.) Tuition for the 2022-23 academic year is $65,436. In addition to tuition, there are fees of approximately $500 for the year. After the first year of residency, J.S.D. candidates must enroll each semester for one unit of credit, for which they will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” from their advisor. This one unit course is $500 per semester. After completing two years of residency, J.S.D. candidates may remain at Notre Dame to complete researching and writing their dissertation, or they may work at their home institution or another place that provides the research materials most useful to them. It typically takes three to five years to complete our J.S.D. degree requirements. In additional to tuition and fees, the University estimates that an unmarried student requires $21,510 to cover basic living expenses — i.e., housing, food, books, supplies, health insurance, and personal expenses — during the year.

Typically, one J.S.D. student per year will receive a significant tuition scholarship and living stipend for the two years of required residency. The Law School may also admit other students who have their own or other external sources of funds.

Curriculum

Completion of the J.S.D. degree requirements ordinarily takes three to five years. J.S.D. candidates are required to spend their first two years in residence at Notre Dame. During the first year, students must successfully complete at least 12 credit hours of course work. After the first year, J.S.D. candidates are expected to devote their time to progressing on their dissertation and must enroll each semester for one unit of credit, for which they will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” from their advisor. After the required two years of residency, candidates continue to work on their dissertation under the direction of a member of the Law School faculty, either in residence at Notre Dame or elsewhere. More information is available in our J.S.D. Candidate Handbook.

General Requirements to Apply

The application period will reopen on November 1.

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Application Instructions

Notre Dame Law School begins accepting applications on November 1 for the J.S.D. class entering the following fall. The application deadline is March 15. All supporting documents (letters of recommendations, personal statements, etc.) must be submitted by April 1. Late applications may be accepted, but subsequent review and offers of admission and/or scholarship are subject to availability as well as the ability to obtain a visa in a timely fashion.

General Requirements

  • The application form from LSAC
  • A first degree in law and post-secondary transcripts
  • LSAC CAS report
  • Personal statement
  • Resume or C.V.
  • "Why NDLS" statement
  • Proposed program of study
  • Academic writing sample
  • Faculty mentor approval
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • English language proficiency
  • Character and fitness information
  • Addenda (optional)

Application Form

Students should answer all questions on the application form. If a question does not apply to a student - or if the student would prefer not to answer an optional question - the student may indicate as such.

First Degree in Law and Post-Secondary Transcripts

All applicants must have a first degree in law to be eligible to apply for the J.S.D. Students may meet this requirement either:

  • By holding a Juris Doctor from an A.B.A. approved American law school, or,
  • By holding a Bachelor's Degree in Law (LL.B) or a related field from an accredited college or university outside of the United States, AND an LL.M degree (or its equivalent) or a Master's Degree (or higher) in a related field.

A prospective student is eligible to submit an application if they are in the process of completing this requirement during the current academic year.

Applicants must submit all post-secondary (Bachelors and advanced degrees) transcripts to LSAC so as to be included in the CAS report.

LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS) Law School Report

Notre Dame Law School requires applicants to register with LSAC's Credential Assembly Service. Notre Dame's number for use of the service is 1841. An applicant's CAS report will include all post-secondary transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Please note that LSAC charges a one-time registration fee of $195 for this service and, additionally, $45 per law school to which the student applies. Applicants may find more information regarding the CAS report on LSAC's website.

Please do not send transcripts nor letters of recommendation directly to Notre Dame Law School unless specifically requested by the NDLS Office of Admissions.

Personal Statement

NDLS gives considerable emphasis in its evaluation to the personal statement. The statement should provide the Admissions Committee with insights about the applicant and the applicant’s specific interest in pursuing a J.S.D. degree at Notre Dame Law School. Applicants often use the personal statement to provide further insight into their personality, interests, or matters that are not fully present in other parts of the application. Applicants may wish to address how their background, experiences, personal character, and/or career aspirations align with the legal education that NDLS provides and how the J.S.D. degree at NDLS can assist the applicant in both professional and personal formation.

The personal statement must be the applicant’s original work in their own words. It should not exceed four double-spaced pages. This statement must be included with the rest of the application at the time of submission. The personal statement’s header must include the applicant’s name, LSAC account number, and be titled "Personal Statement."

Resume or C.V.

An applicant's resume or C.V. should highlight the applicant's educational, work, leadership, and service experiences. The applicant may also wish to highlight honors, awards, or special skills. While there is no page limit for the resume, one to two pages is typical.

"Why Notre Dame Law School?" Statement

Applicants must address their specific interest in Notre Dame Law School via the "Why Notre Dame Law School" statement. The prompt for this statement is as follows:

"The University of Notre Dame is an eminent Catholic university. Consistent with the Catholic mission of the University, Notre Dame Law School aims to educate a "Different Kind of Lawyer": one who realizes that the practice of law is not an end in itself but a vocation - a means by which we as lawyers can be of service to God and to humankind. Our Catholic faith also moves us to be open and welcoming to people of all viewpoints and all religious traditions.

Please address your interest in Notre Dame Law School in relation to its mission, drawing on your background, experiences, personal character, and/or career aspirations."

The "Why Notre Dame Law School?" statement must be the applicant's own work in their own words. It should be no more than two double-spaced pages. This statement must be included with the rest of the application at the time of submission. The statement's header must include the applicant's name, LSAC account number, and be titled "Why NDLS Statement."

Research Proposal

Applicants must submit a research proposal for the J.S.D. identifying the subject area for their dissertation along with an indicative bibliography. The research proposal should include the name or names of NDLS faculty members who have agreed to serve as a potential faculty advisor for your dissertation (further information about faculty mentors is below).

The research proposal must be the applicant's original work in their own words. It should be between five and ten double-spaced pages. The proposal must be included with the rest of the application at the time of submission. The proposal's header must include the applicant's name, LSAC account number, and be titled "Research Proposal."

Academic Writing Sample

Applicants must submit an academic writing sample of their choosing.

The academic writing sample must be the applicant's original work in their own words. The academic writing sample must be included with the rest of the application at the time of submission. The academic writing sample's header must include the applicant's name, LSAC account number, and be titled "Academic Writing Sample."

Faculty Mentor

Prior to submitting their application, prospective students must contact the International and Graduate Programs office to identify and secure a potential mentor for their graduate studies. Please contact the Office of International and Graduate Programs via email at globalaw@nd.edu, subject line "JSD Applicant - Faculty Mentor."

This email message should provide an introduction; a brief explanation of the applicant's educational background, professional work, and proposed research; and how the applicant believes a particular faculty member could provide proper mentorship for their proposed J.S.D academic work. The International and Graduate Programs office will then facilitate communications with the faculty member. If the faculty member agrees to serve as a mentor, the applicant must load the email exchange to their application as a PDF document.

Please note that receiving approval from a potential faculty mentor does not guarantee an offer of admission from the Admission Committee.

Three Letters of Recommendation

NDLS requires applicants to submit three letters of recommendation. Applicants may submit up to four, if desired. Recommendations play a critical role in evaluating applications. Recommendations should come from faculty members, lecturers, supervisors or others who can substantively comment on the applicant’s academic performance, intellectual capacity, and personal character.

The applicant is required to use the LSAC Letter of Recommendation Service that is part of the LSAC Credential Assembly Service registration. LSAC will include these letters with the CAS report.

English Language Proficiency

Applicants from non-English-speaking countries must take the TOEFL or the IELTS unless they have received a post-secondary degree (e.g., a B.A., M.A., MBA, Ph.D., LL.B., etc.) from a college or university whose language of instruction is English.

Applicants with an extraordinary ability for the English language (e.g., has worked as a translator, taught English, received a post-secondary degree from a college or university in an English-speaking country, etc.) are exempt from this requirement and may note any relevant details to their exemption in the Addendum section of the application.

The TOEFL iBT is the preferred test. The minimum score required for the TOEFL iBT is 100.

The minimum score required for the IELTS is 7.0 in the Academic Modules.

The minimum score required for C1 Advanced is 185 on the Cambridge English Scale.

The Admissions Committee prefers that an applicant sit for the test within one year of the time that they apply to the Law School.

Applicants must have copies of the official score report forwarded to LSAC directly from the testing service. Please do not send official score reports to Notre Dame Law School unless specifically requested.

Character and Fitness Information

Notre Dame Law School requires truthful, accurate, and complete reporting of all requested character and fitness information. Past relevant conduct, particularly if isolated and/or not recent, may not necessarily result in a denial of admission to NDLS. Thus, applicants should not presume a prior record of conduct relevant to character and fitness will necessarily be disqualifying. A failure to truthfully, accurately, and completely respond to this Character and Fitness inquiry, however, may be disqualifying, and more detrimental to admission prospects.

If an applicant answers "Yes" to either of the Character and Fitness questions on this application, the applicant must provide a full explanation of the circumstances involved and the resolution to the situation(s) in question.

Applicants should double space this explanation and label the attachment with their name, LSAC account number, and use the title "Character and Fitness" in the statement's header. Applicants have a continuing requirement to report any updates to their Character and Fitness information throughout the application process as well as post-enrollment at Notre Dame Law School. To that end:

  • If an applicant applies to NDLS and - prior to admission or enrollment at NDLS - later engages in an action that would have led the applicant to answer "Yes" to either of the Character and Fitness questions, the applicant must immediately update the Office of Admissions regarding the incident. Please send updates to bulletin@nd.edu, subject line "Character and Fitness Update."
  • If a student applies to NDLS and - after admission and enrollment at NDLS - later engages in an action that would have led the student to answer "Yes" to either of the Character and Fitness questions, the student must immediately update Jenny Fox, the Law School Registrar, regarding the incident. Please send updates to jenniferfox@nd.edu, subject line "Character and Fitness Update."

Because every U.S. jurisdiction requires certain character and fitness standards be met for bar admission eligibility, in addition to other qualifications for admission, the NDLS Office of Admissions uses this information not only to assess an applicant's fitness for admission to NDLS, but also the likelihood of the applicant’s eligibility to practice law upon graduation. Applicants are encouraged to determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission by contacting the jurisdiction. Addresses for all relevant agencies are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Addenda (optional)

If the applicant believes the Admissions Committee would benefit from additional information about their candidacy that is not specifically and/or fully expressed elsewhere in the application, the applicant is welcome to provide further notes via the Addenda. Examples of information typically provided in this section of the application include further information regarding specific items on an applicant's resume or about the applicant's background, explanations of undergraduate grading policies, and further details regarding outside funding.

Applicants should double-space the Addenda. The Addenda' s header must include the applicant's name, LSAC account number, and be titled "Addendum."

Interview

The Admissions Committee may request an interview with selected applicants either prior to or after submission of an application. Interviews may be conducted via telephone or Zoom. Applicants who are invited to interview will be contacted by the Admissions Committee with instructions.

If an applicant participated in an informational interview or attended a Notre Dame Law School recruiting event prior to submission of this application, the applicant should indicate so in the appropriate sections of the application form.

Due to the volume of applications, the Admissions Committee cannot consider requests by applicants for interviews.

Further Information

Scholarship Consideration

Every applicant admitted to the J.S.D. in International Human Rights Law program at Notre Dame Law School is automatically considered for scholarship assistance. Please know, however, that such scholarship assistance is limited and highly competitive to obtain.

J.S.D. applicants interested in areas outside of Human Rights may not be considered for scholarship assistance from Notre Dame Law School. Those applicants are encouraged to seek funding from external sources.