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 semesters 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 should secure a potential faculty mentor for their graduate studies. Our faculty directory is available here.

The application will reopen on September 1.

JSD Tuition

Tuition for the first year of residency is the same as the Law School & LL.M. tuition rate. (This rate changes each year.) Tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year is $62,590. 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’s Graduate School estimates that an unmarried student needs a minimum of $17,950 to cover basic living expenses.

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.


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.

General Requirements to Apply

The application period will reopen on September 1.

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General Requirements

  • The application form from LSAC
  • A Juris Doctor from an A.B.A. approved American law school or a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from an accredited college or university
  • An LL.M. degree or its equivalent from an approved or accredited law school or evidence that the applicant is in the process of satisfactorily completing the requirements for the LL.M. degree or its equivalent.
  • 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. In 500-1000 words, please address your interest in Notre Dame in relation to its mission, drawing on your background, experiences, personal character, and/or career aspirations.
  • Personal Statement addressing the applicant’s reasons for wishing to pursue the J.S.D. degree
  • Proposed Program of Study for the J.S.D. Degree
  • Writing Sample
  • Resume or C.V.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Proof of English Language Proficiency
  • Application Fee

Personal Statement

NDLS gives considerable emphasis in our evaluation to the personal statement. The statement should provide us 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 the applicant’s own words. It should not exceed four double spaced pages. The personal statement must be included in 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.” 

Proposed Program of Study for the J.S.D. Degree

Applicants should submit a 5-10 page “Proposed Program of Study for the J.S.D. Degree,” identifying the subject area for the proposed dissertation along with an indicative bibliography.

Writing Sample

Applicants should submit a writing sample of their choosing. The writing sample must be the applicant’s own work in the applicant’s own words.  

Resume or C.V.

An applicant's resume 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.

Three Letters of Recommendation

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.

NDLS requires applicants to submit three letters of recommendation. Applicants may submit up to four, if desired.

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 Requirement

Applicants from non-English-speaking countries must take the TOEFL or the IELTS. The TOEFL is the preferred test. Applicants who have received a post-secondary degree from a U.S. college or university (BA, MA, PhD, MBA, etc.) are exempt from this requirement. If the applicant has an extraordinary ability for the English language (have worked as a translator, taught English, received a post-secondary degree from a college or university where English is the language of instruction, etc), the applicant may request a waiver from this requirement. Please submit your request to the Office of Admissions at bulletin@nd.edu.

The minimum score required for the TOEFL is 100 on the internet-based test.

The minimum score required for the IELTS is 7 on a 9 point scale from the Academic Modules.

We prefer 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 TOEFL or IELTS report forwarded to LSAC directly from the testing service. Please do not send official score reports to Notre Dame Law School unless specifically requested.

Application Fee

An application fee of $75 USD is required. Applicants may submit the application fee along with the application through LSAC. The Law School offers need-based application fee waivers to those with extreme financial need: http://law.nd.edu/jsdwaiver