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.


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 September 1.

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Application Instructions

Notre Dame Law School begins accepting applications on September 1 for the class entering the following fall. The application deadline is April 1. All supporting documents (letters of recommendations, personal statements, etc.) must be submitted by April 15. 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
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • English language proficiency
  • 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 and secure a potential faculty mentor for their graduate studies. Our faculty directory is available here. Applicants should contact their potential faculty mentor via email. This message should provide an introduction; a brief explanation of the applicant's educational background, professional work, and proposed research; and how the applicant believes that this faculty member could provide proper mentorship for their proposed J.S.D. academic work. 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. The TOEFL is the preferred test.

Applicants who have received a post-secondary degree (i.e., a BA, MA, PhD, MBA, etc.) from a college or university where the primary language of instruction is English are exempt from this requirement. If the applicant has an extraordinary ability for the English language (e.g., has worked as a translator or has taught English), 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.

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 "Addenda."

Further Information

Interviews and Campus Visit

Select applicants may be invited to phone or online video interviews. Interviews, however, are not a regular nor required part of the admissions process. The application and supporting documents should provide the Admissions Committee with the kind of information typically provided in an interview. 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.