The S.J.D. Degree Program


The Law School's  S.J.D. program is a strictly research and writing program designed for people who have already received a basic law degree from an American law school or an equivalent degree (e.g., LL.B.) from a university outside the U.S. and who have earned the University of Wisconsin Law School's LL.M. degree.   The S.J.D. degree is primarily of value to those planning on a career as a legal scholar or researcher. No course work is required (although students must register to get program credit for their research). In fact, degree candidates are actively discouraged from enrolling in courses. Applicants should already have a sufficient education in the field of research to pursue a serious scholarly project.

(If you are interested in the basic American law program, the J.D. degree program, you are at the wrong place; please go to Admissions.)


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The University of Wisconsin Law School's  S.J.D. program is research-based.  

  • No regular (classroom) courses are taken in the S.J.D. program.  Students must register for a non-classroom course called "Directed Research" (Law 990) each semester and pay tuition based on the Law School tuition schedule.
  • Applicants to the S.J.D. program may seek Fall (August) admission. The deadline for receiving the application for the research-based programs is March 1 for fall entry.
  • Students must satisfy the mandatory physical presence residence requirement.  Students entering the S.J.D. program from the University of Wisconsin Law School directly or with a break of no more than one semester after receiving approval of their LL.M. work may carry over the residence requirements and do not need to re-establish the residence requirement. Students in this situation must register for 3 credits each semester.
  • In the rare case of a student who enters the S.J.D. program directly, the student must enroll as a full-time law student in Law 990 for 12 credits in the first two semesters and do research in Madison for two regular semesters (i.e., fall and spring). Students admitted in the spring must be a resident for the following fall semester as well. 

We do not have direct entry into our S.J.D. program.

  • Direct entry into our S.J.D. program is generally not granted for someone who does not have an LL.M. degree from the UW Law School, even for applicants who have multiple LL.M. degrees. If you are interested in earning the S.J.D. from our law school, you should first look at the information given about our LL.M. program.
  • The S.J.D. is designed as a four-year program. 
  • The actual time of completion of the program may vary, depending on the research problem.

Eligibility to apply to the S.J.D. program

  • Those who have a J.D. degree from a U.S. law school are eligible to apply directly to the Law School's LL.M. program. After successful work in the LL.M. program, students may then apply to the S.J.D. program, following the usual deadlines.
  • For those who have a basic law degree from a university outside the U.S., especially from a civil code country, and who do not already have a master's degree in law from an American university, our Graduate Admissions Committee recommends the successful completion of our course-based Master of Laws-Legal Institutions program before applying to our LL.M. program and subsequent application to the S.J.D. program.  The LL.M.-Legal Institutions program provides the necessary foundation in course work and writing a research paper. The deadlines for applying to the LL.M.-Legal Institutions program are March 1 for fall entry and October 15 for spring entry.

Requirements of the program

Be sure to read carefully the requirements for the S.J.D. program.

Costs of the program; financial assistance

Information about cost of the program is found at Tuition and Living Expenses.

Information about applying for financial assistance is found at Requesting Financial Assistance (LLM and SJD).

Applying to the S.J.D. Program 

To apply to the S.J.D. program, please print out the directions.  The application process requires submission of the application electronically as an attachment and attachment of supplemental documents (sent by email) and the mailing, by regular or expedited mail, of transcripts and letters of reference.  When all applications materials have been received and the application is complete, the Graduate Admissions Committee meets to review and decide which applicants will be admitted.


If you have questions, please contact the Graduate Programs Office at the University of Wisconsin Law School:

telephone: (608) 262-9120
fax: (608) 265-2253

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