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Programs of Instruction

The Doctor of Law (J.D.) Degree

The regular curriculum in the Law School is a three-year (nine-quarter) program leading to the degree of Doctor of Law (J.D.). The program is open to candidates who have received a bachelor's degree from an approved college before beginning their study in the Law School and to a limited number of highly qualified students who have completed three years of undergraduate studies but have not received degrees. The Law School will not award bachelor's degrees to such candidates, but in some cases undergraduate institutions will treat the first year of law study as fulfilling part of the requirements for their own bachelor's degrees.

The entering class for the J.D. program is limited to approximately 195 students. All students begin the program during the Autumn Quarter in September. The calendar for the academic year is located on the last page of these Announcements.

Joint and Concurrent Degree Opportunities

The Law School participates with several other areas of the University in formal joint degree programs. These programs have specific admission requirements, and candidates are able to count course work in each area toward the academic requirements in the other area, thus reducing the time and expense involved in earning both degrees. Although there are no formal joint degree programs with most areas of the University, candidates who wish to earn the J.D. in the Law School and a Ph.D. concurrently in another area of the University have found that there are several ways to facilitate and expedite such a dual course of study.

The Law School has formal joint degree programs with the Booth School of Business (both M.B.A. and Ph.D. degrees), the Harris School of Public Policy (M.P.P.), and the Divinity School (M.Div.).  In addition, Law School students have or are currently pursuing concurrent Masters’ degrees in International Relations and Computer Science.  Students pursuing joint or concurrent J.D. and Masters’ degrees may, with the approval of the Law School Dean of Students, count up to 12 credits of coursework outside the Law School toward the J.D. degree.  The admission and degree requirements for these programs are available from the Law School Admissions Office. 

Students pursuing concurrent J.D. and Ph.D. degrees may, with the approval of the Deputy Dean in consultation with the Dean of Students, count up to 25 credits of course work outside the Law School toward the J.D. degree. (This credit would only be awarded for graduate course work undertaken in a Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago, and only for coursework undertaken after a student has matriculated at the Law School.) Further, this benefit is limited to students who do complete both degrees. Students who have not earned a Ph.D.  by the time they receive their J.D. therefore may apply no more than 12 credits earned outside the Law School towards their J.D. degree. Students who began their studies in a Ph.D. program before matriculating at the Law School are eligible to count up to 25 credits earned outside the Law School toward their J.D. degrees only if they have matriculated at the Law School within three years of beginning their Ph.D. programs.

Students in J.D./Ph.D. programs who began their law studies at the Law School would need to complete at least 80 credits of coursework at the Law School to obtain their J.D.s.  These 80 credits could be earned during two years of intensive study at the Law School. All J.D./Ph.D. students who transferred to the Law School from another school must earn at least 90 credits at the Law School to obtain their J.D.  As of the time of this rule’s adoption in 2012, any J.D./Ph.D. students planning to seek admission to the New York Bar must earn 90 credits at the Law School because of that state bar’s rules for admission.  J.D./Ph.D. students planning to practice outside New York should research the rules of the state bar to which they are hoping to be admitted.  In addition, any student wishing to pursue a J.D./Ph.D. must keep in mind that American Bar Association rules require all J.D. degrees to be completed within 84 months of a student’s matriculation to law school. (This credit would only be awarded for graduate coursework undertaken after a student has matriculated at the Law School.)

The Law School is flexible in giving students leaves of absence so that they may register full time in other areas of the University, so long as such a leave will not prevent the student from finishing the J.D. within the ABA’s 84-month time limit.  In particular, J.D. candidates working concurrently on Ph.D. dissertations with a law-related component have found that their studies in the Law School may enable them to complete their dissertations in a shorter time than other Ph.D. students.

The Graduate Program

The Law School offers four graduate degrees:

  1. Master of Laws (LL.M.),
  2. Master of Comparative Law (M.Comp.L.),
  3. Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.S.D.),
  4. Doctor of Comparative Law (D.Comp.L.).

All four programs are limited to students who have met at least one of the following requirements:

  1. obtained a J.D. degree from an A.B.A. approved law school in the United States,
  2. completed the academic legal education in a foreign country required to take the bar examination in that country, or
  3. be qualified to practice law (admitted to the bar) in a foreign country.

All four programs require full-time attendance at the Law School for at least one academic year (three consecutive academic quarters). Thus, students interested in the J.S.D. or D.Comp.L. degrees must first spend a year in the Law School's LL.M. program or another LL.M. program in a U.S. law school. Students may begin these programs only in the Autumn Quarter.

Unlike a number of other law schools, the University of Chicago does not offer a specialized graduate degree program with a large number of graduate courses in a particular field such as taxation or securities regulation. The LL.M. degree is awarded to students who have successfully completed 27 course hours (generally nine courses) over three quarters while maintaining a grade point average of 170. With the exception of an optional writing course, there are no courses in the curriculum just for LL.M. students; LL.M. students will have all of their classes with students in the J.D. program. The M.Comp.L. degree may be awarded at the student's discretion if the same requirements are fulfilled.

In a typical year about 25 LL.M. students or graduates apply to the J.S.D. program for two or three positions. In order to qualify for admission to this program, students must ordinarily have maintained at least a 178 average during their LL.M. year at the University of Chicago or comparable grades at the law schools at which they received the LL.M. degree, must identify a faculty member who is willing to supervise a dissertation, and must submit a dissertation proposal that in the opinion of the Graduate Studies Committee promises to result in a creditable contribution to legal scholarship. The degree of J.S.D. or D.Comp.L. will be awarded to students who have submitted a dissertation, within five years of the year in residence, that is accepted by the faculty.

LL.M. Admissions Process

Each year the Law School receives approximately 900 applications for the approximately 70 positions in the LL.M. program. In recent years virtually all of the students admitted to the LL.M. program have been graduates of foreign law schools. This is a reflection not of a bias in favor of foreign law school graduates but rather a judgment by the Graduate Studies Committee that the Law School's small size and lack of graduate programs specializing in specific substantive areas make it unsuitable for most American law school graduates thinking of a second degree. Exceptions may be made for American law graduates whose research interests strongly correlate with those of a member of the faculty, and for whom graduate studies at this law school seem to be particularly appropriate.

Admission decisions for the LL.M. program are based primarily on two factors: 1) the ability of the applicant to flourish in a demanding academic program as evidenced by the prior academic and professional record; and 2) the extent to which the applicant's background and research interests coincide with available academic resources for the academic year for which he or she will be in residence. It is, therefore, particularly important for the application to be accompanied by a detailed statement of the candidate's academic interests and career plans.

The University requires that all applicants who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. Permanent Residents must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) within two years of the date of their application. A minimum total score of 104 overall on the new version of the TOEFL is required or a total score of 600 with 60 in each sub score on the paper-based TOEFL are required. Minimum required scores on the IELTS are an overall score of 7 and sub scores of 7 each. Applicants will not be offered admission if their TOEFL or IELTS scores do not meet these minimum standards. Most admitted LL.M. applicants will have substantially higher scores.

The above English language tests will not be necessary if the applicant studied in full-time status for at least one academic year prior to the due date of the application, within five years of the date of application, in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or English medium universities in Canada or South Africa. Applicants whose native language is not English but whose legal education at the university level was conducted entirely in English in one of the following countries: India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, or Singapore, will not need to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score if they submit with their application a statement from an official at their university verifying that English was the only medium of instruction.

Professional Journals, Special Programs, and Centers

Professional Journals

The Law School publishes six professional journals. The University of Chicago Law Review, The University of Chicago Legal Forum, and The Chicago Journal of International Law are student-edited. For more information on these journals, see the section on Student Activities and Organizations, below.

The Supreme Court Review is an annual volume devoted to professional and interdisciplinary criticism and analysis of the work of the United States Supreme Court. The Journal of Law and Economics publishes research on a broad range of topics, including the economic analysis of regulation and the behavior of regulated firms, the political economy of legislation and the legislative processes, law and finance, corporate finance and governance, and industrial organization. The Journal of Legal Studies is a journal of interdisciplinary academic research into law and legal institutions. It emphasizes social science approaches, especially those of economics, political science, and psychology, but it also publishes the work of historians, philosophers, and others who are interested in legal theory.

Special Programs and Centers

The University of Chicago Institute for Law and Economics is one of the many interdisciplinary traditions that have thrived at the Law School. Economics provides analytical and econometric tools, as well as theoretical frameworks, for studying how legal rules affect the way people behave. The application of economics to the analysis of legal problems has become an important part of a lawyer’s education in the United Sates, and The Law School has been the center of teaching and research on the application of the theories and methods of economics to legal questions for over 50 years. Nobel laureate Ronald Coase, whose paper on the problem of social cost started law and economics as a distinct discipline, is a member of the Law School faculty. Other seminal figures in the field, including Richard Epstein, William Landes, and Richard Posner, are also active in the program. Program faculty teach and write in many areas of the law, including copyright and patent law, bankruptcy, commercial law, corporations, antitrust, international trade, and civil procedure. Recent work of the faculty has examined health care reform, deposit insurance and bank regulation, game theory and the law, product liability, and behavioral analysis of law. The Program offers a range of courses and seminars to interested students, including Nobel laureate Gary Becker's microeconomics course. No other law school provides comparable opportunities for study and research in this field. Under the auspices of the Institute, The Law School and the Department of Economics offer a joint degree program leading to the J.D. and Ph.D. degrees. In addition, the Institute sponsors several interdisciplinary conferences annually to enhance collaborations between legal scholars and economists on a variety of topics. It also conducts annual international training conferences to broaden the impact of Chicago Law and Economics on legal scholarship and education, and on legal systems worldwide. Professor Omri Ben-Shahar is the director of the Institute.

The Law School also enjoys an affiliation with the Center for Comparative Constitutionalism, coordinated by Professor Martha C. Nussbaum. Established in 2002, this Center's work focuses on the relationship between constitutional law and the concerns of marginalized or subordinated people and groups.

The Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values, established in 2008, sponsors speakers and conferences to support and encourage the reflective, critical and philosophical study of human values, with a particular emphasis on the conceptual, historical, and empirical foundations of the normative systems—moral, political, and legal—in which human being live. The Center’s mission encompasses not only the traditional concerns of moral, political, and legal theory—in Anglophone, European and non-Western traditions—but also the history of thought about ethical, political, and legal questions as these bear on contemporary questions. Traditional problems of conceptual analysis and normative justification are supplemented by attention to empirical results in the human sciences as these bear on the nature and viability of various forms of normative ordering. Professor Brian Leiter directs the Center.

The Center for Studies in Criminal Justice, established in 1965 under a grant from the Ford Foundation, is concerned with enlarging knowledge of behavior defined as criminal or deviant and with studying the operation of the agencies of criminal justice and other agencies of social control. The Center maintains close working relations with other disciplines in the behavioral sciences relevant to the prevention and treatment of crime. Research projects have included analyses of actuarial methods in criminal justice; studies of youth gun carrying; research on policing techniques; writings on punishment theory; study of criminal law; a Workshop in Crime and Punishment; and the Norval Morris Fellowship for Public Interest Law. Professor Bernard Harcourt is the director of the Center.

The Law School's Program in Legal History encourages research and study in this field. In addition to courses devoted to the subject, the Law School sponsors the Maurice and Muriel Fulton Lecture, which invites a prominent legal historian to speak each year. Periodical workshops, held jointly with the Department of History, bring together faculty and students to discuss a scholarly paper on a topic of legal history. Professor Richard Helmholz directs the Program.