A foundation in legal theory is the first step in writing a successful dissertation. Students are therefore required to register for two seminars that consider two aspects of legal theory:

  • A seminar on evaluative theory, which considers questions that arise in the normative evaluation of legal rules and institutions. The seminar addresses those issues in ethics, political philosophy, and legal philosophy that bear on the evaluation of legal rules and institutions. These issues include an introduction to basic classes of moral theories and to different theories of justice.
  • A seminar on explanatory theory considers questions that arise in the explanation of legal rules and institutions. What explains the legal rules and institutions that we observe? What consequences do these rules and institutions have? Those questions will be considered in light of socio-legal theory, anthropology and historical and economical analysis.

The seminars must be selected from a list of pre-approved courses available at the start of each academic year. In most years, these will be especially designed for JSD students, but will also be open to advanced JD and LLM students with permission. If the special seminars are not offered, you will select seminars from the Law School curriculum in consultation with your advisor and the Faculty Director.

The legal theories coursework requirement may be waived for those who have taken such courses during the LLM at NYU, with permission of the supervisor and the JSD Committee. If a waiver is granted, students may enroll in a course in lieu of the waived course with permission of the supervisor and the JSD Committee. If a student wishes to apply for a waiver, he or she must submit a complete and signed Waiver Request Form.


Candidacy Paper and Admission to JSD Candidacy

To formally be admitted to the JSD candidacy, students must submit a candidacy paper to their Dissertation Supervisor which is presented to the JSD Committee for review. This paper describes the proposed dissertation research, demonstrates the viability of the project as a dissertation, the student’s scholarly progress, and ability to complete the doctoral thesis. The topic, scope, structure and content of the paper should be determined in consultation with the Dissertation Supervisor and should testify both to the student’s ability as a researcher and to the viability of the research topic chosen. The format of the paper can be a detailed outline or prospectus, a dissertation chapter or an article, depending on what is most appropriate for the project, and provided it is sufficiently indicative of the viability of the project and the student’s ability to complete it.

Unless specified otherwise by the Dissertation Supervisor, the length of the candidacy paper should be approximately 15,000-20,000 words, excluding footnotes. The word count must appear on the first page. It should be presented in a proper academic format with regard to references, quotations, footnotes, bibliography, table of contents, etc, and the text must be paginated throughout. The cover should bear the title of the prospectus and the provisional title of the dissertation, the student’s name, the name of the supervisor, and the date.

The paper is due no later than June 15 of the student’s first year. Ideally, the supervisor reviews an outline or draft of the paper by April 1 of the first year.

The JSD student is to submit the final candidacy paper to his or her dissertation supervisor. The supervisor then reads the candidacy paper and forwards it to the JSD Committee along with a report. The JSD Committee appoints one of its members to review the paper and the supervisor’s report. The JSD Committee will then reach a decision as to whether the student will be admitted to formal JSD candidacy, denied admission to candidacy, or permitted up to one semester to revise the candidacy paper and have it reevaluated. If the latter occurs, the student in question – although in residence – will not be eligible for JSD funding during the revision period.

If the decision is negative, an appeal may be examined only on grounds of manifest arbitrariness, on grounds of procedural irregularity, or on grounds relating to nonacademic matters. The candidate may present the appeal to the faculty members of the Executive Committee of the Law School.