Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yale Launches Nation's First Ph.D. in Law

Yale LogoYale Law School today announced that it is launching the nation's first Ph.D. in Law:

To its array of innovative legal programs, Yale Law School has added yet another – a Ph.D. in Law. The first such degree program in the country, Yale’s Ph.D. in Law is designed to prepare students who have earned a J.D. degree from an American law school to enter careers in legal scholarship. It will give students a broad foundation in the canon of legal scholarship and provide them the support and specialized training they need to produce their own scholarship. The Ph.D. will stand alongside Yale Law School’s other very successful law teaching degrees – the J.S.D. and LL.M. – which are designed primarily for students who received their initial legal education outside the U.S. ...

Yale Law School already is the most important institution in the United States for the education of future law professors. Despite the Law School’s relatively small size, approximately ten percent of law professors currently teaching in the United States – including the deans of eight of the top ten law schools – received their legal education at Yale. Dean Post said that the Ph.D. program would help solidify the Law School’s preeminence in placing its graduates in teaching positions, even as the market for junior law professors changes.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard to transition directly from law practice to teaching,” the Dean said. He explained that to secure entry-level appointments at law schools, candidates are now expected to present a relatively mature scholarly profile; they need a defined research agenda and a substantial portfolio of writing. Students who do not pursue a Ph.D. in an allied discipline increasingly obtain these qualifications by completing post-J.D. fellowships, which afford the time and opportunity to write, but such fellowships do not provide in-depth scholarly training. By contrast, students completing the new Ph.D. in Law will be required to take coursework, pass qualifying examinations, and write a dissertation. Students will also learn how to teach, and will have the full support of Yale Law School’s Law Teaching Program, which has had remarkable success in placing graduates in tenure-track positions at law schools. The Ph.D. in Law will ensure that students have the necessary background and skills to launch them on successful scholarly careers.

“Yale Law School’s Ph.D. in Law will offer a new, alternative route into a career in law teaching and legal scholarship,” said Dean Post. “Some students will no doubt seek advanced degrees in cognate disciplines, but for those who wish to concentrate on law, we expect that the Ph.D. in Law will provide an attractive option.”

The first class of Ph.D. students will begin their studies in the fall of 2013. Applications will be accepted in fall 2012. The program is open to those who have earned a J.D. degree at an American law school. Ph.D. students will be entitled to a waiver of the cost of tuition and will receive a stipend to cover their living expenses. For more information, visit the Ph.D. web pages.

Update #1:

Update #2Lauren B. Edelman (UC-Berkeley) emails:  "Berkeley has had a PhD Program in Law, the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, since 1978. The JSP program, which is part of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, is widely recognized as the premier interdisciplinary PhD program in law.  We have now produced 115 PhDs, who teach at law schools such as Chicago, Virginia, Berkeley, Duke, Indiana (and many more)."

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True, but they lose their youth in pursuit of dubious credentials - first the non-law bachelor's that, as far as I know, only the USA, Canada and the Phillipines require, and then the PhD.

I know some people love being a university student, and good luck to them.

Posted by: FC | Jul 14, 2012 6:36:47 PM

@ FC--Again, the people in the program do not pay for it. The fees are waived. They get a stipend and health benefits.

Posted by: BH | Jul 13, 2012 9:34:06 AM

Step right up, boys and girls, and spend 4 years for a BA, 3 for a JD and 5 for a PhD!

Posted by: FC | Jul 12, 2012 9:58:09 AM

This is what Europe has been doing for centuries.

Posted by: michael livingston | Jul 12, 2012 3:06:46 AM

Call me crazy, but does this mean that my JD isn't a doctoral level degree?

Posted by: Danny K. | Jul 11, 2012 6:45:38 PM

As long as the folks that obtain this degree, and teach with it, will derive their salaries from the university proper, and not the law schools (read: tuition paid by folks hoping to actually become lawyers with only a 50/50 chance of actually obtaining that goal), I agree, and think it's a positive step.

If, however, unwitting law students will be bearing the cost of these folks' salaries so that **fill in the blank non top 3 law school** can feel the warm fuzzies about having Yale PhD's on it's faculty, we will be exactly where we started from, and we know how that's working out...

Posted by: anon | Jul 11, 2012 3:13:21 PM

I hope this answer does not post twice. FC, I get what you are driving at. But I would say that history graduates have opportunities to practice teaching before they become full-fledged professors. Law professors who are not joint degree folks, do not. I don't believe I said anything about training to teach. There is something to be said for trial and error, particularly under some degree of supervision. History grad students run sections, grade papers, and act as professors even as they are becoming experts in their area of concentration. Sure, some people will not learn by doing. And some won't have a much supervision and guidance a they need. But it is better than nothing. That other PhD students have a concentration also gives them a leg up. Unless there is severe emergency, an Americanist will not often required to cover China, for example.

Posted by: BH | Jul 11, 2012 1:52:55 PM

One advantage to this is that those who want to pursue legal scholarship would have a clear path to do so. One hopes it would lead schools to move away from training every law student in the nature of a legal scholar and pushing it onto the employers to actually train them to practice law.

Posted by: DJTorrente | Jul 11, 2012 1:09:43 PM

The industry does not have to be "growing" for them to beat out competitors. It could even be declining and they, who will have practice teaching and will have written a substantial amount, might be more attractive to employers.

Did you go to Yale undergrad, too? I don't think it's the habit of law students to adopt the mascots of the colleges to which their law schools are attached.

Posted by: BH | Jul 11, 2012 11:54:33 AM


What other disciplines actually train graduate students to teach?

Posted by: FC | Jul 11, 2012 11:50:56 AM

It's a great idea. The students won't have to pay, and will get paid. They will actually have to learn to teach, as students in other disciplines do.

Posted by: BH | Jul 11, 2012 11:09:38 AM

Obviously, the rapidly growing law school industry is suffering from a critical shortage of Yale-educated faculty. Color me skeptical.
-Yale '85

Posted by: Eli Blue | Jul 11, 2012 11:03:21 AM

Just what we need, law professors even more disconnected from the real world. Nero is fiddling...

Posted by: Todd | Jul 11, 2012 10:41:37 AM