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SJD Admission Requirements

SJD Admission Requirements

The SJD program is only open to exceptionally well-qualified candidates who both (a) earned their first law degree outside of the United States and (b) have successfully completed an LLM degree at an ABA accredited law school in the US. (Only in exceptional circumstances will we consider admitting a student whose LLM comes from a law school outside the US, and then only if the sole language of instruction was English.)  Preference will be given to students who have completed their LLM degree at the University of Pittsburgh.

The SJD degree must be completed under the supervision of a full-time faculty member who has consented to serve as the faculty advisor. 

The SJD is a research degree. There is no formal requirement for candidates to pursue course work, whether for credit or otherwise, other than required participation in a non-credit, ungraded colloquium for SJD students during their first year in the program. However, a candidate may be required by his advisor to take or audit courses and participate in seminars and discussions which will further the student’s understanding of his or her field of knowledge and its relation to other fields. Each candidate will be allowed 2-4 years to complete the program, the first year of which must be spent in residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. The year of residency is in addition to the LLM year for Pitt Law LLM graduates. A candidate is required to conduct rigorous research and produce an original dissertation that will contribute significantly to legal scholarship and further understanding of the law. Specifically, a candidate is required to submit a dissertation overview, defend that overview, submit a doctoral dissertation, and successfully defend the dissertation. 


  • GradCAS by Liaison hosts the application for our SJD program. If you do not already have a GradCAS account, begin by navigating to GradCAS and clicking “Create an Account." If you do have a GradCAS account, please log in to GradCAS. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

  • Apply directly through our website through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) website or through GradCAS. Your application will require:  

    • Original copies of all original language academic records/mark sheets/transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended

    • CV or Resume

    • List up to three (3) preferred faculty advisors.

    • Scan and upload both a Writing Sample and a Dissertation Proposal in the Documents section of CAS

    • Request that 2-3 letters of recommendation are sent through the CAS recommender portal.  At least one of your recommendations must be written by a professor who taught a course taken for credit in your LLM program


Pitt Law has a three-step process for SJD admissions:

  1. Submit a completed application, including all required documents, to CILE for an initial screening. Your application must designate your preferred faculty advisor to supervise your dissertation writing. We will review your preferred advisors and make initial contact with them on your behalf. 
  2. Next, the CILE Director will review your application to confirm that it is complete and that it meets our threshold requirements for consideration. The Director will then consult with the potential faculty advisor(s) that you identify in your application and determine whether any of them would be a good fit for your dissertation subject. You may or may not be contacted by one or more faculty members during this stage.
  3. If we determine that one of your preferred faculty members is an appropriate faculty advisor for your dissertation and is willing and able to act as your advisor if admitted, your application will be submitted to the full SJD admissions committee for review and a decision. Success in the first two stages of the admissions process does not ensure that the committee will offer admission to the program.