S.J.D. Program Courses and Requirements


As the highest degree offered in law, the S.J.D. program is a 30-credit degree program typically completed in three years. The first year will be spent in residence at Miami Law, where students will focus on the development of a final dissertation proposal to be approved by the student’s Faculty Advisor and the SJD Program Director at the end of the first year. The second and third years will be spent writing and completing the dissertation under the supervision of the student’s faculty advisor.

In the first year, all S.J.D. students must participate in the S.J.D. Seminar, a two-semester 3-credit course designed to provide students the skills they need to successfully complete their dissertation. The seminar, to be taught by Miami Law faculty and librarian faculty, will cover dissertation formulation, planning and drafting, U.S. and international legal research techniques, critical reading and analysis, legal discourse, and academic presentations. In addition, specific rotating themes will be introduced each semester based on the students’ backgrounds, interests, and goals.

First year S.J.D. students will also be required to enroll in 6 credits of Dissertation Research and Writing to develop their own course of study throughout the residency year. The student’s course of study is to be developed with, and is subject to the approval of, the faculty advisor. The course of study will involve extensive research in the area of law that is the subject of their dissertation. It may include upper-level courses in their area of specialization selected from the law school’s existing course catalog. It may also include other University of Miami graduate level courses, as well as readings and other academic work framed in the context of the candidate’s specific field of study.

At the end of the first semester of their first year, students will present their final dissertation proposal for approval by their faculty advisor and the SJD program director. Once the revised prospectus is approved, students will be admitted to advanced standing and may begin to form their dissertation committee with the advice and approval of their faculty advisor and the SJD Director. The dissertation committee shall be composed of their faculty advisor and two additional members. Dissertation committee members may be members of the Miami law school faculty at large, members of the faculty of other schools or colleges at the University of Miami, or members of the faculty of other law schools. The dissertation committee must be formed and approved by the faculty advisor and SJD Director before the beginning of Year 2.

In the second and third years of the program, students will focus on writing their dissertations. If the student chooses to remain in Miami during this period, the student may continue to participate in the S.J.D. seminar and audit classes and will be encouraged to participate in the intellectual life of the School. Students will receive regular assessments of their progress by their faculty advisor, and the S.J.D. Director will review these assessments annually. The faculty advisor and dissertation committee must determine that the dissertation constitutes a significant and original contribution to scholarship in the student’s chosen field of law. Generally, the dissertation should be 250-300 double-spaced pages and conform to the program formatting guidelines. The expectation is that students will complete their dissertations by the end of their third year in the program.

A student may apply for up to two additional years of study with the faculty advisor’s support. However, students will have a maximum period of 5 years within which to complete their dissertation, subject to the ability of the S.J.D. Committee to extend the time period if a student petition justifies the extension to the satisfaction of the Committee.

Sample 3-year SJD Course of Study

Year 1 (In-residence)

  • S.J.D. Seminar (3 credits each semester)
  • Dissertation Research and Writing I (6 credits each semester)

Year 2-3

  • Dissertation Research and Writing II (3 credits each semester)

Year 4-5 (Optional)

  • While this is normally a three-year degree, with the faculty advisor’s support, a student may extend their studies and have a maximum of five years to complete the writing of the dissertation.


Please contact us at sjd@law.miami.edu. We would be delighted to schedule an online meeting with you and answer any questions you may have.