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Calling Dr. Law: Yale Will Offer a Ph.D. in Law for Would-Be Legal Academics

YALE LAW SCHOOL — PRESS RELEASE

Yale Law School Introduces Nation’s First Ph.D. in Law

New Haven, Conn. — 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. The Ph.D. program is made possible, in part, through a grant from The Mellon Foundation, as well as a gift from Meridee Moore ’83, founder of Watershed Asset Management, L.L.C.

“In the past few decades, legal scholarship has matured as an academic discipline,” said Dean Robert Post ’77. “Because the level of the scholarship expected of entry-level law professors has risen quite dramatically, increasing numbers of law professors now pursue Ph.D.’s in allied disciplines like economics, history, philosophy, or political science. Because such disciplines train students in standards and questions that are different from those of the law, the natural next step for the legal academy is to create our own Ph.D. program that can focus on the questions and practices of the law itself. Students obtaining a Ph.D. in law may, of course, engage in interdisciplinary studies, but their work will be anchored in the framework of legal scholarship.”

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 www.law.yale.edu/phd.

Yale Law School Introduces Nation’s First Ph.D. in Law [Yale Law School (press release)]
Ph.D. Program [Yale Law School]
Yale launches Ph.D. in Law to train aspiring professors [National Law Journal]
Yale Law School to Offer Ph.D. in Law [WSJ Law Blog]
Yale Launches New Law PhD Program Aimed at Those with JD Degrees Who Want to Teach [ABA Journal]
The worst idea in the history of legal education: a “PhD in Law”? [Brian Leiter's Law School Reports]

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