SJD Admissions Process

Admission is highly competitive and is granted only to those with a strong academic record, enthusiastic faculty support, and a dissertation topic that suggests a significant and original contribution to legal literature.

Three paths to admission are available:

Complete an LLM Degree at Michigan Law

The vast majority of admitted students have earned or are currently earning a Michigan Law LLM degree.

Apply as an LLM/SJD

Students with prior legal training in the Anglo-American tradition may apply for direct admission to the SJD program, though they will be required to successfully complete a modified LLM year before proceeding to the SJD

Apply Directly to the SJD Program

In the rarest of circumstances, exceptionally qualified candidates with excellent credentials relevant to their proposed dissertation may be admitted directly to the SJD program. These extraordinary students must demonstrate significant prior studies as well as produce a prospectus that clearly shows readiness to begin thesis research immediately. They must also have strong support from a tenured Michigan Law professor.

SJD Application Details

  • Application Materials

    Currently enrolled Michigan Law LLM students apply in February. Michigan Law LLM graduates must apply by January 15.

    Completed applications from current Michigan Law LLM students and Michigan Law LLM graduates contain all of the following:

    1. Curriculum vitae or resume
    2. Personal statement
    3. Dissertation research prospectus
    4. Name of proposed SJD dissertation chair (must be a tenured Michigan Law professor)
    5. One letter of recommendation from the proposed SJD dissertation chair
    6. One letter of recommendation from a law professor at the law school where your most recent degree was earned (prior to Michigan)
    7. Optional, but strongly recommended: one letter of recommendation from an additional Michigan Law professor

    All other prospective SJD students must apply by January 15. Completed applications for anyone who is not currently enrolled as a Michigan Law LLM student or who is not a Michigan Law LLM graduate contain all of the following:

    1. Michigan Law Graduate Study application form (submitted through LSAC’s website
    2. Curriculum vitae or resume
    3. Personal statement
    4. Dissertation research prospectus
    5. Name of proposed SJD dissertation chair (must be a tenured Michigan Law professor)
    6. Two letters of recommendation (one letter should be from a professor at the law school where your most recent degree was earned)
    7. Official transcripts and degree confirmations
    8. English proficiency score (unless an exemption applies)
    9. $75 application fee
  • Dissertation Research Prospectus

    A competitive prospectus describes the proposed research topic in sufficient detail to indicate its significance and originality, the questions to be explored, and the research methodology to be used. While there are no length requirements, 25 to 40 pages (double spaced) tend to be the average. The prospectus should demonstrate a readiness to begin research immediately and should be written in English by the applicant. Please do NOT submit a prospectus that has been translated or that has been edited by others.

  • Finding Your Dissertation Chair

    SJD dissertation chairs must be fully tenured Michigan Law professors and have expertise in your field of research. If you do not already have a personal relationship with a qualifying faculty member, please contact the Admissions Office at [email protected] for guidance. We ask that you do not contact professors directly unless you have previously worked with them or unless you have been referred to a professor by another professor or by the Admissions Office.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    Letters of recommendation should be from people who know you well and must address your capacity for advanced legal scholarship as well as your prospects for a successful career. It is helpful if the letters address how you compare to others in your law school or professional cohort. 

    Letters of recommendation should be written in English or in the recommender’s native language with a certified English translation. All letters of recommendation must appear on official stationery of the recommender. Either LSAC’s or Michigan Law’s recommender form must be completed by both the applicant and the recommender and be included with the letter.

  • Official Transcripts and Degree Confirmations 

    Official transcripts and degree confirmations are required from all tertiary and postgraduate programs attended (e.g. undergraduate, graduate, law schools, and professional law institutes).

    Transcripts must bear the registrar’s signature or the institution’s seal. They must be in English or be accompanied by a certified English translation.

    Transcripts must give results of all coursework, including yearly or comprehensive exams when applicable. Official certification of your rank in class (for example, 4th in a class of 123 students), your cumulative average grade, and receipt of honors should also be provided.

    It is helpful for us to receive a description of each institution’s grading system, including the normal length of the degree program and whether failing grades appear on the transcript.

  • English Proficiency Scores

    To be prepared for the rigor of the SJD program, students must have a high level of English proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

    We require official score reports from TOEFL or IELTS, which should be sent to LSAC to include in your application. A minimum overall score of 100 on the TOEFL or 7.0 on the IELTS is required.

    Tests must be taken before January 15 of the year admission is sought, but should not be more than two years old when submitted.

    TOEFL Details

    IELTS Details  

  • English Proficiency Exam Exceptions

    Only applicants who meet both of the following parameters are exempt from submitting English language proficiency scores:

    • Residents of Australia, Canada (other than Quebec), New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, or the United States (other than Puerto Rico) 


    • Completed a rigorous full-time program of at least three (3) years of post-secondary education in one of the countries listed above.

    If you meet both of these criteria and would like to request a waiver of the English proficiency test requirement, please email our office at [email protected] before submitting your application. 

  • Application Fee

    Michigan Law LLM alumni and current Michigan Law LLM students are not charged an application fee. For all other candidates, the application fee is $75 and is payable by credit card on LSAC’s website.

Submitting Your Application

If you are a currently enrolled Michigan Law LLM student or if you are a Michigan Law LLM alumnus, please submit your application materials directly to Stephanie Wiederhold at [email protected]

Applications from all other prospective SJD students should be submitted online through LSAC and can be made in combination with LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service. The Credential Assembly Service provides applicants an efficient way to apply to multiple law schools at the same time and provides evaluation and authentication of your previous education.