JSD Application Steps For Those Who Have Not Attended UChicago Law

Although most candidates in the JSD Program first spend a year in the Law School's LLM Program, top LLM or JD graduates of other law school programs in the United States may be admitted to the Chicago JSD Program. Candidates with a law degree (undergraduate and/or graduate) from other common law and commonwealth nations may also be considered where an individual has an outstanding academic record and sufficient prior work that they are prepared to embark on a dissertation project.

In a typical year approximately 25 -30 JSD applications will be submitted to the Law School from prospective students who have not already been enrolled at Chicago. From this group of candidates the Graduate Studies Committee has annually offered admission to one or two applicants and in some years, none. The profile of those offered admission will generally include the following characteristics: 1) prior attendance at a first tier U.S. Law School (recent JSD students who did not attend Chicago had degrees from Harvard and Stanford); 2) an academic record at that law school which places them in the top 10 -15% of their class; 3) very enthusiastic recommendation letters from at least two faculty members who taught them at that law school; and 4) a well constructed dissertation proposal which will tie in with academic interests of full time (not adjunct) Chicago faculty members - please note that applicants should not  contact Chicago faculty members directly until they have been offered admission.

The following procedure describes how candidates for the JSD Program, who have not participated in our LLM Program, may apply. Since we are asking for material which our own current and former students have already submitted, some of the following steps and material will be LLM related. If there are questions about the Law School or these materials please feel free to e-mail the office of Graduate Programs, at lawgrad@uchicago.edu.

Application Requirements

Applicants must submit all of the following required materials through LSAC:

Application for Admission

Non-UChicago Law Graduate Candidates applying for admission to the JSD must submit their application through LSAC and use the LSAC Credential Assembly Service. The program application is available here.

Chicago requires only the Document Assembly Service (DAS) for JSD applications from Non-UChicago Law graduates.

There is no application fee for the JSD.


You will need to provide a copy of your current or previous transcript from the U.S./Common Law/Commonwealth Nation law school you attended. At this stage in the application process you do not need to submit an official transcript; an unofficial copy of the transcript will be sufficient. If you are admitted to the Program and decide to attend, you will then need to submit a formal transcript from your law school’s registrar. You do not need to provide transcripts from your other schools at this time but you will be asked to submit them if you are offered admission and decide to enroll at Chicago. 

Letters of Recommendation

You must submit at least two and no more than four letters of recommendation from people at the US/Common Law/Commonwealth Nation law school you attended. Do not submit any recommendation letters from faculty who did not teach you in law school.

English Language Proficiency

Applicants to the JSD Program who have studied within the past five years for at least a full academic year in a United States law school or a law school in a common law or commonwealth nation where the language of instruction was English by the time they would enroll in our JSD Program will not need to take a language exam. Candidates who do not meet this requirement will need to take the TOEFL or IELTS exam if English is not their native language. The language exam results must be from an examination taken within two years of the date of the JSD application and must meet the following minimum requirements:

TOEFL: A cumulative score of at least 104 on the examination

IELTS: A cumulative score of at least 7.5 and sub scores of at least 7.0 on each of the four parts of the examination

Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV)

You are required to submit an up to date resume or CV which details your educational and professional background. This should include name, address, email address, phone number, any academic honors you have received, scholarly publications, employment in law or related fields including employer, title, dates of employment, and description of duties, and membership in any professional societies.

Personal Statement

A statement describing why you wish to pursue the J.S.D. degree and how that degree will be useful in your future career. There is no expected length or font size for this document. Normally the personal statement is about 2-3 pages long.

Dissertation Proposal

A dissertation proposal of the topic you would like to develop in the J.S.D. Program. Include at the end of your proposal the names of the Chicago faculty members you would like to supervise your dissertation. Please do not contact Chicago faculty members until your application has been approved by the Graduate Studies Committee. The Graduate Studies Committee may consult with those faculty members before making a decision on your application but you are not permitted to do that.  There is no expected length or font size for this document. Dissertation proposals vary in size depending on how detailed a candidate wishes to make the proposal. The norm for proposals is 4-10 pages.

Conduct Explanation (if applicable)

If you answered yes to any of the Character & Fitness questions on the Application for Admission, you are required to submit an explanation along with the rest of your materials