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How Do I Earn an International Law PhD?

Books on international law.
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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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An international law PhD is the terminal or most advanced degree in international law and is given once a candidate has completed a dissertation that is an original contribution to this academic area. The international law PhD is completed after the candidate has earned the J.D., or Juris Doctor, and the LL.M., or Master of Laws. Earning an international law PhD will likely take between three and five years to complete, depending on the required coursework and the amount of research and writing.

A candidate for a PhD in international law must first earn the J.D. and the LL.M. The J.D. is a professional graduate degree in law that takes three years to complete. Once a student has finished his or her undergraduate education, he or she can apply to law school.

A law school candidate must have an undergraduate degree, a strong grade point average, and a high score on the LSAT, or Law School Admissions Test. Once admitted, the typical law school student will take core courses like criminal law, civil procedure, and legal research and writing. Students who wish to earn an international law PhD should take several courses in this area of law or work on a scholarly legal journal devoted to the field while in law school.

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Beyond the J.D. is the LL.M., a graduate degree that requires the student to focus on international law specifically and research this area in depth. The requirements of the LL.M. vary between programs, but most take at least a year to complete. The LL.M. typically requires the successful completion of some advanced coursework and a research thesis that can later serve as a springboard for the PhD dissertation.

An international law PhD can take at least three years to finish in addition to the minimum of four years required for the J.D. and LL.M. Requirements vary significantly between PhD programs, and most are very selective. Most recipients of this type of law PhD become legal scholars or professors.

A candidate for this legal degree will typically have to complete advanced coursework in international law. A written or oral exam is also a common requirement. Once all required coursework has been completed, a student will began writing a dissertation under the supervision of a committee of law professors or an adviser.

A dissertation that makes a unique contribution to the field of international law is required for the PhD. A student will develop a research project under the guidance of his or her adviser or committee. Once the project is complete, the dissertation is submitted to the committee, which can accept or reject it. An oral defense of the project is a typical part of the submission process.

A law PhD can be referred to by different names in different countries and at different universities. The American university of Stanford uses the term postdoctoral degree or the acronym S.J.D. for Scientiae Juridicae Doctor. Other countries and universities may refer to this degree as the LL.D., or Legum Doctor; J.S.D., or Doctor of Juridical Science; or the Dr. iur, or Doctor of Law.

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