Program and Duration

Cornell Law’s J.S.D. is conferred by Cornell University and is for scholars who intend to pursue original research in the field of law, particularly within the law faculty’s areas of expertise.

J.S.D. students are integrated into the academic life of the Law School and have the option of attending weekly faculty speakers’ series and other academic events.

It is generally expected that a student will possess a LL.M. degree from Cornell Law before beginning our J.S.D. program.  However, the Graduate Field may admit students from outside of the Cornell Law LL.M. class on faculty recommendation.

J.S.D. Program at a Glance

Degree:Juris Science Doctor (J.S.D.)
Degree Requirements:Minimum of 2 residency semesters, minimum of 4 registration units, 3 committee members, prospectus, dissertation defense (B exam), and dissertation.
Special Committee:Each member of the committee represents an interest within the dissertation.  The Special Committee Chair represents the greatest interest.
Prospectus:Oral exam administered by Special Committee; to examine preparedness for dissertation research.
Final Exam (B Exam or Dissertation Defense):A public talk on the dissertation research followed immediately by an oral exam by the Special Committee.


Year One

1st Semester:

  • J.S.D. students begin in the fall semester only.  All incoming students must enroll in the Cornell Graduate Colloquium during the first year of study. Students must complete the Graduate School’s online Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training.

By end of 3rd Week of 1st semester:

  • Students are required to submit the name of their Special Committee Chair Member.

After completion of 2nd semester and prior to end of 3rd semester:

  • Prospectus should be completed.  Students may complete their prospectus after 2 units (semesters) of study.  Students must complete the prospectus by the end of the 3rd semester.

Year Two

By end of 3rd semester:

  • Full Special Committee Required (recommended at end of 2nd semester).

3rd and 4th semester:

  • Students expand structure, content, and methodology of proposed dissertation.  Students must complete at least 2 units (semesters) between the Prospectus and the B Examination (dissertation defense).

Year Three

5th Semester:

  • Students serve as Graduate Student Lecturer or continue research (upon Special Committee approval).

By end of 6th Week prior to end of 6th semester:

  • Draft of dissertation due to Special Committee Chair at least six weeks prior to the date of dissertation defense.  Students should schedule dissertation defense immediately after receiving Chair’s feedback on dissertation.

5 days prior to defense:

  • Submit final draft to full Special Committee.

By end of 6th semester:

  • Final Exam (B Examination) must be completed by the end of the student’s third year (May-August).

60 days after Final Exam (B Examination):

  • Dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School.

J.S.D. students should complete the program with a minimum of 4 registration units (semesters) and successful completion of the Prospectus and Defense of Dissertation (B Examination).  Students are required to be in residence during the first year and could complete the program in two years, though most J.S.D students complete the program in three years.  The three-year time period may include time spent on Leave of Absence or In Absentia, but does not include Health Leave of Absence.  In rare circumstances, the Special Committee may allow a student to extend their study beyond 6 registration units (semesters), however, no Cornell Law School funding will be available.  It is strongly suggested J.S.D. students follow the timeline outlined above to successfully complete the program.


At the beginning of each semester, all students must register with the University.  Registration establishes student status and confers access to the range of University resources available to students.  Registration is not, however, synonymous with course enrollment.  (See “Course Enrollment” p.30 Code of Legislation).  Registration is required every semester until either withdrawal or completion of degree, unless a leave of absence is granted.