A J.S.D. student’s Special Committee is usually made up of three members of the graduate faculty in the field of law who are knowledgeable in the areas of the student’s academic interests.  Additional members may be added to cover other areas of interest.  The Special Committee is wholly responsible for overseeing the student’s course of study, progress, and for deciding when the student is ready to receive his or her degree.

The Special Committee Chair often represents the major area of concentration and supervises the dissertation.  The other two graduate faculty members usually represent other areas of concentration.  The Committee administers the Prospectus and B examination, confirms degree requirements are satisfied, assures that the student is well prepared in his/her field, oversees the dissertation, and recommends that the degree be awarded when all requirements have been met.

Students are expected to keep their full Special Committee updated on degree progress and should schedule a meeting each term with all Committee members either as a group or individually.  Regular communication with the Chair and other Special Committee members is required so that all are aware of degree progress.

Graduate field faculty members may resign at any time from a Special Committee, except when a student is in approved Health Leave of Absence status.  When a Chair resigns, the student may have one semester to reconstitute his/her Special Committee.  For complete guidelines see Code of Legislation of the Graduate School.  A student who fails to reconstitute his/her Special Committee will be precluded from further registration in the J.S.D. program.


The graduate faculty member who directs your dissertation work is usually considered the major advisor/chairperson of your Special Committee.  This advisor is most often identified prior to your arrival and will guide you through graduate study.  Your chair should be recorded with the Graduate School within the first three weeks of admission.  Use the “Special Committee Selection and Change” option to assign your chairperson.  The chair must be chosen by the end of the third week of the first semester.  If a chair has not yet been selected, the student may submit the DGS as temporary chair.  If a student selects a temporary chair, they must provide the name of their permanent chair to the Graduate School by the end of their first semester.

Once a student has chosen a chairperson, that individual will serve as the principal consultant on a variety of matters.


Other members of the Special Committee represent minor interests in the field of law as pertinent to the student’s research topic.  The full Special Committee should be chosen by the end of the second semester at Cornell, but no later than the end of the third semester.  Selection of the minor members is best done in consultation with the major advisor/chairperson.  Feel free to interview various members of the Field faculty before making your decision.  Discuss your academic goals to ensure your interests align.  Two minor members are required for a J.S.D. Special Committee in addition to the chair.  Use the “Special Committee Selection and Change” option to assign your members.

Ad Hoc Members

Although members of a student’s Special Committee are normally drawn from active graduate field faculty, Committee members from outside that body (ad hoc members) may be added under special circumstances.  Such a member should either have special expertise in the student’s subject area that cannot be fulfilled by a member of the Field faculty, or should have a close working association with the student and his/her research.

To place an ad hoc member on the Special Committee, the Graduate School must be sent that person’s credentials for review.  The student must submit the Ad Hoc Committee Member Request form. Once the form has been processed, the student will be informed via email that the ad hoc member has been approved, however they will not appear on the Committee list in Student Center. While the ad hoc member can attend exams, they do not sign off on exams or Graduate School petitions. It is up to the student to provide the ad hoc member with the date, time, and location information of their exams.

Field Appointed Committee Member

The DGS may assign an additional member of the field of law to participate in your Prospectus and/or final exam (B Examination).  This person would be recorded on the B Examination form under Special Committee as: Field Appointment Member for Exam.