S.J.D. Admission Requirements

The 2017 application cycle is now closed. The 2018 application cycle will run from September 1, 2017 - February 1, 2018. The Law School will NOT accept any late applications at this time.


  • All applications must be complete by February 1st. No applications will be considered after the deadline. The S.J.D. Program accepts applicants only for the fall semester.
  • Applicants must hold an advanced law degree (LL.M. or equivalent) from a U.S. law school accredited by the American Bar Association, or from a non-U.S. law school with equivalent standards.
  • Demonstrate distinguished academic performance in prior legal study. Most applicants have at least a 3.3 grade average on a 4.0 scale in prior legal study.
  • Submit a completed application form, with supporting materials, before the application deadline.

S.J.D. Application Procedure

To be considered for admission to the S.J.D. Program, applicants must submit the following documents by the application deadline:


Please review ALL application requirements and procedures before applying. The S.J.D. is a highly selective program and applications are reviewed thoroughly.

Application Form

Applicants must complete and submit the S.J.D. application form. We strongly encourage applicants to complete and submit the application online through the LSAC (Law School Admission Council) website. Please visit the LSAC website to create an account and submit the application, application fee, and all supporting documents.

Application Fee

Each application for admission must be accompanied by a non-refundable $75 application fee, which is payable through the LSAC online application service via credit card.

Academic Records

Applicants must submit official transcripts or notarized full-sized copies of all law, graduate, and undergraduate schools
attended, including a record of all your courses, examinations, and marks, and an official certification of the law degree
received from a U.S. law school or from a recognized international institution. "Official" means a copy of your original
document certified by an officer of your school or by a notary public. Faxed copies and photocopies of academic records will
not be accepted. Transcripts must be written in the native language of the school. If this language is not English, the
documents must be accompanied by a certified translation. All academic records should be sent through the LSAC Credential
Assembly Service. AUWCL students and alumni should complete the Internal Transcript Request Form to allow the admissions committee access to an applicant's student record. AUWCL students and alumni do not need to submit transcripts again, only the Internal Transcript Request Form.

Letters of Recommendation

Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation from law professors, employers, or other persons familiar with the applicant’s academic and professional qualifications. If the applicant attended an LL.M. program in the US, one letter of recommendation must be from a professor that taught a substantive course in that LL.M. program. The applicant should explain to references that the committee gives considerable weight to recommendation letters and thus thoughtful, candid evaluations of an applicant’s research and writing abilities, English proficiency, and any notable achievements that the reference deems significant are especially helpful. All letters should be sent through the LSAC Credential Assembly Service.

Statement of Purpose

Applicants must submit a one-page single-spaced essay explaining why he or she is seeking the S.J.D. degree and how it will
advance his or her professional objectives. This essay can include reference to a specific position that the applicant seeks to
attain or to an area of law where the applicant plans to make a novel contribution.

Résumé or Curriculum Vitae

Applicant must upload a résumé or curriculum vitae to the LSAC online application service.

Dissertation Proposal

Applicants must submit a dissertation proposal incorporating the four sections below. Each section must be separately marked. The proposal must be 10-15 pages in length, double-spaced, with Times New Roman 12-point font, and 1 inch margins on all sides. A dissertation proposal that does not follow these guidelines will not be considered by the committee. Dissertation proposals must be original, must not have been previously used for other academic work, and must meet the requirements of
the WCL Honor Code.

The proposal must consist of the following sections:

Section One (maximum length: one paragraph)
A statement of the problem that you seek to solve and your tentative solution of how you will solve it (the “thesis statement”). For additional guidance, consider reading Chapter 1 of Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing (5th ed., 2016). The thesis statement is similar to an abstract in a research paper.

Section Two (length: four to seven pages)
Building upon the thesis statement identified in Section One, discuss in greater detail the topic of the dissertation, which will be further developed in the course of research and writing. The statement should not simply say you want to investigate a topic, study an area, or summarize a field. Rather, this section requires you to present a developed perspective that takes a particular approach or analyzes a specific theme in the desired topic of study. This section is akin to an introduction in a research paper.

Section Three (length: four to seven pages)
A preliminary literature review, including:
• a discussion of the existing literature on the subject and an overview of what other scholars have already addressed; and
• an explanation of how the applicant’s dissertation will differ from, and add to, the existing literature.

Section Four (maximum length: ½ page)
A list of up to five Law School faculty members who you believe would be a suitable Faculty Advisor based on your chosen field of study. You should not contact potential faculty members directly, but rather should base this list on your review of the WCL Faculty Biographies, available at www.wcl.american.edu/faculty/. Only faculty under the Tenured & Tenure Track and Special Faculty Appointments categories are allowed to supervise SJD candidates.

Faculty Advisor

Applicants who are accepted into the SJD Program will be assigned a Faculty Advisor in the candidate’s field of study. Faculty Advisor determinations are made solely by the Law School Faculty and Administration. Applicants should not contact faculty members requesting that they serve as a faculty advisor. Instead, applicants may list up to five faculty members in their dissertation proposal. The Law School will take these lists into account when pairing admitted SJD candidates and Faculty Advisors but cannot guarantee that any of the listed faculty members ultimately will be appointed to serve as a candidate’s Faculty Advisor.

Proof of Competency in English

Applicants whose first language is not English must take a test for English competency, as described below. It is not necessary to take more than one.

This requirement cannot be waived unless applicants have received a bachelors or masters degree (including an LL.M.) from an accredited institution in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand. To request the waiver, please include your most recent TOEFL or IELTS score on the application and submit the transcript from the degree program that meets the above criteria. If a waiver is granted, applicants will not need to re-take the TOEFL or IELTS or submit an official score.