The J.S.D. program is a three-year doctorate level program. Candidacy for the J.S.D. degree is very restricted, and is normally open only to those who have completed an LL.M. degree at Berkeley Law or another American law school with a comparable program and are engaged in or planning careers in academic or other work that emphasizes legal scholarship. Each J.S.D. student works closely with a faculty advisor who specializes in a field of law related to the candidate's research and typically chairs the candidate's dissertation committee.
J.S.D. students complete a program of study including a combination of required and elective coursework and independent research. First-year students take a J.S.D. Legal Theory Seminar designed to expose students to canonical arguments and central topics in American legal theory, and also serves as a regular forum for students to receive guidance and feedback on their own developing research. Upon completing the coursework requirement and passing a preliminary oral exam, students advance to J.S.D. candidacy, typically by the end of the first year. After advancing to candidacy, the nonresident tuition fee (if applicable) is waived.
The J.S.D. program is three years in length and students must be registered on campus full-time for the duration of the program. During the second and third years of the program, J.S.D. candidates focus on research and writing a dissertation, which may consist of either a monograph or a paper series of publishable quality, representing a significant contribution to the field of study. The law school does not provide funding for J.S.D. candidates, although candidates may pursue work as research or teaching assistants on campus.