During their first 2-3 years of study, JSP students undertake an ambitious program of seminars and related courses.

It is during this time that students complete most of the Program’s pre-dissertation requirements and prepare their two fields of specialization. The schedule is designed to enable JSP students to make timely progress towards the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam (See the Qualifying Exam, for further information on the required timetable).


Orientation Seminar
In the first semester of their first year, JSP students are enrolled in a semester-length orientation seminar that is collaboratively taught by 2-3 faculty members. Unlike other JSP seminars, this class is usually “closed” to all but JSP students; and it provides a setting for students to become familiar with their new peers, as well as with the doctoral program and several of its faculty. Pedagogically, the chief mission of the seminar is to introduce new students – who most often come to the program with different undergraduate trainings – to a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to some broad, basic topic in the social and philosophic study of law (such as “the rule of law” or “understanding legal change”). The topic examined and the faculty leading the orientation seminar changes year to year.

Foundation Seminars
The Program additionally offers a series of semester-length “foundation” courses in the following five areas: law and economics; law and history; law and philosophy; law and political science; law and sociology.

These courses are collaboratively designed to provide foundational coverage of their respective disciplinary treatments of law and legal institutions. Students are required to complete any 3 of these courses before taking qualifying exams.

The foundation courses are scheduled so that this requirement can be satisfied within the first two years of study. By design there will be variation from year to year as to which particular seminar serves as the foundation course in a given discipline and among the faculty teaching the foundation course. The list of foundation courses being offered in any given academic year is announced in advance of the period of general course registration.

In part, this requirement serves as a disciplinary breadth-requirement: every student receives a rigorous introduction to at least three of the major disciplinary contributions to the study of law and society. The foundation courses also serve as the launching pad for students more advanced training in a particular disciplinary field and area of scholarly specialization. Here the completion of this requirement will help many students identify the kind of research projects they wish to pursue in their doctoral dissertations. Foundation seminars include:

  •  Introduction to Law and Economics
  •  Law and Society (Law and Sociology)
  •  Legal Institutions (Law and Political Science)
  •  Courts and Social Policy (Law and Political Science)
  •  Law and Political Philosophy (Law and Philosophy)
  •  Foundations of Legal Philosophy (Law and Philosophy)
  •  Law and History Foundation Seminar

Advanced JSP course work

In addition to the course requirements set out in Section A (above), students are required to complete two additional seminars taught by members of the JSP faculty. Seminars “co-taught” by JSP faculty and faculty from the JD program or other campus departments count towards satisfying this requirement; as do additional JSP “foundation” courses beyond the 3-class requirement.

Most students will satisfy this requirement in the course-work undertaken in preparation of their fields of specialization. It is specified as a requirement to signal the important expectation that students are to continue to undertake course work with JSP faculty beyond the completion of the first-semester orientation seminar and the three foundation courses.

Statistics and Methods Requirements

JSP students are required to complete a semester-length statistics course that covers multiple regression analysis. Students usually satisfy the requirement by taking a class regularly offered in the department during their first semester in the program. Students who have taken such a course prior to entering the program may be exempted by petition to the Graduate Adviser.

In addition to the required statistics class, students are expected to take a special JSP Research Design course which is collaboratively conceived, and which is offered at least once every two years. The course covers the design and execution of empirical research, including: formulating a research question, theory building, causal inference, measurement, research design, sampling, and basic questionnaire and interview construction. It critically examines the techniques and advantages of different types of research, including surveys, interviews, content analyses, participant observation, historical methods, and ethnography.

The statistics and methods requirements reflect both the Program’s commitment to empirical research and the profound influence of quantitative methodologies on current scholarship examining the social impacts and efficacy of law in public policy. Many JSP students (and several faculty members) do not undertake this kind of research. But the general expectation is that all JSP students should be equipped to understand and critically evaluate such scholarship.

JSP students intending to teach in social science departments are advised to complete more advanced course work in statistics and quantitative methods beyond the general requirement.

Law Classes

JSP students are required to complete one law doctrinal course during the first three semesters in the program. This requirement does not apply to JSP students who enter the program with a JD or other relevant professional legal training. JSP students concurrently enrolled in the JD program will satisfy these requirements as part of their required course of study in the JD program.