Fields of Specialization

Students are required to pass examinations in two fields of specialization prior to taking qualifying exams. The form of the exam is either a 3-hour “in class” exam or a 24-hour “take home” exam.

The Program distinguishes between “disciplinary” and “topical” fields of specialization. At least one of the two fields of specialization must be a “disciplinary” field. A student’s choice of fields is usually governed by several considerations, including such important matters as intended career-paths and anticipated dissertation topics. All students are strongly advised to consult early and widely in their planning of fields.

The Graduate Adviser is responsible for the formal approval of each student’s choice of fields. In exercising this responsibility, the Graduate Adviser seeks to ensure the coherence of the combination of fields and to prevent excessive overlap between the two fields of specialization.

Students should aim to complete their field exams by the end of the fall semester of their third year in the program. This timetable enables them to take their qualifying exam before the end of their third year of graduate study, in conformity with the program’s expectations. (For students concurrently enrolled in the JSP and JD programs, the qualifying exam is expected to be completed before the end of their fourth year of study in the JSP Program.) Students who advance to candidacy in a timely manner receive a “Normative Time” fellowship that covers in-state fees and a fully year of stipend.

Disciplinary Fields

The Program offers five disciplinary fields of specialization: economics and law; history and law; philosophy and law; political science and law; sociology and law. Other fields can be custom prepared in consultation with faculty. The faculty whose primary teaching and training fall within a given discipline are responsible for determining the scope and content of the relevant disciplinary field. This standardly involves such matters as the topics and bibliography taken to be central to the particular field; methodologies and scholarly approaches adopted by scholars in the field; classic literatures and debates serving to help constitute the field.

Disciplinary field exams are offered during the first two weeks of each semester and are evaluated by two members of the JSP faculty. In unusual circumstances, a student may petition the Graduate Adviser for permission to take a disciplinary field not included in this list.

Students preparing a particular disciplinary field take the relevant “foundation” course, followed by a sequence of more advanced seminars and classes. The amount and appropriate combinations of advanced course-work are determined collaboratively by the faculty sub-group responsible for the field. In most cases, this course-work will involve at least 2-3 classes additional to the JSP “foundation” course, and will likely include classes outside the law school.

JSP students often seek to utilize their disciplinary field as a credential for later academic appointment in a discipline-based department (political science, sociology, etc.). Where this applies, students are routinely advised to complete additional course-work in the relevant campus department.

The relevant “foundation” course and specified advanced seminars constitute the principal program of training for a given disciplinary field. Each year members of the JSP faculty present brief introductions and overviews of the five disciplinary fields. These presentations are designed to aid students in their choice of fields and in later course planning.

Topical Fields

Topical fields cover a more heterogeneous and individualized set of specializations. The expected features of a topical field are set out in this section, but the program does not produce a specific list of topical fields.

In many cases, a topical field will focus on a general topic (such as “dispute resolution” or “children and the law”) which is treated by various areas of the law and to which various policy objectives have been defined for the law. In other cases, a topical field will consider a well-established sub-discipline or area of academic specialization (such as “political theory” or “criminal justice”). Topical fields also can take the form of more conventional “field studies” (such as “law and society” in some geographic region, or “law and society” in a particular cultural tradition).

Topical fields also can be developed from established subject-matters within professional legal studies (such as “constitutional law”), or from established sub-disciplines within the legal academy (such as “comparative law”). In such cases, these fields will not be comprised of exclusively doctrinal issues and legal materials.

Whereas “disciplinary fields” relate to single, established disciplines and academic departments, topical fields bring multi-disciplinary perspectives to bear on their given subject-matters. This is particularly the case with regard to topical fields drawn from subjects within the traditional J.D. curriculum. (For examples, a topical field concerned with “constitutional law” needs to include relevant material from such disciplines as political science and economics, rather than comprise only traditional constitutional law scholarship. A topical field covering the public regulation of the environment should be developed so that it is accurately described by the title, “law and the environment,” and not by the title, “environmental law”.)

Topical fields normally will be examined by two faculty members, at least one of whom must be a member of the JSP core faculty. In some cases, a student’s preparation of a given topical field may involve extensive study with a faculty member outside the JSP or Law School faculty. In special circumstances, the Graduate Adviser can give permission for a topical field to be examined by a single member of the JSP faculty.

Decisions concerning the scope and content of a given topical field, and concerning the course work necessary for its preparation, are made by the field examiners in consultation with the Graduate Adviser. The Student Affairs Officer maintains a list of past topical fields, which new students can usefully consult. Students seeking to undertake a topical field not previously recognized in the JSP program need the approval of the Graduate Adviser, who consults with other members of the JSP core faculty over the feasibility of the proposed field.