Background

Recent research on the education of Canada's law professors has revealed that the University of Toronto's graduate school is the leading institution from which Canadian law professors earn their highest graduate degree.  SJD alumni pursue successful academic careers within law faculties as well as in private practice, government, and non-governmental organizations.

The depth of expertise of the law school’s faculty provide graduate students with a rare opportunity to pursue intensive research on a wide range of topics. *** Please note that we do not encourage candidates to contact potential faculty supervisors before applying.  All applications are reviewed by the Admissions Committee and then forwarded to potential supervisors. ***

The school has established several collaborative research programs in recent years, focusing on important and topical branches of legal studies. Our program consistently produces scholars of the highest calibre, and recent graduates of the SJD program are now teaching at our own school, and at other schools in Canada and around the world.

The SJD program provides an opportunity for outstanding law graduates to pursue original academic research at the highest level.  Eligible candidates generally hold a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD) and a Master of Laws (LLM) from recognized universities with an excellent academic record (at least a University of Toronto B+ standing or equivalent) and have demonstrated, through substantive writing, their ability to engage in and generate high-level thought and quality research.  Candidates who have achieved a minimum A- average in their Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD) may be considered for direct entry into the SJD program.

Successful applicants commence this program in September. In special circumstances, an application for commencement of the program in January may be considered.

The Faculty offers financial support (academic tuition plus living stipend of approximately $15,000) each year for three years of study to all doctoral students who require assistance and who have not obtained external fellowships. Financial support in the second and third year is conditional upon the student making satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree, remaining in residence in Toronto, and other conditions set out within the Faculty's Awards Policy. When external funding is awarded, the Faculty's support is redistributed accordingly.

Requirements

Students must:

  • Remain in residence for two academic terms (September to April), and as long as you are in receipt of financial assistance.
  • Complete the graduate seminar, Alternative Approaches to Legal Scholarship. Other coursework requirements are designed on an individual basis. Students entering the SJD program without an LLM must complete eight credit hours of coursework and remain in residence for four academic terms (September to April for two years).
  • Complete the area requirement and SJD presentation (see below).
  • Write a dissertation of approximately 300 to 400 pages (approximately 90,000 to 100,000 words) which makes a distinct contribution to legal research or scholarship.
  • Pass an oral examination on the dissertation.

Note that the following requirements have been put in place to ensure that our graduate students get the full benefit of supervision and also to assist them to avoid the blocks that can develop if the research and writing process are not demystified as soon as possible.

Area Requirement in the Doctoral Program

Before being allowed to proceed with formal research on a thesis topic, an candidate must demonstrate competence in a broader area within which the topic falls. An Individual Area Committee (established by the student and approved by the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies) assists in framing that area and compiling an appropriate plan, including a reading list, for carrying out the research. The research undertaken by the candidate either culminates in a written exam based on the reading list, or else consists of a research project which is either a draft of a chapter of the thesis, or an overview of the general argument. Both paths lead to an area exam, essentially a thorough discussion with the supervisory committee that is based on written work and a reading list. A candidate must satisfy the area exam requirement by the end of the first year of registration.

SJD Presentation

Each SJD student will present their own research during their second year in order to focus their dissertation research further. In this SJD workshop series, students present an abstract of their work in progress or a draft chapter to an audience of their peers and interested faculty, in order to get positive feedback and suggestions from a group larger than their committee.

Curriculum

Graduate students choose their other courses from those available in the JD program, which are posted on-line in the summer. Graduate students are expected to choose upper-year and seminar courses. Students are not allowed to select courses from the first year JD program.

Students may also enroll in other graduate courses in other faculties of the university. The selection of courses is subject to the approval of the Associate Dean.

Graduate Faculty

The graduate faculty consists of the full-time faculty of the law school.

Application Information