Wednesday, September 24, 2008
An aspiring law professor writes:
I'm a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, generally interested in the academic teaching market, and a fan of your blog. To the extent you have not covered this issue on your blog in the past, I would like to suggest that you address S.J.D. programs. Among the questions that I (and perhaps other readers of your blog) have are the following: Is an S.J.D. the law school equivalent of a PhD? Or is it more for foreign law students (as the website describing Harvard's program implies)? What value does an S.J.D degree bring on the law school teaching market? Would it be more productive for someone interested in improving his or her credentials to obtain an LLM -- perhaps via a specialized aspiring law school professor program like the one offered at Georgetown?
Here are my answers: (1) An SJD is a bit like a PhD in law, but these days it is aimed almost entirely at foreign lawyers. The strong interdisciplinary turn of law schools over the past thirty years means that the credential of real value to an American lawyer is a PhD in a cognate discipline, not a "PhD" in law. (2) It is relatively rare to see American lawyers with SJDs, far more common to see very good foreign-trained lawyers with SJDs. (3) The LLM isn't much of a credential for aspiring law teachers; its real value is the opportunity to be in a scholarly setting and have the opportunity to do research and writing and perhaps gain some teaching experience. These days, the multiplying VAP-style programs meet that need as well. (See our earlier discussion on this.)
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