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Revamped JD/Ph.D. Promotes Innovative Law and Society Research

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November 7, 2006 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Graduate students interested in how law relates to other aspects of society -- whether sociological, political, psychological or economic -- now can take advantage of Northwestern University's newly revamped JD/Ph.D. program, from start to finish, one of the most integrated and well-funded programs of its type.   

Northwestern's law school and graduate school not only offer a coherent course of study that integrates the rigorous terrains of doctoral and law studies -- with dissertations and research jointly supervised by faculty members from each of the schools. The JD/Ph.D. program now also offers a single application process -- reviewed by the law school and graduate school admission offices -- and a single funding source.

“No other JD/Ph.D. program in the country is providing students a full ride for law school as well as their doctoral studies along with a streamlined administration process to minimize bureaucratic problems,” said Donald Rebstock, associate dean of enrollment at Northwestern University School of Law.

Both the program's full funding for six years and the carefully integrated doctoral and law studies are designed to attract, nurture and help retain scholars capable of doing innovative research on law and society at the cross section of disciplines. 

“We are creating a cohort in which faculty are very involved and students work together to ensure that at every step there is a community to reinforce progress in the program,” Rebstock added.

Unlike the often-serendipitous marriage of graduate and law studies in JD/Ph.D. programs, Northwestern's program is closely monitored by law and graduate school faculty so that every student progresses along the same track.

“Students from various doctoral programs are treated as a cohort, so they have a community of peers in law, in their disciplines and among those seeking the combined degree,” said Simon Greenwold, associate dean of the Graduate School.

JD/Ph.D. students currently are enrolled in the departments of African American Studies, psychology, sociology and history and in finance at the Kellogg School of Management. They spend the first two years doing graduate-level course work in various disciplines, the next two years at the law school and the final two years completing their dissertations. 

Academia puts a high premium on the interdisciplinary training that the program offers, and most of the JD/Ph.D. graduates will end up working either at a law school or a graduate school.

The law school is particularly well positioned to serve JD/Ph.D. students. In a recent empirical legal studies ranking by Tracey George, a professor at Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University School of Law was ranked number one. The ranking was based on number of research faculty with social science doctorates and with secondary social science appointments and on related faculty articles cited since 1996. 

“Because so many members of the law faculty have Ph.D.s themselves, the law school is a natural fit for students undertaking the considerable challenges of law school and doctoral studies at the same time,” Rebstock said. “A law degree plus a Ph.D. from a top school, especially from Northwestern, definitely will give these future academics an edge in the job market.”

The work by Northwestern's law school faculty members with doctoral degrees includes research on jury decision making; on the influence of politics on the Supreme Court; on the eminent domain tug-of-war over taking of private land for public purposes; on the transformation of the legal profession as corporations and law firms become global; on effects of judges' political ideologies on judicial sentencing decisions; on social norms and compliance with the law; and on how legal institutions, rules and practices affect perceptions of legitimacy and morality.

“Interdisciplinary study is a hallmark of Northwestern's excellence,” said the Graduate School's Greenwold. “The revamped JD/Ph.D. program reinforces this excellence not only from an academic perspective but also by providing appropriate financial resources to greatly enhance retention of students enrolled in the program.”    

For more information, visit <http://www.northwestern.edu/legalstudies/JD-PhD/> or call (847) 467-2207.

Topics: University