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The highest law degree is often referred to as an SJD (also JSD) which is the abbreviation of the Latin Scientiae Juridicae Doctor (Juridicae Scientiae Doctor). This translates to Doctor of Juridicial Science or Doctor of the Science of Law. In the US, where the degree is most common, the SJD is the equivalent of a PhD in law. SJDs are usually completed after a student or legal professional has completed a Bachelor of Law (LLB) and/or a Master of Law (LLM).

Like a PhD, an SJD is meant for students with a passion for legal scholarship who wish to pursue careers in academia or as public officials. SJD candidates are expected to make substantial contributions with their research to the existing body of legal knowledge. The conference of an SJD occurs after a candidate has successfully completed significant research. In most SJD programs, successful completion includes both the submission of dissertation of publishable quality and an oral defense of the candidate’s research.

In order to pursue an SJD, prospective candidates must apply to their chosen program and demonstrate their aptitude for legal research. While some programs accept candidates who hold only an LLB, many require applicants to have completed an LLM or other graduate-level law degree.

SJDs are prestigious and rigorous courses of study. Most SJDs are completed within three years. Successful SJD candidates can expect to work as academics or legal professors, or in high positions within public office or government.