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A PhD requires a minimum of three years' study, at least two years of which comprises coursework taken while in residence at the University of Washington. Students enter the PhD program with a presumptive chair with whom they meet regularly for the first year. Students typically form a supervisory committee of four to five faculty members with whom they regularly consult in the course of their research.


The following courses comprise the required curriculum for all PhD students. These courses typically are taken during the first three quarters of the student’s residence in the PhD Program.

Doctoral Dissertation Seminar (2, 2, 0) Law B558

This year-long course aims to provide a general introduction to the basic analytical frameworks for doctoral students in their preparation for the doctoral dissertation.

Research Methodology Tutorial (2, 0, 0) Law B554

This is the first quarter of a year-long course that provides an introduction to the issues, techniques and concepts of social-science research. The first quarter is required and provides an overview of social science methodologies. The second and third quarters are optional, but encouraged, and they provide more in-depth approaches on qualitative and quantitative methodologies, respectively.

Jurisprudence (0, 0, 4) Law A595

This course is designed to familiarize students with the major shifts in American legal academic thought from the late 19th century up through the start of the 21st century.

PhD Colloquium (0,1,1) Law B571

This seminar meets biweekly during winter and spring terms. It is a skills-based course focusing on topics ranging from prospectus writing to grant submissions. Together with the Jurisprudence course, it also provides an introduction to doctrinal/hermeneutic approaches to legal research.

Tutorial with presumptive chair (1-2 credits per quarter) Law 600

This tutorial is designed so that the chair and student meet regularly during the first year (at least once a week). The chair will monitor the student’s academic progress.

In addition to the above core requirements, all PhD students are required to take one course in ethics, either from a list of preapproved classes, or by approval of the Program Director. This ethics course may be taken at any point in the academic program.

Moreover, it is expected that students will take at least one more methodology course that is related to the type of research methodology they intend to employ in their work. This course will be chosen in consultation with the presumptive chair.

Finally, students who do not have an academic legal degree from a common-law country will be required to take LAW B550—American Legal System and Method.

PhD candidates must complete 90 credits, 60 of which must be taken at the University of Washington, in order to receive a doctoral degree.

General Examination

Completion of 60 course credits (up to 30 credits from an accredited LLM degree may be counted toward the 90 credit total) and a dissertation prospectus are required prior to this exam.

Final Examination (Doctoral Defense)

In addition to a successful General Examination, the PhD candidate must complete at least 27 dissertation credits over a period of three quarters. Candidates total credit count must reach 90 and they must have completed their doctoral dissertation.

Official Submission

After a successful Final Examination, the dissertation must be submitted in the required format to the University of Washington Graduate School by 11:59 p.m. PST on the last day of the quarter.

For details of degree requirements please see Graduate School Policies-Doctoral Degree.