In Yale Law School’s new Ph.D. in Law for students who wish to become law professors, there are already 82 applications filed for the first five spots in the program, according to The National Law Journal. The deadline for applications was on December 15 and decisions will be made by administrators sometime in the spring. The candidates for the Ph.D. program will be welcome to campus in the fall.
“It was extremely difficult to gauge how much interest we would have because there was nothing to model this on,” assistant dean for graduate programs Gordon Silverstein said. “We were very pleased with the response. It can take a long time to get the word out with something like this and get people interested.”
Law professors with Ph.D.s have increased recently, with many of them entering with doctorates in political science, economics, social sciences or history. The program offered at Yale is going to be the first one that offers a Ph.D. exclusively in the field of law. In July, Dean Robert Post said that getting into a legal faculty has become tougher because hiring committees are demanding better portfolios of writing and research.
“People require you to show your abilities as a scholar by what you’ve written,” Post said. “Where do you get that training?”
The program will last three years and will be shorter than a normal doctorate program, which usually takes six years. Students will be required to sit for qualifying exams, write a dissertation, teach two courses and take classes about teaching.
“There’s a great deal of variety in the applicants,” Silverstein said. “We’ve got people who are one year out of law school and someone who has been out for 30 years. The typical profile is someone who has been out of school from two to five years. Many of them have clerked. Many have practiced at large firms. We’re looking for people from a range of backgrounds.”
The announcement was met with mixed reviews, but one professor from the University of Illinois College of Law, Jason Mazzone, was in favor of the idea. Mazzone wrote on the Balkinization blog that a doctorate in law would help boost the quality of a legal scholarship. “Graduates of law schools who go to clerk or work for a firm for a couple of years before becoming professors do not typically pick up the skills needed to conduct research and produce academic scholarship. A Ph.D. in law would usefully reprogram the prospective academic law professor.”