Yale University has just announced that it is opening a new doctoral program in law. Unsurprisingly, it will be offered through the law school - in addition to the existing JSD program. Why in the world would you want a doctorate in law?
It seems like this might be designed to appeal to people who, in the past, might have obtained a Yale LLM to supplement a JD from a non-top 10 institution. I imagine that this degree will make these same people more marketable. The problem is that the law faculty hiring market is very much segmented. Different schools seek different attributes and hiring for different teaching areas can diverge radically.
The following considerations are commonly-used factors in hiring:
1. Quality of JD institution
2. Success in law school, including grades, law review, research assistantships, etc.
3. Quality of references
4. Publications - quality, quantity, and placement
5. Legal practice experience, including clerkships
6. Post JD academic experiences other than a Ph.D including fellowships, VAP's, and LLM's
7. Ph.D, with different cognate fields and different empirical methodologies having differing values and appealing to different institutions
8. Field of teaching, and depending on field, degree to which experience and publications suggest a genuine interest rather than strategic selection of soft teaching areas
How does this new three year, zero tuition Ph.D in law make it easier to get a job? According to the Yale press release:
To secure entry-level appointments at law schools, candidates are now expected to present a relatively mature scholarly profile; they need a defined research agenda and a substantial portfolio of writing. Students who do not pursue a Ph.D. in an allied discipline increasingly obtain these qualifications by completing post-J.D. fellowships, which afford the time and opportunity to write, but such fellowships do not provide in-depth scholarly training. By contrast, students completing the new Ph.D. in Law will be required to take coursework, pass qualifying examinations, and write a dissertation. Students will also learn how to teach, and will have the full support of Yale Law School’s Law Teaching Program, which has had remarkable success in placing graduates in tenure-track positions at law schools. The Ph.D. in Law will ensure that students have the necessary background and skills to launch them on successful scholarly careers.
Yale Law School’s Ph.D. in Law will offer a new, alternative route into a career in law teaching and legal scholarship,” said Dean Post. “Some students will no doubt seek advanced degrees in cognate disciplines, but for those who wish to concentrate on law, we expect that the Ph.D. in Law will provide an attractive option.”
I'm guessing that the three main virtues of the program are: getting a Yale degree on your cv (relevant particularly for non-superelite JD candidates); getting Yale references to make calls for you (if indeed they will do so for their Ph.D candidates); and getting a several publications on your AALS form.
I think that the Bigelow, and other similar fellowships, will be more valuable than this Ph.D. And a Ph.D from a comparable institution in a cognate field will also be more valuable - even after four years, before the dissertation is complete. The upside here, I think, is for people who are leaving practice after several years, have a non-elite JD, and would otherwise be looking at JSD programs. Most of these folks aren't able to get fellowships or VAP's and might not be able to get into a top 5 political science, economics, sociology, or history department either. The Yale Ph.D in Law won't promise most of these candidates jobs at elite schools - but it might do the lifting that the Yale LLM once did a generation ago.