Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Law

An advanced graduate program in law leading to the PhD degree is offered to a very limited number of highly qualified candidates by the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Applicants who meet the admission requirements are invited to submit a detailed outline of their proposed thesis and a detailed description of their research plans with their application forms. Such topics will have to be limited to those areas of law for which faculty and library resources will support original work. It is expected that such resources will normally be available in Health Law, Law & Technology, Marine & Environmental Law, International Business Law, Criminal Justice, Legal Theory, and Indigenous Law.

Admission Requirements/Deadline

Applicants for admission to the PhD program must have demonstrated superior academic ability during their previous legal education. Normally it will be necessary to have

(i) attained at least the equivalent of a Dalhousie A- average grade at the JD level and

(ii) completed successfully a Master’s degree in law.

Preference will be given to applicants with established credentials in published scholarship of a professional calibre. The ability to conduct independent research and work easily in the English language is a prerequisite for admission. International candidates are required to pass one of the English language proficiency tests listed here and obtain at least the minimum acceptable score: 

Internet-based TOEFL 100
Written TOEFL 600
CanTest 4.5 (with no band score lower than 4.0)
CAEL 70 (with no band score lower than 60)
Dalhousie College of Continuing Education (CCE) A

The language competency test may be waived if the applicant has completed a degree at a recognized university where the language of instruction is English. The claims must be verified by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. 

Applicants should ensure that their completed application is received by January 15th along with all original documents.

Residency Requirements

Applicants must be prepared to spend at least one full academic year (12 months) in continuous residence at Dalhousie after registration for the PhD program. The Graduate Studies Committee of the Law School reserves the right in certain cases to require the completion of a second year of residency. It is to be noted, however, that consistent with other doctoral programs at Dalhousie University, PhD candidates must pay fees at the full-time rate for two years regardless of whether they have spent a second year in residence at Dalhousie.

Course Requirements

In addition to the period in residence, candidates must complete the following:

1. thesis proposal defence

2. one directed reading course

3. one area exam 

4. course work and other examinations as required by the Graduate Studies Committee

5. fully supervised research work leading to a substantial and significant dissertation (300-400 typescript double-spaced pages)

Special Skill Examination Requirements

A candidate may, at the discretion of the thesis committee, be required to pass a special examination designed to demonstrate the examinee's proficiency in a foreign language, statistical method, computer analysis, or other skill deemed to be important for successful completion of the candidate's thesis in the chosen area.

Thesis Requirements

The primary requirement for the PhD degree is the completion of a substantial thesis which should not only display original scholarship of high standard, but also represent a significant and professional contribution to the literature of the chosen subject. In applying for admission, an applicant is required to satisfy the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law that the suggested topic is suitable for development as a doctoral thesis. Normally, a PhD thesis should be between 350 and 500 typescript pages in length (double-spaced). After an applicant has been accepted, a thesis committee consisting of a supervisor and two advisors will be appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law. All candidates are required to comply with the decisions of their thesis committees. In normal circumstances, the completed PhD thesis must be submitted to the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law within five years of the date of original registration in the program. Submission of the thesis must follow the rules and regulations laid down by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Thesis Defence Requirements

Each PhD candidate is required to defend the completed thesis in an oral examination. This defence shall be conducted in accordance with the Faculty of Graduate Studies Regulations for Oral Examination of a Doctoral Candidate.