Study JSD in Berkeley United States of America


Top Law School in the United States (the cultural journey of studying  JSD in Berkeley)


About current learning situation & future career development goals

One has passed Oral defense and I am now a PhD candidate (Doctor of Science of Law or JSD/SJD for short). Apart from taking a course in law school and economics department, the rest of the time is mainly by self. Reading books and writing articles, and helping their tutor do some research.


The total number of credits at graduation is expected to exceed 100

For future career development, the first choice is law school teachers. This is also the original intention of this project.

 But since no one can tell what will happen in the future, other possibilities are not ruled out, such as being a lawyer, going to a company or the financial industry.


Why America? Why UC Berkeley?

The reason for choosing the United States is simple, because the United States’ economic strength, cultural influence, and academic research strength are currently the most powerful in the world, and law and economics originally originated in the United States. So it is natural to study this field in the United States.

To put it bluntly, in the study of economics and law and economics, the United States has left several other countries in the world, even other developed countries.


As for why you choose Berkeley, this is because of the particularity of the JSD application, which text will describe below, and also because the ability, prestige, and willingness to pay for students are the most important.

Their mentor has become famous in the 1970s and 1980s. He is one of the founders and former chairman of the American Law and Economics Association. He is also an academician of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

For a long time, the total number of citations of papers has been the top five in the field. One of the most respected senior scholars in economics. He is a student of the world’s greatest legal philosopher HLA Hart, political philosopher John Rawls, and a student and colleague of the current Federal Reserve Chairman Jeanne Yellen.

He is also very willing to communicate and contribute to the students. They maintain a frequency of meeting at least one hour a week.

If an academic Ph.D. cannot find a suitable tutor to work with, the research life will become very painful. Their mentor is not only the reason they chose Berkeley, but also one of the luckiest things I have done since my PhD.


How about the God-like American Juris Doctor program?

The U.S. Law School may provide 2-3 programs called “Doctors”.


The first is Juris Doctor, also known as JD, which is generally translated as a Doctor of Law. This program is actually a vocational education, specially set up for training lawyers. It is the first law degree in the United States, similar to a domestic law undergraduate.

 There is no law major in the United States undergraduate, so anyone who wants to study law must obtain a basic education in American law by studying for a JD degree at the graduate level. This program usually lasts for 3 years.

Generally, you need to study about 80 credits of American law courses. The first grade (1L) learns the most basic contract law, tort law, constitution, and procedural law. The law school conducts course selection. The JD project is the core project of the American Law School.


The second is JSD or SJD (Doctor of Science of Law), that is, Doctor of Science of Law. This is a project set up specifically for legal research and teaching, and it is a true doctoral level project.

 This program requires applicants to have a Master of Laws (Master of Laws, LLM, an advanced degree after the first degree in law) before they can apply. Some law school applicants with a JD degree can also directly apply for JSD without studying for LLM.

The general duration of this project is 3-5 years. In the first year, students are required to take a course in law research methodology, and then students will do independent research and complete several hundred pages of graduation thesis.

Compared with JD and LLM, the JSD program has lower tuition fees (I am now about US$6,300 per semester), even tuition fees are waived (Duke) or scholarships (NYU has a scholarship of US$150,000 in three years). Also, you can apply for the National Funding Committee, the funding for up to five years covers all tuition and living expenses.


Some schools’ JSD programs, such as Penn University, require that second-year JSDs cannot take elective courses; while Berkeley requires JSD to complete 24 credits (including 8 credits of independent research) in the first year; second and third grades are required to be completed every semester 12 credits totaling 48 credits of courses, so 72 credits are required to be completed in three years.

 The credit requirements for Berkeley JSD 2/3 grades are very flexible. You can choose courses within the whole school, or you can replace them with independent research, so you have a high degree of freedom.


JD students usually take an internship with an NGO, court, or prosecution arranged by the school during the summer vacation of the first year, and then start an interview with the law firm, which is On Campus Interview (OCI), in the first few days of the second year.

 OCI usually lasts for a few days. Large law firms will organize teams to interview at the school. Students who pass the interview will go to the law firm for summer associates, and they will be able to join the job after they have passed the law firm’s assessment and obtained the return offer.

 Now many major law firms in the United States have set the starting salary to a high salary of 180,000 US dollars (excluding bonuses), which should be regarded as a very high starting salary in the horizontal direction.

This is also a huge motivation to support the JD students to study hard. JSD students do not have internship requirements, and they complete their studies as a thesis, which is similar to the general Ph.D.


In addition, Yale and Berkeley Law School also provide very unique Ph.D. programs. The Ph.D. program of Yale Law School is provided to applicants who have obtained a JD degree, focusing on the methodological study of legal research.

The Ph.D. program of Berkeley Law School is called Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) program, which is a US first Ph.D. project of law school.

As can be seen from the name, Berkeley’s project emphasizes the intersection of law and other social sciences. Therefore, students will receive rigorous academic training at Berkeley Law School and other prestigious academic projects at the same time.

Berkeley ranks No. 1 in the United States for public policy projects, No. 5 in the Department of Economics, No. 6 in the Department of Political Science for elective courses and professors.

This project can be applied for at the same time as the JD project, or can be applied separately with GRE scores. Once the application is successful, you will complete several credits of law school courses, social science research methodology courses, and other college courses.

If it is JD and Ph.D. dual admission, you must take at least 64 credits of law school courses and 86 credits of total courses.

Students will determine their specific research topics in the first two years of the project, and follow a full-time professor of Berkeley Law School to write their graduation thesis in the third year.

The average graduation period for this project is 5-6 years. Every applicant who successfully enters the program, including Ph.D. single admission and JD+Ph.D. double admission, will receive a full tuition waiver and a scholarship of nearly 2,000 US dollars per month.

So it can effectively reduce students’ economic pressure. But it is worth noting that if you do not study JD, JSP itself is not a law degree, but a Ph.D. of a social science project.


In addition to these three PhD programs, the American Law School also provides an LLM (Master of Laws) for 9 months

This degree was originally set up for JD graduates to continue their academic studies, and is theoretically higher than JD. However, most foreign applicants now apply directly for undergraduate graduation.

Therefore, LLM has now become a short and fast degree upgrade program, which no longer meets its original purpose.


What should I pay attention to when applying for law degree at Berkeley, USA?

LLM should be the mainstream degree for Chinese applicants applying for American law school. LLM requires applicants to have a first degree in law (Law, Law Studies or Master of Law, etc.). LLM application is relatively simple, no GRE or LSAT is required, as long as the TOEFL score is enough.

Therefore, the main criteria for admission are TOEFL scores and GPA. It should be noted that if the applicant has less than 64 points of law credits during the first law degree study period, they may not be able to take the NY Bar (New York State Attorney).

NY Bar is one of the main benefits of LLM in the United States. Some LLMs have unique requirements. For example, the LLM of Columbia University must have two years of work experience. The LLM of Yale generally admits Chinese graduate students with published and academic aspirations.


The JD program requires the submission of LSAT scores, and generally does not require TOEFL. The top law schools do not need to submit TOEFL scores except for the University of Chicago Law School.

The LSAT test consists of three parts: reading comprehension, logic and Games. It can be said to be one of the most difficult standardized tests in the United States. Even native Americans need a long time to prepare.

 Since the undergraduate of JD applicants is generally not a law (nor in the United States), JD’s hard admission criteria are mainly the applicant’s undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores. JD’s tuition fee for a year is more than 50,000 or even 60,000 US dollars, plus living expenses in three years is not a small expenditure. Therefore, applicants make financial planning based on their own economic situation.


The JSD application requires the applicant to have an LLM degree, as well as a writing sample and proposal. Proposal is the top priority of the JSD application, but it is the core of the entire application essay.

Its quality determines whether the professor is willing to become your mentor and whether to give you strong support, and it will also greatly affect the admissions.

The committee’s judgment on applicants. Therefore, the application materials need to spend more than half of the energy on the writing of the research plan. Therefore, it cannot be overstated.


The application of the Ph.D. of the American Law School is basically the same as other Ph.D. Berkeley’s JSP needs to submit GRE scores and writing samples, as well as a two-page Statement of Purpose, describing the purpose of the proposed doctoral program and the main academic interests.


The career development path we care about most

Of course, JD’s career development path is OCI-go to a big law firm and become a life winner with a starting salary of 180,000 dollars.

 Since OCI is at the beginning of the second semester, the academic performance of JD students in the first semester is particularly important.

Many students spend their first year of study drinking strong coffee. Berkeley’s Chinese JDs are generally able to find good jobs. For example, some seniors also get offers from Davis Polk’s New York office, the top 5 law firm in the U.S., and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the top law firm in Silicon Valley, at the Palo Alto headquarters; some students get offers Go to the top ten American law firm Cleary’s New York office. But first go to the Federal Circuit to do clerk (to do clerk in the Federal Circuit requires a score in the top 20%, which is much more difficult than going to a large law firm), and go to Hong Kong The top US firm, due to cost of living adjustment, has a starting salary of $250,000 (excluding bonus).

In terms of employment, JD from T10 Law School really likes it.

One of Berkeley JD OCI locations

LLM students generally return to their country to practice, and there are some individuals who have rich work experience who have successfully studied in the United States.

This year, Berkeley LLM worked as an international associate in the Washington DC office of Latham Watkins, the top ten law firm in the United States.


JSD students are generally looking for teaching positions all over the world, some stay in the United States, some teach in the UK and mainland Europe, and some are in Hong Kong, Singapore, India and mainland China.

Of course, many JSDs also choose to enter the industry, become lawyers or enter investment banks. Wang Junfeng, one of the founders and global chairman of King & Wood Mallesons, the largest law firm in China, is the JSD of Berkeley Law School.


Wang Junfeng, member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, President of the 9th National Lawyers Association, and Chairman of King & Wood Mallesons, is also Berkeley JSD

At present, as a lawyer, LLM has a big gap compared with JD. For example, LLM cannot get cost of living adjustment, and may not get global pay.

Entry must start with proofreading, verifying prospectus and other chores that JD will not do. At first (because the cost of JD’s chores is too high), but as time goes by, the future trend is still uncertain.


What is the biggest challenge since studying for a PhD in the United States?

The biggest challenge is to change from a consumer of academic achievements to a producer of academic achievements.

Many people in the United States think that the biggest problem is language, but this is not a big problem for me. The key is how to produce original research results for the academia. This is also the basis for oneself in the future.


What is the biggest gain by studying Law Major in the USA?

The biggest gain is of course the relatively complete methodology training.


American law research has become interdisciplinary, especially law and economics research has become mathematical and physical, which is a trend that is difficult to access in other countries.

 Berkeley places great emphasis on interdisciplinary research. In addition to the main tutor, we have two other associate tutors. One of them must not have a position in the law school at all, and double-appointment professors are not acceptable.

In law school, in addition to studying law, you also study statistics, industrial organization economics and other foreign departments. A good methodological basis and inter-degree thinking are my biggest gains.


The second is the teacher’s words and deeds. As said earlier, some tutors has a very strong background. Like, one is 71 years old this year and is still writing three papers and two books at the same time. His rich knowledge, love for academics, and persevering research spirit are a great inspiration and guidance to me.



The intensity of study in American law schools far exceeds that of domestic law, and of course the training and knowledge gained are far beyond domestic. If you can make good use of your study time in the United States, you will definitely gain a lot. Of course, a degree from a well-known American law school will also be of great help to everyone’s future career development. Hope that more juniors and younger sisters can learn common law.




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