The Master of the Science of Law (JSM) Degree

The JSM (Master of the Science of Law) degree is awarded to individuals who hold a JD (or its equivalent) and are at the Law School participating in the Stanford Program for International Legal Studies (SPILS Program).

Overview of Degree Requirements

The requirements for the degree of Master of the Science of Law are:

  • Successful completion of at least 35 approved quarter units;
  • Three quarters of residency;
  • Successful completion of the SPILS Thesis; and
  • Timely filing of an application for graduation.

Unit Requirement

To obtain the JSM degree, students must complete at least 35 but no more than 45 approved quarter units of course work under the personal supervision of a faculty adviser and the SPILS Teaching Fellow. At least 26 of these units must be Law School courses; however, see below for the policies and limitations on enrolling in courses from elsewhere in the University, and see the section on the California or New York bar exam for special unit requirements for students expecting to sit for the Bar Exam in California or New York. Consult the Director of Academic Success if you have any questions about the bar requirements.

Course Requirements

Candidates for the JSM must successfully complete each of the following courses:

  • Introduction to American Law
  • SPILS Law and Society Seminar
  • Research Design for Empirical Legal Studies
  • SPILS Research Methods Workshop
  • SPILS Master’s Thesis (2 quarters, Winter and Spring)

All JSM candidates must complete required coursework in the designated sequence and obtain the approval of their teaching fellow for their choice of electives. In addition, each JSM candidate must (1) complete, under the personal supervision of a faculty adviser, a thesis reflecting substantial independent research that results in a significant contribution to the scholarly literature or policy debates in the student’s area of concentration; and, (2) make a public presentation on their thesis research at an approved forum during the academic year.

Limitations on Course Selection

JSM candidates are subject to the following limitations on course selection:

  • JSM candidates may not take more than forty-five (45) units while enrolled at Stanford Law School. All units taken at Stanford Law School or
  • Stanford University count toward this total, whether or not these units are taken for credit towards the degree.
  • JSM candidates may not take any courses that are required as part of the first quarter of the first year of the JD curriculum and must petition for permission to take any courses that are required as part of the second or third quarters of the first year of the JD curriculum.
  • JSM candidates may not take any courses at other law schools.
  • JSM candidates may take for Law School credit no more than 9 units elsewhere in the University and may not take any foreign or English language courses for Law School credit.
  • Because of their special course and thesis requirements, JSM candidates cannot avail themselves of the “clinical quarter.”

Papers v. Exams

JSM students are encouraged to write papers instead of taking examinations if the instructor of the course offers that option.

Residency Requirement

To graduate, a JSM candidate must be “in residence” as a law student for at least 3 quarters. For purposes of the JSM degree, the term “in residence” means that a student:

  • Takes at least 9 quarter units of credit that can be counted toward the degree each quarter.
  • By the date all grades for the quarter are due, passes at least 8 units each quarter.
  • Pays full tuition to the law school.
  • Does not work more than 20 hours per week during the term. (See section entitled ‘Limitations on Working’ for more information.)

A student must be in residence during the quarter in which the final degree is conferred or during the quarter immediately preceding degree conferral.

Time Limit on Degree Conferral

Candidates for the JSM degree are expected to complete all degree requirements within one academic year and must complete the degree requirements within two consecutive academic years.

Timely Filing of a "Graduation Application"

Students should consult the University’s online Academic Calendar for the Graduation Application deadline dates for each term. The Academic Calendar is available through the Office of the University Registrar. See Academic Calendar under Help Resources.