Program Details

Animal Law SJD Program Length and Curriculum

The Animal Law SJD requires a total of 30 credit hours, with candidates expected to complete the program within three years. By the end of the program, SJD candidates will have produced and defended a dissertation (250+ pages) of publishable quality that makes a substantive contribution to the animal law field. Applicants are admitted for the Fall semester only, and candidates expected to be in residence at Lewis & Clark for Years 1 and 2 of the program. The general timeline to the degree is as follows:

Year 1

In the Fall and Spring of Year 1, SJD candidates take a 3-credit Animal Law SJD Seminar, which touches upon matters of pedagogy and professionalism and is designed to hone the research and writing skills necessary to develop and defend the dissertation. On top of this, SJD candidates take two legal research courses, one of which must be Legal Research: Animal Law (if offered). In addition, SJD candidates take at least one additional animal law course in the Fall and Spring semesters. Candidates who have not taken an Animal Law survey course must take Animal Law Fundamentals. Near the end of Year 1, SJD candidates meet with the Director of the Animal Law Program to coordinate the composition of their Dissertation Committee, which must feature a Dissertation Chair, who is the CALS faculty member responsible for overseeing the development of the dissertation, and two or three additional committee members.

In addition to the above, international candidates without a prior background in U.S. law must take Intro to U.S. Legal Studies, which is offered in an online format that both precedes and runs into the beginning of regular Fall courses.

Year 2

Working closely with their Dissertation Chair in Year 2 to develop goals, expectations, deadlines, and more, SJD candidates formally enter the dissertation stage by undertaking “dissertation credits.” Early in the Spring semester of Year 2, candidates present a chapter from their dissertation for anonymous review by faculty members other than the Dissertation Chair. If the chapter fails to meet expected standards, candidates will be granted a period of time to address the concerns and rewrite the chapter. If the chapter adequately addresses the concerns raised, candidates will be allowed to continue pursuing the SJD; if the chapter does not, candidates are ineligible to continue and will be withdrawn from the SJD program.

Year 3

SJD candidates are eligible to dissertate in absentia during Year 3. Regardless of whether they are in residence, candidates continue to work closely with their Dissertation Chair. The dissertation must be produced for the Dissertation Committee no later than the Monday prior to Spring Break of Year 3. It is incumbent upon Dissertation Chairs, in consultation with candidates, to coordinate a date and time for the oral defense of the dissertation, which must be held in-person on the Lewis & Clark Law School campus. At the conclusion of the defense, SJD candidates are notified as to whether they have passed the oral defense or if revisions or other concerns must be addressed before the dissertation is formally approved. In certain instances, candidates who fail to successfully defend the dissertation may be afforded a second attempt at doing so. If the requested revisions and other concerns regarding the dissertation are not adequately addressed or if a second attempt to defend the dissertation fails, candidates are ineligible to continue and will be withdrawn from the SJD program.

Additional SJD Degree Details

SJD candidates are graded on a “credit, no credit, honors” system and do not receive letter or numerical grades for their courses. As such, they do not receive letter grades (  e.g., A, B+, C-, etc.) on assignments or for their work in their courses. However, they may receive an “HR,” or Honors, designation for courses in which they would have earned a B+ or higher.

Course Load/Timing

In addition to other requirements, SJD candidates must register for a minimum of 5 credits each semester, except for the Summer term and the candidate’s final term if fewer than 5 credits are needed to complete the degree. If a U.S. candidate wishes to take fewer than 5 credits in any semester that is not the Summer term or their final semester, they must request permission to “underload” from the Director of the Animal Law Program. Candidates must be registered for at least 5 credits each term to be considered a full-time student. Being less than a full-time student may impact the ability to defer federal loan repayments.

Academic Calendar

The law school is on the semester system, with 13 weeks of classes and two weeks of exams in each semester. The Fall semester usually begins the week before Labor Day and ends the third week of December. International students may begin taking the Intro to U.S. Legal Studies course, which is required for all international students who have not studied law in the U.S., two weeks before the regular Fall semester start date. The Spring semester begins in early January and ends in late April or early May, with a one-week Spring Break in March. For specific dates, see the school’s academic calendar.

Additional Information

For more information regarding the Animal Law SJD Program, please contact the Animal Law Program Coordinator, Danielle Lopez, at