Training the Next Generation of Legal Historians

The field of American legal history has become more thoroughly interdisciplinary in recent years, in part because of the contribution of scholars who have training in both law and history.  Penn’s J.D. / Ph.D. Program in American Legal History is a leader in the field, and has become the most carefully planned and supportive joint degree in the field.  The J.D./Ph.D. program trains students to teach American legal history in law schools, history departments, specialized graduate programs and undergraduate legal studies departments. The combination of faculty in the Department of History who work in or are interested in legal history, together with Law School faculty who also have appointments in the Department of History, make the University of Pennsylvania uniquely qualified to offer this program.  For more information on the faculty directly involved in the joint degree, see https://www.law.upenn.edu/institutes/legalhistory/ 

The program design is intentionally interdisciplinary and immerses students in the law school and the history department. The seven-year course of study is comprised of four years of course work followed by three years of dissertation research and writing. As a general rule, the first year of the program is spent entirely in 1L curriculum in the law school and the second is full-time immersion in the History Department. The remaining two years of course work are combined, with the student taking courses in the Law School and the Department of History. At the end of this period the student should be ready to take the Ph.D. qualifying examinations and receive the J.D. from the Law School. The ability to work toward the degrees concurrently, as opposed to sequentially, is an important part of this program, allowing course work to be condensed within a reasonable number of years and emphasizing the interdisciplinary aspects of legal history.  Equally important, students receive credit from each field for courses taken in the other, so that the training is more efficient and calibrated to the student’s scholarly interests.

Students must apply competitively for admission to both the Department of History and the Law School.  Each entity has its own separate admission process and both are highly selective.  Applicants to the program should identify themselves to both entities as joint-degree applicants.  A successful candidate will receive a joint funding package supported by both the Department of History and the Law School. Inquiries about the program should be directed to the Law School Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, or by calling 215.898.7400, and/or the Graduate Coordinator of the Department of History.