Peter A Allard School of Law


The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Law provides advanced training for outstanding graduate students who have already obtained a thesis-based Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree or its equivalent. 

The Ph.D. in Law consists of five parts :

  • coursework
  • comprehensive exams
  • dissertation proposal and defence
  • dissertation
  • a final examination

Ph.D.students are admitted to candidacy after successfully defending their dissertation proposal and at that point become Ph.D. candidates. Students must advance to candidacy by the end of year three. Students must complete all requirements for the Ph.D. within six years of the date of first registration in the program. Please see the Ph.D. Guidelines for more information. 

Over the course of the Ph.D. in Law, students will complete:

+ Course Work (7 credits)

All students in the PhD program are required to enrol in the two-part doctoral seminar, which is to be completed in the first year of study.

LAW 610: Issues in Legal Theory (Term 1 - 4 credits)

This seminar provides students with a selective overview of major developments in legal theory over the twentieth century. It is intended to provide a grounding for further jurisprudential work by students in the course of their studies, including comprehensive examinations in the area of legal theory.

LAW 611: Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Legal Theory (Term 2 - 3 credits)

This seminar will provide a selective overview of a range of approaches to interdisciplinary research in law. Readings include a wide range of interdisciplinary, critical and socio-legal scholarship. The seminar will also explore the multiple ways in which theory and method are intertwined in legal research.

Students may also take other courses, including directed research projects, in the law school or in other Faculties at UBC (with permission from the Allard Graduate Program and the other Faculty) for credit or as auditing students.

+ Comprehensive Exams

After finishing the doctoral seminars, students must complete the comprehensive exams process. The exams must be successfully completed before writing the dissertation proposal. The comprehensive exams work to broaden and expand a student’s theoretical and methodological frame for their further study and teaching in Law.

The comprehensive exams process includes:

  1. Creating a reading list of approximately 30 monographs and articles
  2. Reading and preparing short annotations for all items in the reading list
  3. Written examination
  4. Oral examination

+ Dissertation Proposal and Defense

The dissertation proposal is a 20-30 page document that outlines the dissertation project. It is to provide:

  • A clear justification of the subject, setting the dissertation in the context of relevant scholarly literatures;
  • A working hypothesis & a background theory;
  • An outline of the proposed dissertation (organized under chapter headings) and a reasonable time-frame for completing your dissertation work;
  • A bibliography

Students defend their dissertation proposal to their supervisory committee in an oral defence. Once the proposal has been successfully defended, the student becomes a Ph.D. candidate.

+ Dissertation 

The dissertation is to be a major and original book-length piece of work. It is meant to make a significant contribution to the student’s chosen field of study. In most fields, a doctoral dissertation will range from 60,000 to 80,000 words in length, excluding footnotes, bibliography, and appendices.

Refer to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for the Scope of a Doctoral Dissertation.

+ Final Examination

The last stage of the Ph.D. program is the final doctoral examination. It consists of two parts:

  • External examination
  • Oral defence

 For more information, see the UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies' Final Doctoral Examination guide.

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