From the announcement:
To its array of innovative legal programs, Yale Law School has added yet another – a Ph.D. in Law. The first such degree program in the country, Yale’s Ph.D. in Law is designed to prepare students who have earned a J.D. degree from an American law school to enter careers in legal scholarship. It will give students a broad foundation in the canon of legal scholarship and provide them the support and specialized training they need to produce their own scholarship. The Ph.D. will stand alongside Yale Law School’s other very successful law teaching degrees – the J.S.D. and LL.M. – which are designed primarily for students who received their initial legal education outside the U.S. The Ph.D. program is made possible, in part, through a grant from The Mellon Foundation, as well as a gift from Meridee Moore ’83, founder of Watershed Asset Management, L.L.C.
“In the past few decades, legal scholarship has matured as an academic discipline,” said Dean Robert Post ’77. “Because the level of the scholarship expected of entry-level law professors has risen quite dramatically, increasing numbers of law professors now pursue Ph.D.’s in allied disciplines like economics, history, philosophy, or political science. Because such disciplines train students in standards and questions that are different from those of the law, the natural next step for the legal academy is to create our own Ph.D. program that can focus on the questions and practices of the law itself. Students obtaining a Ph.D. in law may, of course, engage in interdisciplinary studies, but their work will be anchored in the framework of legal scholarship.”
This is a three-year program. Six courses are required, but only one of these is designed for the PhD program:
All first-year Ph.D. students will be required to take a two-semester pro-seminar on canonical legal scholarship and methodologies. The first semester of the pro-seminar will be dedicated to reading and discussing canonical works of legal scholarship. The second semester will be devoted to the presentation and discussion of student papers in a workshop format. The pro-seminar, required of all Ph.D. candidates, will be the cornerstone of a genuine intellectual and professional community, serving as well as an opportunity for students working in different areas of law to interact with, and to learn from each other as well as the faculty leading these and other seminars and workshops. At the end of the second semester, all Ph.D. candidates will complete the first of two qualifying examinations. The pro-seminar will constitute the primary preparation for this first, written, examination.
So only one, one-semester course is actually designed for the PhD program, although the pro-seminar continues in the second semester with student papers. I would guess that Yale believes that its JD curriculum provides courses that can serve as the equivalent of a rigorous graduate curriculum, and perhaps it does. My instinct is that more would be required for the program to provide truly rigorous training--perhaps five dedicated courses plus an elective (from the JD program) in the first year.
I've been advocating a PhD program in law for more than a decade, predicting that one would emerge for almost that long, and anticipating the Yale program since it was proposed when Bob Post became Dean. Bravo!
Update: Gordon Silverstein writes that there will be other PhD-program specific courses.