Programs in comparative and international law are usually reserved for students who already have law degrees, but who want to specialize their knowledge of law by further study. Many law schools therefore offer comparative law certificate programs for students who are either currently enrolled in a law program or who already hold law degrees. However, some universities do offer online PhD programs for comparative law, which provide a strong foundation in general law along with specific course work dedicated to the comparative law concentration. Like the Juris Doctor degree, the Doctor of Comparative Law (D.Comp.L.) degree can take up to five years to complete.
Students who enroll in online PhD programs in comparative law take classes in areas like international law, business, and globalization. They may also be required to take a foreign language as well. The programs are usually structured with the understanding that students have had some previous law and government instruction, which they should have acquired during a bachelor's, master's, or law degree program. After graduating, students who have earned a Doctor of Comparative Law typically go on to establish careers as lawyers who represents clients and businesses across international borders.
About Online PhD Programs in Comparative Law
Comparative law students explore the differences that exist among different legal systems across the world. They learn about the way different cultures handle civil law, business law, and other legal areas. They also take classes in legal communication to hone their writing and speaking skills. Some programs require students to learn about the laws within certain geographic areas by having them enroll in classes like Russian law or the legal processes of Latin America. Some other examples of classes that doctorate comparative law students may take include those listed below, which are adapted from the University of Pittsburgh‘s international law certificate program, a program open to students who are enrolled in their second year of law school.
- Comparative Commercial Law. Commercial law varies across countries. This class is a study of the differences in those international laws. It also explores how those differences affect globalized businesses.
- Conflict Resolution in a Diverse Society. When dealing with diverse populations, conflict resolution entails being mindful of differences in culture and communication. This class teaches students how to handle conflict in a skillful and sensitive manner.
- Foreign Language for Lawyers. International law programs typically require students to study a foreign language as part of their legal education. Choices include German for lawyers, Spanish for lawyers, and Chinese for lawyers.
- International Law. This is a survey class that prepares students for more specific studies into international law.
- Terrorism and the Law. This course teaches students about the way various legal systems handle international threats and terrorism.
- International Intellectual Property. This class explores the way intellectual property and copyrights are handled among different countries.
Students who opt to enroll in the D.Comp.L. program will need to complete a dissertation prior to graduating. Dissertations are thorough research projects that contribute to scholarship within the field. Some topics explored by comparative law students include conflicts of intellectual property, international sustainability law, and case studies of legal systems within specific countries. After writing their dissertations, students typically go through a process of dissertation defense, which consists of presenting and explaining the research to law faculty members.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Comparative Law
Because business and economics are becoming increasingly globalized, the demand for lawyers who are knowledgeable about international law is increasing. This means that comparative law doctoral degrees can be extremely beneficial for prospective lawyers, especially those who want to represent globalized organizations and corporations. Lawyers who are looking to increase their marketability can also benefit from an education in comparative law and may want to consider comparative law graduate certificates as a means through which they can expand upon their careers. However, students who have no interest in international law may want to consider specializing in a different field, like civil litigation or criminal law.
Online degree and certificate programs give students a flexible option for continuing their education. However, law degrees are very time-consuming, no matter the medium used to complete course work. Students who choose to enroll into online comparative law programs should be prepared for intensive reading, writing, and research assignments. They should be self-motivated and organized as well. Those who require structure to succeed may want to consider hybrid or campus-based comparative law programs, rather than online programs, as attending class in a physical classroom may be a better fit for them.
Application & Admission Requirements
Exact requirements for comparative law Ph.D. programs will vary depending upon whether a student chooses a D.Comp.L program or a comparative law certificate program. Typically, both require that students have at least a bachelor's degree in a field related to law, like history or government, and they also require students to have maintained a high GPA during their undergraduate instruction. Both usually require personal statements, resumes, LSAT scores, and recommendation letters as well. However, the certificate program may also require students to have already completed a doctoral degree in law, although some may allow students to enroll in the certificate program while they are currently enrolled in a law doctoral degree program. To find out the exact requirements of the programs in which you are interested, talk to your university's admissions office.
Career Options & Job Market
Upon graduating, comparative law students typically go on to become lawyers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that lawyers earn an average of $112,760 annually, although salaries will vary depending upon the employer, the location, and the candidate's experience. The demand for lawyers is projected to grow by 10% by 2020. As an alternative, students can go on to teach law at the university level. The BLS reports that post secondary instructors earn around $62,050 annually, although as with the law profession, salaries will also vary according to a variety of factors. The career field is growing about as fast as the national average for other occupations.
Where to Find Information
- International Law Association A nonprofit association dedicated to providing resources, publications, and networking opportunities for students studying international law.
- American Branch of the International Law Association A society dedicated to helping professionals establish networks and develop their careers in comparative law.
- American Society of International Law A professional association that seeks to advance scholarship and offer support to those who want to establish careers within international law.
How to Get Funding
Professional societies and associations like those listed above often hold scholarship and fellowship programs that can benefit comparative law students. In addition, many private organizations have funding opportunities that seek to promote comparative law scholarships. Local and state governments typically have tuition assistance programs as well. For students that need additional options for financial aid, the resources listed below may help.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This is a federal loan that can amount up to $12,000 awarded each academic year to Ph.D. students. It is offered at a low and fixed interest rate of 6.8%.
- Federal Perkins Loan. This is another federally issued loan that provides students with an average of $3,500 annually. It is offered at a low and fixed interest rate of 5%.
- Campus-Based Aid. Students can also look to their universities for tuition assistance programs. In addition to participating in federal aid programs, accredited universities usually provide their own financial aid programs.
- If you are interested in pursuing comparative law, consider studying international government and a foreign language as an undergraduate student. These subjects will set a strong foundation for your doctoral degree studies.
- While some doctoral degree programs do not require master's degrees as a prerequisite for admission, master's programs are a good way to prepare for the doctoral-level research that comparative law programs require.
- If you are having trouble selecting a comparative law program, consider contacting faculty members to get a better idea of their research interests. This can help you determine whether or not your academic interests will be met by the program.
- Even if you don't think you'll qualify for financial aid, you should still apply for some scholarship and grant programs. You may find that you do qualify after all, and even a small stipend can help with tuition costs.