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Law and Philosophy

dual degree program

Law and Philosophy are closely linked in a number of ways. First, the two disciplines employ similar styles of rational argument and analysis. Second, there is a long history of mutual influences between them, beginning with the Socratic dialogues and continuing, most recently, with developments in critical legal theory and theories of interpretation. Third, American legal theory has become increasing reliant on external sources of normative analysis. Thus, those who do legal theory have felt an increasing need to incorporate philosophical theories into their work, and philosophers have found it necessary to better know practices of law in order to work in social and political philosophy. Understanding this need the Law Schooland the Philosophy Department in the College of Arts and Sciences have teamed up to offer a dual degree program. Students may apply to earn either a JD/PhD or a JD/MA. 

M.A. Philosophy/ J.D. Law
There are a number of reasons why students might desire this degree. One is simply a matter of personal interest and enrichment. At Boston College, the three year law program is aimed at providing professional training that will equip a student to practice law in a variety of areas. While this training inevitably includes philosophical and ethical issues, many students would like to have further exposure in these areas. A second reason is the student’s desire to confront the professional challenges posed by social change and innovation in areas such as globalization, bioethics, and developments in modern technology. Traditionally, the law school has placed special emphasis of issues of professional responsibility and social justice. Philosophy MA students will be able to use their law degrees to put ideas into practice. The dual degree program will equip participating students with a broader framework for thinking about these issues. 

Ph.D. Philosophy/ J.D. Law
The dual doctoral program would prepare students for an academic career in either discipline. In the legal field, it is increasingly difficult for students to enter the teaching profession without an advanced academic degree. In philosophy, students are increasingly seeking well-informed instruction in issues where philosophy and law intersect. In addition, a philosophy major has often attracted students preparing for law school. PhD’s in Philosophy who also possess a law degree will be very competitive in a market looking for professors with this combined expertise.

Law and Philosophy at Boston College
Boston College is an ideal place to pursue a dual degree program because of its existing strengths in both fields. The law school has a number of faculty who have dual degrees in law and philosophy or law and religion as well as many who do advanced work in jurisprudence. The Philosophy Department has traditionally maintained a strong position in the fields of ethics, social-political philosophy, natural law and philosophy of law. In addition, it has particularly rich offerings in the Continental tradition so necessary for understanding modern work in interpretive theory. 

Admission to the Program
Students must be separately admitted to both programs. The requirements of each are summarized here, but for further information the student should consult the Law School Admission Website and the Philosophy Department Graduate Admissions Website.

The Law School requires:

  • A baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university prior to entering law school
  • The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) taken within the past five years 
  • Registration with the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS).

The Philosophy Department requires:

  • A baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university prior to entering graduate studies
  • GRE General Test 
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose and Writing Sample.  Application deadline – January 15th.

Requirements for the Dual Degrees
Students must meet the individual requirements for both degrees, but the following special provisions provide a substantial reduction in the course load and time requirements for both degrees:

  • Students may count up to twelve credit hours of Law School classes toward the credits required for the MA or PhD degree in Philosophy
  • Students may count up to twelve credit hours of Philosophy classes toward the requirements of the J.D. degree.  
  • Students may count one semester of study in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences toward the residency requirement of the J.D. Degree.
  • The MA/JD dual degree program may be completed in as few as three years, but must be completed within six years of enrollment in the program. The PhD/JD dual degree program may be completed in as few as six years, but must be completed within ten years of enrollment in the program

In addition, dual degree students are required to take a one semester, three unit/credit integrative seminar to be offered jointly by both schools.