PhD Program

Western Law is committed to fostering our doctoral candidates’ development as leading legal scholars through the production of high caliber legal research. To that end, our Faculty offers an intellectually stimulating environment for the pursuit of doctoral studies.

One of the primary aims of the program is to prepare promising scholars for careers as legal academics. Graduates of the PhD program will also be well positioned for the workplace in the private practice of law, business, the government or various Canadian and international non-governmental organizations that focus on law and legal policy.

The normal duration of the PhD program for full-time students is four years of continuous enrolment. PhD students are permitted to study part-time only in exceptional individual circumstances.

Students wishing to pursue a PhD are encouraged to contact individual faculty members to discuss their availability to supervise on a particular topic.

Please see our Graduate Admissions page for details of admission requirements and how to apply.

Program Requirements

To complete the PhD program, the following is required:

  1. Law 9011: Approaches to Legal Scholarship;
  2. Law 9012: Guided Study and Research Methodology;
  3. Three additional elective courses, one of which may be from outside the Faculty of Law, with the permission of the student’s supervisor and with the approval of the Graduate Director and the other program;
  4. Law 9013: Graduate Colloquium; and
  5. Writing and defence of a substantial dissertation of publishable quality.

In addition, the student will be required to be in residence for a minimum of two years and to meet the following program milestones:

  1. to produce, after three terms and before the end of six terms, at least one draft dissertation chapter (approximately 10,000 words), and to defend it orally before his or her thesis advisory committee. The committee shall consist of the student’s supervisor and one or two additional members of the university faculty, as agreed by the student and the supervisor;
  2. to present and defend his or her thesis proposal before the advisory committee, after three terms and before the end of six terms, to ensure that his or her studies are making progress. The committee shall consist of the student’s supervisor and one or two additional members of the university faculty, as agreed by the student and the supervisor. The order in which this and the chapter presentation are delivered shall be determined by the student in consultation with his or her supervisor;
  3. to prepare by the end of four terms an early draft of a Table of Contents and Bibliography;
  4. to research and write the dissertation in years three and four; and
  5. to present at least one research talk inside the Faculty of Law in each year after the first year.

For further details about Western Law's PhD milestones, please see our Guidelines for Students and Supervisors.

For general information about the PhD dissertation and defence process, please see the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Thesis page.