Nancy Joseph

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.)


Duke University School of Law


In the United States, there is no degree or training required to become a judge. On-the-job education primarily consists of orientation programs and updates on substantive and procedural law. Although these programs serve an important need, they are generally of limited duration and scope, taught by fellow judges, and are not degree programs. Two notable exceptions are the now-defunct University of Virginia Graduate Program for Judges, which offered an LL.M. in judicial process for sitting appellate judges and the Duke University School of Law’s LL.M. in judicial studies—also for sitting judges. Do judges benefit from such degree programs? There has been no research into this question by scholars of judicial institutions. This article fills this gap. It is based on interviews with 32 state and federal judges who participated in these programs. Broadly speaking, I ask them about their reasons for enrolling in the program and then, regardless of the reasons, whether they perceive that their judging improved as a result of the education. With the caveat that these findings are subject to all of the problems with self-reporting, the results are extremely interesting and instructive on the benefits of post-graduate degree programs for judges.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Judges--Education, Law--Study and teaching, Judicial process, Universities and colleges--Graduate work