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Frequently Asked Questions

The Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics is unique. While one can separately earn a J.D. and a Ph.D. in economics at many other universities, our program is unique in that training in economics is fully integrated with training in law. Students learn economic theory and econometrics in the context of the law and legal issues. Our principal fields of concentration are risk and environmental regulation, labor and human resources, and behavioral law and economics.

At the completion of the program, you will receive a Ph.D. in Law and Economics and a J.D. While we anticipate that most of our graduates will pursue academic careers, other career paths are possible.

Students can complete the Ph.D. and J.D. in 6 years. Students can complete the Ph.D. alone in 4-5 years.

For students who have completed at least one year of a J.D. program, the first year of study includes core economics and law and economics courses. In subsequent years, students will take law, law and economics, and economics courses.

For those seeking both the Ph.D. and the J.D. degrees, the first year of study includes core economics and law and economics courses. The second year of study includes core J.D. courses. In subsequent years, all students will take law, law and economics, and economics courses and begin their dissertation research. For more detail see the Law and Economics Curriculum page.

No. The Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics is designed for the full-time student.

No. Students in the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics must live within driving or walking distance of Vanderbilt University during the academic year. There are no opportunities to take courses online or to study remotely in the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics.

All students admitted to the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics receive 100% tuition support and a stipend for living expenses for study within the program.

Continuation of the award beyond the first year is contingent on satisfactory performance in the program.

Fellowship recipients will have research assistant responsibilities after completion of the first year of Ph.D. study and the first year of law study.

In addition to completing one year of undergraduate level calculus, students should pursue additional coursework in mathematics and economics.

Highly recommended courses are:

  • linear algebra
  • real analysis
  • statistics
  • intermediate microeconomic theory

Program students must attend the “math camp” offered by Vanderbilt's economics department during the month before the first semester of program study. The math camp reviews the mathematical tools used in the study of economics.

No. The Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics does not require a specific major as a condition of admission. However, admitted students usually major in economics or mathematics since the math competency level of the program is commensurate with leading doctoral programs in economics.

For applicants not applying to any J.D. Program other than Vanderbilt's J.D./Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics who have not taken the LSAT within the past five years, you may apply to the J.D./Ph.D. Program with the GRE as your only standardized test score. If you have taken the LSAT in the last five years, your score(s) must be reported and will be considered in the Ph.D. in Law and Economics selection process.

There is no minimum LSAT score; however, applicants with lower LSAT scores are admitted at lower rates than applicants with higher scores. The median score of J.D. students at Vanderbilt is 167. We consider each applicant's LSAT score in the context of all the information in the full application. This means that applicants with lower scores are more likely to be admitted if they are strong in other respects.

Yes. The Verbal and Quantitative GRE scores are required for admission to the Graduate School. Other exam scores (GMAT, for example) may not be used in lieu of the GRE scores. Students admitted to the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics usually score above the 90th percentile on the Quantitative Reasoning portion of the GRE. The GRE Subject Test in Economics is not required.

International students: Please note that applicants to the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics holding foreign law degrees must take the LSAT and must satisfy J.D. program requirements during their course of study at Vanderbilt, receiving Ph.D. and J.D. degrees upon completion of the program. In some cases, applicants admitted to the Ph.D. program with foreign law degrees may qualify for up to one year advanced standing in J.D. program requirements. Decisions on advanced standing are made after admission to the Ph.D. program, and these applicants are not exempt from the LSAT application requirement.

Applicants whose native language is not English must present the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with the application unless they have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree at an English-speaking institution.

Yes. Transcripts must be submitted with each application to the Law School (directly) and to the Graduate School (via the Center for Data Management). See the Law and Economics Admissions page for details.

Yes. Students who have completed graduate work in economics at other schools may request transfer credit for certain graduate courses completed elsewhere. In order for a course to qualify for transfer credit, it must meet certain conditions: (1) the course was taken at an accredited graduate school for graduate credit; (2) the student received at least a B in the course; and (3) the DGS must be satisfied that the course is of sufficient intellectual quality to count towards program requirements. Transfer hours do not count towards the student’s GPA unless they are to be considered as transferred didactic hours. Few courses are transferred as didactic hours. Credits earned for internships or research cannot be transferred. Pass/Fail courses may not be considered for transfer credit unless there is some basis for the grade, e.g., Pass represents a B grade or better.

Transfer credit will not be considered for the following courses: Law and Economics Theory I and II, Behavioral Law and Economics I and II, Econometrics for Legal Research.

Students transferring into the program from another law school are generally treated as though they had started law school at Vanderbilt. Credits for equivalent courses from another law school accredited by the American Bar Association may be considered towards upper-level electives, as applicable, though not in place of core courses.

Yes. However, the same recommenders may write for each program. It is helpful if your recommenders highlight your law and economics interests and research potential. The Graduate School requires three letters of recommendation to complete your application, but up to five will be accepted. The Law School requires two letters of recommendation, but up to three will be accepted.

The Graduate School application fee is $95.00. After you submit your application online, you will see instructions to pay the fee with a credit or debit card via a secure payment portal.  If you submit applications to more than one program (maximum of two per year), only a single fee will be charged. In addition to fee waivers being granted based on the criteria here, a small number of additional waivers will be granted at the discretion of the program and school based on recruitment priorities.  If you are not covered by any of the categories listed under Eligibility but feel your circumstances may warrant a fee waiver, please contact us at  We will be happy to discuss your situation and direct you to the appropriate person. 

There is a $50 non-refundable Law School application fee when you apply online through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). See the Law School Admissions page for details.

Yes. Students who have already been accepted to Vanderbilt Law School are welcome to apply to the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics.

Thank you for your interest in Vanderbilt. We look forward to working with you in the application process.