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Prospective Students

The Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics is unique. It combines analytical training in economic theory and methodology with the study of law. While one can separately earn a J.D. and a Ph.D. in economics at many other universities, our program is distinctive in that training in economics is fully integrated with training in law. Upon completion of the program, you will receive a Ph.D. in Law and Economics and a J.D.

Preparing for the program requires thought and planning. First, the study of economics at the Ph.D. level requires a high level of competence in mathematics. Admitted students usually major in economics or mathematics. In addition to completing one year of undergraduate level calculus, students should pursue additional coursework in mathematics and economics.

Because an in-depth understanding of law is required, students in the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics must either hold a Juris Doctor (J.D.) at the time of matriculation or complete the requirements for a J.D. at Vanderbilt Law School. In the former case, students should be able to satisfy all requirements for the Ph.D. in Law and Economics within 4 years. In the latter case, students must complete a concurrent degree program, usually finishing requirements for both the J.D. and the Ph.D. within 6 years.


Applications for Fall 2019 are now closed. The Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics will begin accepting applications for Fall 2020 on August 1.

Applications received by January 15, 2020 will receive priority consideration for review and funding.

Applicants to the J.D./Ph.D. in Law and Economics Dual Degree Program

Dual degree applicants require admission to both the Vanderbilt Graduate School and the Vanderbilt Law School. 

Vanderbilt Graduate School Admission Requirements

  1. Initiate the Law and Economics application with the Vanderbilt University Graduate Program Online Application. Under "Program/Area of Study," choose "Social Science." Then choose "Law and Economics.”
  2. Statement of Purpose.  In the “Statement of Purpose” section of the Graduate School Online Application, write a statement of purpose of no more than 600 words, including: (a) your reasons for wishing to pursue a Ph.D. in Law and Economics, (b) your specific research interests, and (c) how this program relates to your previous educational and work experience and your future career plans. Please note that the statement of purpose is meant to show how your research interests relate to the aims and scope of the Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics. The statement of purpose is not meant to be a personal statement.
  3. Letters of Recommendation.  Three Letters of Recommendation are to be submitted electronically by your recommenders as part of your Graduate School application.
  4. Transcripts.  Send your transcripts to the address below directly from your institution. Official transcripts are required; however, unofficial copies are sufficient until the official transcripts arrive. International applicants should note that they will not be eligible for admission without official transcripts on file. All are encouraged to provide official transcripts as soon as possible. 

       Center for Data Management,
       Vanderbilt University, PMB 407833,
       2301 Vanderbilt Place,
       Nashville, TN 37240-7833

  5. Submit a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score. 

If you have any questions about completing your application to the Vanderbilt Graduate School, please email

For technical questions regarding the Graduate School electronic application process, please call 615-343-2727 or write to

Vanderbilt Law School Application Requirements

If you are applying to the Ph.D. Program in Law & Economics, there are two pathways (A. Standard J.D. Application Pathway or B. GRE-Only Application Pathway) to admission to Vanderbilt Law School:

A.  Standard J.D. Application Pathway:  Individuals who have taken the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in the last five years or will take the LSAT in the current admission cycle may apply through the Standard J.D. Application Pathway. You must complete the Vanderbilt J.D. application, which requires submission of your LSAT score(s).  Please visit the Law School Admissions website for complete instructions on the application process.  Your Law School and Graduate School applications will be considered as one in a unified Ph.D. Program in Law and Economics selection process.

B.  GRE-Only Application Pathway

  1. Standardized Testing:  Individuals who have not taken the LSAT in the last five years and will not take the LSAT in the current admission cycle may apply through the GRE-only Pathway and  need not take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).  However,  American Bar Association accreditation standards require that you (a) must have scored at or above the 85th percentile on the GRE, and (b) must have ranked in the top 10% of their undergraduate class through six semesters of academic work, or achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above through six semesters of academic work. 
  2. Create a J.D. Student Account with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) 
  3. Register and pay for the LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS)
  4. Submit official transcripts to CAS, you need not submit letters of recommendation
  5. Contact the Law School Admissions Office for an application fee waiver - you will need to provide your LSAC registration number ('L" number) 
  6. Complete the Law School application for admission - you may use your Law and Economics Statement of Purpose as a Personal Statement  

If you have questions about applying to Vanderbilt Law School as a Law and Economics applicant, please contact Sandra Weinstein at

Single Degree Ph.D. in Law & Economics Applicants

If you already have a J.D., you may apply for admission to the Ph.D. Program in Law & Economics by completing the application to the Vanderbilt Graduate School.  You do not need to apply to the Vanderbilt Law School.

International Applicants

Applicants whose first language or language of instruction is not English are required to submit the results of either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test with the application, unless they have earned a degree from an American or English-speaking institution.

Students admitted to the program usually score above the 90th percentile on the GRE. The average undergraduate grade point average for law and economics students is 3.86.  Successful applicants also have strong undergraduate coursework in math or courses using math.  Highly recommended undergraduate courses are: (1) calculus, (2) linear algebra, (3) real analysis, (4) statistics, and (5) intermediate microeconomic theory. Successful applicants also have clear interest and potential for conducting social science research.