Cornell University’s dual PhD/JD program in Developmental Psychology and Law prepares the next generation of scholars who work on the interface between the law, psychology, and human development. Education at the Law School combines inspired teaching with cutting-edge scholarship in a close-knit and collegial intellectual community. Located in the College of Human Ecology, the Department of Human Development provides graduate students with world-class training in the general discipline of psychology, as well as focused training in one or more of its sub-areas of research: cognitive, social-personality, biological, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The dual degree provides PhD students with the legal education that is necessary to conduct research and teach in this field at the highest level, and provides JD students with the research training that is necessary to practice and teach scientifically-based law. 

The Value of Cornell's Dual PhD/JD

  • Experimental focus: The rare dual PhD/JD program with a strong focus on empirical research.
  • Academic excellence: The intellectual rigor of a top-tier law school and ground-breaking research with leading scholars in the field of psychology and law exemplify the strength of Cornell's collaborative culture. 
  • Favorable timeline: A fully-blended PhD/JD allows students to complete both degrees in six years, a more efficient pace than pursuing both degrees consecutively. 
  • Intellectual support:  Students benefit from a three-member supervisory committee composed of Human Development and Law faculty from the start of their studies, a tight-knit community, and a legal education that boasts small class sizes and low student-to-faculty ratios.
  • Financial and professional resources: Full funding for PhD graduate studies in Human Development, a history of high bar-passage and employment rates, and nationally recognized scholars and faculty to help students prepare for success in the legal and academic job markets. 

Leading the Way

Cornell’s Law, Psychology and Human Development program, established in 2007, is unique among Ivy League institutions.  It boasts a significant percentage of the interdisciplinary field’s leading scholars, and has quickly become widely considered the best and most influential program of its kind in the United States. The dual PhD/JD is an advanced collaboration between the College of Human Ecology and the Law School.    Although the dual PhD/JD degree was recently approved in 2011, it builds on over 220 years of academic excellence in Human Ecology and the Law School.  Highly motivated students who enter the program emerge as lawyers with extensive, doctoral-level training in experimental psychology, and psychologists with a complete legal education.  It is anticipated that this program and the scholarship produced by its faculty, students, and graduates will influence the course of legal reform and legal education for generations to come.  

Program Details

The Cornell dual PhD/JD in Developmental Psychology and Law is a 6-year (12-semester) program, for a total of approximately 167 credits. The program is divided into three years of full-time PhD study, two years of full-time JD study, and a blended year of PhD/JD study. Up to 12 HD semester credits may be counted as electives towards the 84 credits that are required for the JD.

Students must spend their first, second, and fifth summers conducting master’s and doctoral thesis research. All PhD required core courses must be completed, and a research-based master’s thesis must be completed and defended in Human Development, by the end of the second year. Upon completion of the fourth year, all JD core courses must be completed, and the “A” exam for the Graduate Field of Human Development must be taken. During the sixth year, students complete and defend a research-based dissertation, and complete their remaining requirements for the JD.

The following is a sample only; students work with their supervisory committee to formulate a plan. Please note that HD courses' availability varies from year to year.  

Fall Spring Summer/Notes
Year 1    
BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods II
HD 6190 Memory & the Law
HD 6200 Pro-seminar
HD 7010 Empirical Research
BTRY 6020 Statistical Methods II
HD 6140  Social & Psychological Aspects of the Death Penalty
HD 6200 Pro-seminar
HD 7010 Empirical Research
Research for master's
Year 2    
HD 6210 Seminar on Autobiographical Memory
HD 7010 Empirical Research
HD 8990 Master’s Thesis & Research
HD 6340 Judgment, Decision Making, & Scientific Reasoning
HD 8990 Master’s Thesis & Research
PSYCH 709 Developmental Psychology
Research for master's
Complete master's thesis by end of Year 2
Year 3    
LAW 5001 Civil Procedure
LAW 5021 Constitutional Law
LAW 5041 Contracts
LAW 5081 Lawyering
LAW 5151 Torts
LAW 5001 Civil Procedure
LAW 5041 Contracts
LAW 5061 Criminal Law
LAW 5081 Lawyering
LAW 5121 Property
Year 4    
LAW 6011 Administrative Law
LAW 6131 Business Organizations
LAW 6191 Conflicts of Law
LAW 6263 Criminal Procedure I
LAW 6401 Evidence
LAW 6311 Professional Responsibility
LAW 6421 Family Law
LAW 6441 Federal Courts
LAW 6621 Law and Society
LAW 6921 Trial Advocacy
All core JD courses completed
Take A Exams
Year 5    
LAW 7016 Contemporary American Jury
HD 6870 Issues in Professional Development
HD 7040 Research Assistantship
HD 7040 Research Assistantship
HD 9990 Doctoral Thesis and Research
Doctoral research
Year 6    
HD 6920 Seminar in Translational Developmental Science
HD 7040 Research Assistantship
HD 9990 Doctoral Thesis & Research
LAW 6241 Corporate and White Collar Crime
LAW 6471 Health Law
LAW 6762 Principles of American Legal Writing
LAW 6822 Social Science & the Law
Complete and defend dissertation

For the 3½ years of the program spent in Human Ecology, full support will be provided.   Students are expected to pay Law School tuition in years 3 and 4, and the Spring semester of year 6.  During the 2½ years the student is in the law school, it is possible, but not guaranteed, that they will have some grant funding. 

Please note that students interested in receiving possible funding for the time in the law school must apply directly to the law school for financial aid.  

Year 1: Fall CHE Full Support Spring CHE Full Support
Year 2: Fall CHE Full Support Spring CHE Full Support
Year 3: Fall Law Tuition Spring Law Tuition
Year 4: Fall Law Tuition Spring Law Tuition
Year 5: Fall CHE Full Support Spring CHE Full Support
Year 6: Fall CHE Full Support Spring Law Tuition

Please read more about funding in Human Development and Law School Tuition and Expenses

To participate in the dual degree program, students must initially apply to and be accepted by both the Graduate Field of Human Development and the Law School.  Admission to one program does not guarantee admission to the other.  Note that applications to the PhD/JD program in Developmental Psychology/ Law will be reviewed continuously. However, it is strongly recommended that prospective students apply as early as possible to both schools.

Questions regarding applications, program information and other queries should be directed to Tom Craig, Assistant to the Law, Psychology and Human Development program. 

After submitting their applications, students should contact the Director of the Law, Psychology and Human Development Program, Professor Charles Brainerd (, in order to facilitate review.

Application information

The Graduate School and the Law School each have comprehensive checklists for all the documents and materials that prospective students should prepare for their applications. 

Cornell Graduate School
Apply to Human Development
Final Application Deadline: December 1st
More information about admissions to Human Development 

Cornell Law School
Apply to the Law School
Final Application Deadline: February 1st

Students who are interested in applying for Dual Degree studies should contact the Law, Psychology and Human Development Assistant, Tom Craig:

Tom Craig
Law, Psychology and Human Development
MVR Hall
Cornell University
 Ithaca, NY 14853
 phone: (607) 254-1163

Human Development Support Staff
Marianne Arcangeli
HD Graduate Field Office
G421 MVR Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853
phone: 607-255-4661

Questions regarding admissions to the Law School may be directed to

Cornell University’s LPHD faculty spans three colleges—Human Ecology, the Law School, and Arts and Sciences —and includes some of the leading scholars in topics ranging from memory and eye-witness testimony to decision-making, jury psychology, and cognition in children and adults. Their work aims to shed light on topics intrinsic to the law and justice, with the hope that advancements in our knowledge of people, crime, memory and testimony, motivation and culpability can lead, ultimately, to a more just legal system.

Charles Brainerd
PhD, Developmental and Experimental Psychology
Department of Human Development
Director of Law, Psychology and Human Development Program
Memory and Neuroscience Laboratory

Valerie P. Hans
PhD, Social Psychology
Professor of Law

Stephen J. Ceci 
PhD, Developmental Psychology
Helen L. Carr Chaired Professor of Psychology
SUNY Distinguished Professor

Valerie F. Reyna
PhD, Developmental and Experimental Psychology
Department of Human Development
Laboratory for Rational Decision Making

Jeffrey J. Rachlinski
JD, PhD, Psychology
Professor of Law

John Blume
JD, Professor of Law
Director of Cornell Death Penalty Project

Kevin M. Clermont
Ziff Professor of Law

Zachary D. Clopton
Assistant Professor of Law

Sheri L. Johnson
JD, Professor of Law
Assistant Director of Cornell Death Penalty Project

John Eckenrode
PhD, Psychology
Department of Human Development

Wendy M. Williams
PhD, Experimental Psychology
Department of Human Development