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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Juris Doctor / Master of Divinity (JD/MDiv)

Pepperdine's stated mission is to strengthen lives for purpose, service, and leadership. In furtherance of that end, the Caruso School of Law and Seaver College Religion and Philosophy Division have collaborated to provide students with both legal and theological training in an interdisciplinary framework. The joint degree program in law and religion utilizes the resources of two segments of the University to provide students with top-caliber professional training in both fields of study. Drawing upon the host of natural convergences, methodologies, and themes linking law and religion, the joint degree program provides students the opportunity to allow the two disciplines to complement, cross-fertilize, and enrich each other.


A key feature of the program is that students may complete the requirements for a Juris Doctor (JD) and a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in five years rather than the six years it would normally take for completion of the two degrees. This joint program is one of only a handful of such programs in the country, and enables students to probe the depths of theology and simultaneously develop more fulsome understandings of the law, its effects, and its limitations.

Admitted students may register at either the Caruso School of Law or the Religion and Philosophy Division for the first year and complete the normal first year course of study for the relevant degree. Students will then spend the second year in the other school. During the remaining three years, the student is required to register for three semesters in each school, although no particular sequence is required. Upon completion of the requirements for both degrees, each school will confer a degree to students.

Requirements and Curriculum

While in school, joint degree students may be particularly interested and involved in the conferences, colloquia, and research projects of Pepperdine's Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics. Students seeking joint degrees will develop competencies in the many areas of interdisciplinary overlap between law and religion, uniquely preparing those students to serve their communities upon graduation. Graduates might seek employment in one of a variety of settings, including traditional law practice, congregational ministry, human rights or other non-profit organizational work, public policy development, or legal advocacy on behalf of the underserved of society.

 Degree Requirements


When undertaken as part of the joint JD/MDiv program, the JD degree requires successful completion of 79 units and satisfaction of the other requirements imposed by the law school for graduation. Students must complete all of the law school's required courses.

First Year

First-year law students follow a rigorous course of study that covers the following subjects: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Introduction to Ethical Lawyering, Legal Research and Writing, Property, and Torts.

Upper Division Required

After the first year, students are required to complete 18-21 units of additional required courses (depending on the units offered for certain courses), including: Corporations, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Federal Income Taxation, Remedies, and Wills and Trusts.

Master of Divinity Degree

When undertaken as part of the joint JD/MDiv program, the MDiv degree requires the successful completion of 74 units and satisfaction of any requirements imposed by Seaver College or the Religion and Philosophy Division for graduation. The general MDiv language requirements (twelve units of Greek and twelve units of Hebrew) are waived for students in the joint program. Students must complete all other required and elective courses. However, the six unit field work requirement can be satisfied by completion of a law school externship approved by the chair of the Religion and Philosophy Division. The externship would count toward the 79 units required for the JD degree and would reduce the number of units required for the MDiv to 68. The coursework in the religion division includes the following areas of study:

Old Testament 8 units

The Old Testament Prophets

Old Testament course



New Testament 8 units

Choose two of the following:

New Testament Theology

Synoptic Gospels

Pauline Writings I





Ministry / Missions / Counseling

12 units

Theology of Ministry

Urban Ministry and  Missions

Four additional units in Ministry / Missions / Counseling




History of Christianity

Christian Thought and Ethics

12 units

16 units

Christian Faith

Twelve units in Christian Thought and Ethics






12 units

6 units

74 units

* With the approval of the Religion and Philosophy Division Chairperson, up to eight of these units may be taken within Seaver College outside the Religion and Philosophy Division.

** With the approval of the Religion and Philosophy Division Chairperson, the required six units of Field Work can be satisfied by an externship at the Caruso School of Law. In this case the externship counts as elective units toward the 79 units required for the JD degree, and the MDiv requirements are reduced from 74 to 68 units.


Several faculty members at both the Caruso School of Law and Religion and Philosophy Division offer courses and seminars that may be of particular interest to students in the joint degree program. Some representative courses are listed below. (Full courses and course descriptions are available from the respective schools.) Students are also encouraged to pursue independent research topics on law and religion under the direction of faculty.

  • Christian Perspectives on Law
  • Dispute Resolution and Religion
  • Faith, Morality, and the Practice of Law
  • Human Rights
  • Islamic Law
  • Jewish Law
  • Jurisprudence
  • Law and Morality
  • Law and Religion
  • Legal History
  • Religion and the Constitution
  • Restorative Justice
  • Union Rescue Mission Legal Aid Clinic

The Chapel at Pepperdine University seen from the outside

Seaver College Religion and Philosophy Division

The Seaver College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at Pepperdine University houses the Religion and Philosophy Division with which the Caruso School of Law offers a joint JD/MDiv degree. Programs through this division lead students to a deeper understanding of religion with a spirit of genuine inquiry. Courses are structured around principles of non-denominational Christian traditions.

Professor Michael Helfand speaking at a podium in front of a blue School of Law Sign at a Nootbaar event

Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics

The Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics was created to explore the nexus between these three disciplines, with particular emphasis on the intersection of faith and law.