This paper is both a reflexive report on an attempt to operationalise ‘doctorateness’ in a specific case context and a synthesis of theory from the philosophy of education and curriculum design. Using the context of a new Professional Doctorate programme in Law (the DLaw) at a University in the North-East of England, it is an exploration of the conceptual framework of the students and the curriculum designer. All participants have consented to the use of their reflections and contribution to discussions, recognising the potential for them to be identified through publically available data about the programme and cohort members. This was the focus of discussion in the group and the decision –that whilst individuals are not directly identified, there has been no attempt to conceal the identity of the institution or programme–was made collaboratively. The paper articulates the particularity of the ‘Category 3’ doctorate and its position as a pathway for staff development and recognition (within post-1992 institutions in particular) as a way of setting the boundaries and context of what follows. Experiential data in this paper describes both my aspirations for the DLaw and how that initial model has been developed through dialogue with the first cohort of students as a vehicle for illuminating the theoretical discussions.