JD Requirements to Graduate
Believe it or not, your three years at the Law School will pass quickly! So it makes sense to be aware of what you need to do in order to graduate. What follows is a summary of graduation requirements. For a complete and detailed description of graduation requirements, please review the J.D. Rules page.
You will need 83 points of academic credit to graduate. Given that you will earn 31 or 32 points during your 1L year (depending on your 1L elective), you will need to earn 51 or 52 points over the course of your 2L and 3L years. This comes to an average of roughly 13 points per semester.
A typical semester is between 12 and 15 points. You may take one 11-point semester, and may petition for permission to take 16 or 17 points in a single term. However, a 16 or 17 point semester is A LOT OF WORK, so it’s probably best to plan on taking 12-14 points. If you are considering taking a particularly light or particularly heavy load, it makes sense to meet with one of the academic counselors at Student Services.
In our experience, students work hard to earn the 83 credits needed to graduate. Still, we offer this gentle reminder that you may graduate with more than 83 credits. Students who do so are actually getting free credits, not to mention knowledge! Consider it!
J.D.s have two writing requirements: Major and Minor. Students do not automatically receive any credits for completing these requirements, but some students register for Supervised Research credit in connection with the papers they are writing for the Writing Requirements and receive credit that way.
- To fulfill the Major Writing Requirement, you will first need to find a faculty member to supervise your work. It’s best if you have some idea of what you’d like to write about before you approach a faculty member, as the faculty member will need to approve a specific topic, but you need not have a fully-formed topic for your first meeting. We’re happy to help you brainstorm if you need some ideas -- both about topics and possible supervisors. You will then write a draft, submit it, get comments, and revise it. As a rule of thumb, the paper should be between 6,500 and 8,000 words. Some students use an earlier seminar paper as the basis for expanding that idea into a major writing project. Other students use the Note they are writing for their journal as the basis of a project. Yet others just pursue independent research to complete this Requirement.
- For minor writing, often a paper submitted for a seminar, clinic or externship, or another piece of writing you have done, such as an upper year moot court brief, may satisfy this requirement. A faculty person will have to sign off on this as well. Many seminars, clinics and externships will offer the opportunity to “automatically” complete your Minor Writing Requirement. (Please note that even for automatic Minor Writing courses, you will still need to complete the Minor Writing registration form, available from the Registrar’s office, but you will not need to obtain a faculty signature on it.) To see whether a course in which you might be interested offers this automatic option, look up the course in the Online Curriculum Guide. Students also satisfy the Minor Writing Requirement by doing independent research with a faculty member.
Professional Responsibility Requirement
We all take very seriously the self-governing nature of the profession, and the unique ethical requirements of being an attorney. As such, each J.D. student is required to take one professional responsibility course in their second or third year. The Online Curriculum Guide will indicate whether a given professional responsibility course satisfies this Requirement. We also cannot overemphasize how important a good working knowledge of legal ethics is in the day-to-day practice of law.
Limits/Restrictions on Non-Classroom Credits
There are certain limits on the number of what are considered non-classroom credits you can take during law school that may count towards your required 83 credits for graduation. These include credits for, among other things, clinics, externships, supervised research, research as an unpaid faculty assistant, classes outside of the law school, journal and moot court work, and serving as a teaching fellow. The limits are fairly generous, and you may be able to take as many as 23 total credits in these categories. Moreover, additional limits define how many credits may count towards graduation within each sub-category. Of course, you are free to take additional credits in these categories; just be aware that they will not count towards your required graduation credits.
Understanding the various limits and restrictions on non-classroom credits can be confusing, so we encourage you to meet with an academic counselor if you have any questions or if you’d like a counselor to conduct a graduation audit for you. If you’d like to calculate unofficially where you stand on credits, you can use this worksheet:
Graduation Requirements Worksheet
Mandatory Pro Bono
This occurs outside of the classroom, but while we are discussing requirements, we wanted to remind you that you are required to complete 40 hours of mandatory approved pro bono service after your 1L year in order to graduate. Feel free to talk to Laren Spirer or Lisa Kim at Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) about this if you have any questions.