The Nitty Gritty
Some technical pieces that will influence your course selection
Requirements to Graduate
Please note that the below 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, so you will need to average about 13 points per semester. You get 31 points from your first year, so you have four semesters in which to complete the remaining 52. You may typically take between 12 and 15 credits per semester, although you can receive permission to take one 11-credit semester or up to 16 credits per semester. We often see that students work hard to make sure they meet just the 83 credits; we offer a gentle reminder that you can graduate with more than 83 credits, and that students who do so are actually getting free credits, not to mention knowledge! A fulsome transcript is impressive to employers. Consider it!
J.D.s have two writing requirements: major and minor.
- To fulfill the major writing requirement, you will need to find a faculty member to supervise the writing project. 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. We’re happy to help you brainstorm if you need some ideas. 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.
- For minor writing, often a paper submitted for a seminar, 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.
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. 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 will count towards your required 83 credits for graduation. These include credits for 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 allow you to take 23 total credits in these categories, provided that if you exclude clinics and the classroom portion of externships, the limit goes down to 18 total credits. Additional limits define how many credits can count towards graduation within each of these sub-categories. Of course, you are free to take additional credits in these categories; just be aware that they will not count towards your 83 credits.
Stop by Student Services for a graduation audit to ask any questions about this, and calculate unofficially where you stand on credits yourself using 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 Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) about this if you have any questions.
The Lottery System in (More or Less) Plain English
The lottery system was determined by a faculty resolution called “Faculty Resolution on the Allocation of Scarce Instructional Resources.” Here’s an attempt to distill that information in very broad strokes.
- All students are divided into one of three categories (2Ls , 3Ls, and LL.M.s) and within each category are randomly assigned a lottery number. These numbers reverse in the Spring semester, so that if you got a high number in the Fall semester, you’ll get a lower number in the Spring semester, and vice-versa.
- Students fill out a primary choice and an alternate choice for each numbered slot in their registration forms.
- The lottery system runs through the registration forms, based on lottery number. For each choice, the lottery system attempts to assign the student to their primary choice. If that is not available, then the system waitlists the student for the primary choice and attempts to assign the student to their alternate choice. You will not be scheduled into two classes that have a time conflict – once you’re scheduled into one, you won’t be scheduled into a second class if it conflicts with the first one.
- The system first gives each LL.M. student two choices (numbers one and two on their registration form). However (unless the instructor has designated otherwise) not more than one-third of seats in a class may be LL.M.s.
- Then each 3L gets two choices, followed by 2Ls getting one choice.
- Next, in order, LL.M.s get a third choice, 3Ls get a third choice, LL.M.s get a fourth choice, 3Ls get a fourth choice, and 2Ls get a second, third and fourth choice.
We are here to assist in helping you select classes and register. Careful planning is recommended in the course selection, as the lottery system does not guarantee that students will be placed in courses.
Whew! Come by or call and we’ll attempt to explain it in more detail, in real English, and help you fill out your registration forms.