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1.3 Degree Requirements

J.D. Program Degree Requirements

Students in the first year take a prescribed program covering five principal branches of the law—contracts, torts, property, criminal law, and civil procedure. In addition to providing a general foundation of legal knowledge, the program is intended to cultivate legal reasoning skills and to foster an understanding of the development of the law through judicial decisions and statutory interpretation. Instruction in the first year primarily centers on class discussion of judicial decisions (known as the “case method”). In addition to the traditional first-year offerings, all first year students take a course unique to the Law School called Elements of the Law. Elements considers legal issues and their relationships to other fields of thought such as philosophy, economics, and political theory. A Dean’s Award is awarded to the best exam in each required first-year class. Each spring, all first-year students must enroll in an elective course selected from one of the designated first year offerings listed at my.uchicago.edu. These elective courses also are open to other students.

All students complete the first year legal research and writing and experiential learning program under the supervision of one of the six Bigelow Teaching Fellows (see Section 1.5). The Joseph Henry Beale Prize is awarded to a student in each section of the first year legal research and writing and experiential learning program whose work is judged to be most worthy of special recognition.  Another prize (its name changes to reflect the name of the law firm sponsoring the award) is awarded to a student in each section whose spring quarter brief is judged to be most outstanding and deserving of recognition.

Classes after the first year are all elective.  Prior to graduation, however, all J.D. students must complete classes that satisfy requirements set by the Law School and the American Bar Association (“ABA”).

The Law School requires all J.D. students to be in residence, full-time, for nine quarters of no fewer than nine credit hours per quarter. Each of those credit hours must be successfully completed (i.e., students must pass and receive credit toward their J.D. degree).[1]  J.D. students must complete and pass a minimum of 105 credit hours, including a professional responsibility class, and also must complete two substantial pieces of writing.  Additionally, the Class of 2018 must complete a professional skills course. Beginning with the Class of 2019, the ABA has replaced the professional skills requirement with an experiential learning requirement that students must meet by taking eight credits of designated experiential classes.

In addition, after completing the first year, all J.D. students also must complete 40 credits in non-clinical Law classes or “core” classes.[2]  Core classes are designated each quarter in the online course schedule at http://registrar.uchicago.edu/classes.[3]   Credits earned through participation in journals and the Hinton Moot Court Competition count towards the 40 core credit requirement.  Please note, however, that first year elective courses taken during the first year do not count towards the 40 core credit requirement; courses designated as first year electives taken after the first year, however, count towards the 40 core credit requirement.

Students who have passed a state bar exam in the United States prior to matriculating in the J.D. program at the Law School may be exempt from certain required classes. Such decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis by the Dean of Students and Deputy Dean depending upon legal coursework completed at other institutions.

Summary of J.D. Program Degree Requirements:

  • A minimum of 105 total credit hours completed and passed
  • 40 hours of required first year coursework, including one spring elective class
  • 40 core credit hours in the second and third years
  • Students must be in residence, full-time, for nine quarters of no fewer than nine credit hours per quarter
  • Two upper level writing projects (WP and SRP)
  • Successful completion of a class designated as meeting the professional responsibility requirement
  • Successful completion of a class designated as meeting the professional skills requirement (Class of 2018 only)
  • Successful completion of eight credit hours of coursework designated as meeting the experiential learning requirement pursuant to ABA Standard 303.* (Classes of 2019 and 2020)

*Students will receive two experiential learning credits in the spring of their first year as part of their Lawyering course. Heading into their second year, students are strongly encouraged to choose a pathway of courses that will allow them to complete at least four experiential learning credits by the end of their second year.    

LL.M. Program Degree Requirements

To graduate, the Law School requires all LL.M. students to be in full-time residence (nine credit hours per quarter) for three quarters, with no fewer than six Law School credit hours per quarter. Each of those credit hours must be successfully completed (i.e., students must pass and receive credit toward their LL.M. degree).   LL.M. students must complete and pass 27 credit hours of coursework.  Non-law coursework will not be counted toward this 27 credit hour requirement. Please note, however, that LL.M. students applying to the New York bar must complete 30 credits.  In addition to the 27 credit hours LL.M. students must earn at the Law School, three additional credits may be taken in “other courses related to legal training” in another school at the University of Chicago for purposes of applying to the New York bar.  For further information regarding New York bar requirements for LL.M. students, please consult with the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs. 

Dual Degree Program Requirements

Students pursuing dual degree programs should review Section 1.19 of the Student Handbook and confer with the Dean of Students.  Students pursuing a dual Ph.D. should consult with the Deputy Dean and the Dean of Students to verify their degree requirements.

Master of Legal Studies Program Degree Requirements

To earn a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree, candidates must successfully complete and pass 27 credit hours of coursework. The Law School requires all MLS students to be in full-time residence for three quarters of no fewer than nine credit hours per quarter. Each of those credit hours must be successfully completed (i.e., students must pass and receive credit toward their MLS degree).

The J.S.D. and D.Comp.L. Program

In order to earn the J.S.D. degree, a candidate must produce a dissertation that makes a creditable contribution to legal scholarship. The dissertation must be supervised by at least two members of the faculty and must be completed within five years of the candidate's first registration in the J.S.D. Program.

A J.S.D. candidate must spend at least two years (six academic quarters) in residence at the Law School while working on the dissertation. Residence requires living in Chicago.

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[1] Furthermore, failure to complete nine credits during a quarter may trigger an obligation to return student loans, if the loans require a student to maintain full-time status.

[2] Students who transfer into the J.D. degree program from the Law School’s LL.M. program must complete 20 core credits.  Students who earn simultaneous J.D./Ph.D. degrees from the Law School must complete 30 core credits.

[3] Faculty members defined as core for purposes of this requirement are permanent faculty at the University of Chicago Law School, Visiting Faculty, Emeriti, members of the Clinical faculty, Professors from Practice, Senior Lecturers at the Law School, tenured University of Chicago professors with permanent offices in the Law School, and Booth faculty teaching in the Doctoroff program. Bigelow and other Fellows, as well as Lecturers in Law, are excluded.