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JD Degree Requirements

Credit Requirements

A Silverman Hall ClassroomA Silverman Hall Classroom Students are required to have completed 86 credits at graduation during 6 semesters in law school residence.

Faculty recently voted to amend the credit requirements for the JD program. These changes have impact on the total credits required for graduation, the credit structure for journal members, and on the ways the senior writing requirement may be satisfied. 

Full-time attendance: At least 12 credits are required each semester. Students may enroll in no more than 17 credits per term toward the JD degree.  

Students may receive up to 12 credits toward their JD graduation requirements for graduate-level courses taken in other departments upon establishing that these courses will contribute to their legal educations. This allows Penn Law students to enrich their legal studies by engaging in cross-disciplinary study through courses or certificate programs while pursuing their JD degrees. Students may also choose to pursue joint degrees or to create their own dual degree programs.

Co-Curricular Credit Restrictions:

No more than 23 CREDITS (of the 86 credits required for graduation) may be earned in co-curricular activities. No more than 6 of the 23 can be earned in credits listed in the column on the right, below.

 Max 23 credits:       Max 6 (of the 23) credits:     
Clinics  Journals & Law Review 
Externships/Ad Hoc Externships       Keedy Prelims & Keedy Final Round
Independent Study  Moot Court & Mock Trial Competitions
Legal Writing Instructor Moot Court Board

Public Service Requirement

Penn Law aims to promote an ethic of service in all students while encouraging them to develop professional skills and enhance their legal education. The centerpiece of Penn Law’s pledge to service is a graduation obligation of 70 hours of pro bono legal work. As the hub of public interest activities at Penn Law, the Toll Public Interest Center coordinates a wide range of pro bono initiatives, including internal pro bono projects and the many external opportunities that students pursue.

Penn Law students perform pro bono services for hundreds of nonprofits, government and legal services agencies, and law firms locally, nationally, and globally. Penn Law’s 26 student-run pro bono groups enable students to satisfy their pro bono requirement while engaging in acts of leadership, working with their peers, and serving causes about which students are most passionate. Our self-initiated pro bono option enables Penn Law students to mold a pro bono experience as unique as their own interests.

Overview of requirement:

  • Students who may have received 35 hours of public service credit by working in a Penn Law-sponsored project in their first year of law school must perform an additional 35 hours in either their second or third year.
  • Students can sign up for placements identified by the Toll Public Interest Center or design their own placement and seek approval from the Assistant Dean.
  • Students who fail to perform 35 hours in their second year of attendance must perform the outstanding hours plus a 20-hour penalty that does not count toward the graduation requirement or they will face a registration hold for the fall semester.

For more information and placement opportunities, please visit the Toll Public Interest Center.

Senior Research and Writing

Requirement and Goals: Each JD student is required to participate in a scholarly research and writing project in either the second or third year. The requirement is intended to assure that every student demonstrates proficiency in scholarly research and writing under close faculty supervision. A senior writing project should provide faculty-student intellectual interchange and an opportunity for constructive faculty criticism regarding avenues of research, analysis, organization, and style. The writing may take the form of a single long paper or several shorter papers, as the supervising faculty member shall determine. The criterion that the project be “scholarly” is intended to exclude routine advocacy but not necessarily (in the discretion of the supervising faculty member) advocacy that results from a thorough and objective investigation of governing authority.

Faculty Input: It is expected that the faculty member, whether full-time or adjunct, will provide close personal supervision and comment, and that the student will undertake revision and further writing in light of the critiques. The senior research and writing experience will involve the following steps, each with faculty consultation:

a) Selection of the topic,

b) Submission of a first draft, and

c) Submission of a final draft that meets, to the faculty member’s satisfaction, the standard of proficiency in scholarly research and writing (after revisions in light of faculty critique of the first and any subsequent drafts that the faculty member requires).

Deadlines: It is expected that the student’s research and writing will be sustained over one or more semesters. Early and realistic deadlines should be set for initial drafts, so as to permit adequate time for faculty comment and for student preparation of a final draft.

Ways to Satisfy the Requirement: Provided that the rules and standards set forth above are met, the senior writing requirement may be satisfied in a number of ways, including (without limitation):

a) Seminars;

b) Work in independent studies;

c) Papers in lieu of examinations in regular law school courses (Students should always confirm such an arrangement with the faculty member at the start of a given semester);

d) Notes or Comments written for student journals;

e) Work as a faculty research assistant, provided, however, that such work may not also be compensated.

A research and writing project need not be graded or receive academic credit in order to satisfy the senior writing requirement.

Documentation: Each student is responsible for identifying a faculty member to supervise that student’s senior writing project and for securing the faculty member’s agreement to do so. Once the student has secured a faculty member’s agreement to supervise the project, the student must submit a Faculty Agreement to Supervise Senior Writing form to the Registrar’s Office.

Professional Responsibility Requirement

All students are required to take a course in legal ethics. The requirement may be satisfied by completing any one of the professional responsibility courses.

Requirements for Transfer Students

New students entering on advanced standing are required to complete the Senior Writing Requirement, the Public Service Requirement, and to satisfy the Professional Responsibility Requirement in either the second or third year. Students may also be required to complete first-year courses offered by this Law School, which they have not already completed in their first year. The credits for these courses, however, may be counted toward the credits required for graduation. Transfer students should make an appointment to see the Dean of Students shortly after their arrival at the Law School to determine what courses, if any, will be required. The courses to be completed or waived are Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, and Torts.

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