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FAQs for JDs

How many courses - or credits - should I be taking this semester?

86 semester hours (SH) are required for graduation; 32 SH are earned in the first year, leaving 54 SH to be completed over the 2L and 3L years.

The minimum you can take under Law School rules is 12 per semester and the maximum is 17.  Please note that during advance registration, you will be enrolled in no more than 15 SH. Your calculation for deciding how many credits to take each semester should include:

  • How well you can balance out your workload
  • Whether the courses you are looking at have massive reading lists each week or a lighter load
  • Whether you anticipate a lot of time devoted to co-curricular programs (such as Keedy Cup, Moot Court, Journals, Clinics, Externships, etc)
  • The nature of each course’s exam or paper requirements
  • The timing of exams
  • Personal or family commitments you may have during the semester
  • …and so on

As to the number of courses, most people take between four and five courses a semester.

What are the courses that “everyone” takes?

The only course that EVERYONE takes is Professional Responsibility, which is required for graduation.

In terms of the largest percentage of students taking a course, Corporations is taken by a majority of graduating JDs. Commercial Credit and Evidence are also taken by a larger percentage. Federal Income Tax and Securities Regulation are also very popular.

Can I take multiple seminars in one semester?

Yes, you can! That is, if you can get into them through the registration process. But should you? Though the topics may all be fascinating and “right up your alley,” there are several things to consider, particularly whether you can handle the work load. Almost all seminars have substantial readings loads and faculty expect you to keep up and participate. Almost all seminars require papers, so asking yourself how writing papers suits you is important. Also, in the long run, an upper-level course heavy with seminars may not provide you with the kind of “building block” courses (i.e. Corporations, Federal Income Tax, Evidence, etc) that many employers look for and many bar exams test. As with any investment (and courses are an investment), we suggest you diversify your portfolio.

Should I let the exam schedule determine the courses I take?

Let’s look at the exam rules first: the rules permit a student to move an in-class Penn Law exam when they have two exams scheduled on the same day, or when they have three exams schduled back-to-back (e.g. M, T, W). In these cases, the exam of the student’s choice will be moved to the next available day (which is to say, moved to the nearest day that breaks the conflict). We are not allowed to move the changed exam any further than the next available day.

That said, if you worry that you’ll have two heavy exams close to one another, you might best plan on disciplining yourself and keeping up with the courses and getting your studying done in advance. If that seems impractical, take a course wtih a different exam schedule. We think the self-discipline of keeping on top of multiple tasks simultaneously is a valuable skill, but you know your own learn style best.

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Should I take Professional Responsibility as a 2L, so I can take the MPRE this year?

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) is given three times a year, usually in March, August, and November. You are eligible to take it as a 2L or a 3L. You don’t need to have taken a Law School course in Professional Responsibility in order to take the MPRE, but it is certainly helpful. A commercial MPRE prep course will be offered this year, advertised via e-mail and signs.

Can I take an undergraduate language course?

As a general matter, Non-Law courses taken for JD credit must meet the following criteria:

  • Graduate level (numbered 500 and above)
  • Relevant to a legal education
  • Not duplicative of a course you might take at the Law School

Because almost all language courses at Penn are numbered as undergraduate, we run afoul of the “graduate-level” rule. However, in the case of language study, we make an exception and allow JD students to enroll provided the course is described as “intermediate” or “advanced.”

Should I consider taking Federal Income Tax, Corporations and Commercial Credit in the same semester?

While taking these three classes, or those similar to them, is certainly possible in one semester, it will not be easy. Each of these courses is heavily reliant on code (Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulations, corporate code, and Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code, respectively). These codes are all unique, have different sources, and are relied upon by courts in different ways. Coursework in these areas often involves both the standard casebook reading (typical of the 1L curriculum) and additional work interpreting the codes discussed in the cases. For students who are comfortable with complex statutory structure, these courses may pose less of a challenge; but for many, taking more than two of these classes in the same semester may prove overwhelming.

What, if any, are upper-level courses that Penn Law believes to be “essential” for a law student planning on working at a law firm?

While there are not any classes that we would classify as “essential” for students planning to work at corporate law firms, we generally recommend that students take some of the “building blocks” courses (i.e. corporations, tax, securities regulations, and evidence). Additionally, if there are particular practice areas that you are interested in, you should consider taking substantive courses in these areas (i.e. mergers & acquisitions, real estate, financial accounting).

How can we see what classes are available at other schools/programs at Penn?  And how do we sign up for them? Can we do it online?

You should be able to view courses offered in most departments of the university through Penn In Touch by browsing the course search tools.

Regarding Wharton classes, these graduate level courses are distributed to Wharton students based on a lottery. You may view the class offerings online at the following website, however until the lottery process ends for Wharton students, we will not have a good idea of which are still open to accepting students from different schools.

Please visit the Registrar’s Cross-Disciplinary Education page for more information regarding scheduling classes outside of the law school, how to make sure they will apply to your law degree, and how exactly to interpret Wharton’s process specifically.

If you have any questions, please contact Amanda S. Aronoff, the Associate Director of Cross-Disciplinary Programs at the Law School.

How do credit units at outside schools translate into semester hours towards the JD?

1 CU (credit unit) in any other graduate program class is considered equivalent to 3 SH (semester hours) at the law school. A course listed as a 0.5 CU is equivalent to 1.5 SH.

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If I get on a journal, can my work on the journal translate to academic credit?

Associate Editors receive one credit for their work on a Journal or through Law Review. 

Would taking six 2-credit classes be more work than taking four 3-credit courses?

You will spend approximately the same amount of time in class (since semester hours are tied to class time). You would need to look at the reading lists, and consider that number of exams you would be studying for based on your selections.

What are the guidelines for taking a course or courses pass/fail?

Law classes may only be taken on a pass/fail basis if they are specifically designed as such (credit/no credit or pass/fail).

For non-law courses, if the class is 1 credit unit (or 3 Law School credit hours), the student must elect to take the class pass/fail before October 15th for the Fall Term or February 15th for the Spring Term.  If the class is .5 credit units (or 1.5 Law School credit hours), the student must elect to take the class pass/fail before the end of the drop/add period. 

To sign up for a non-law course, should I request it on Penn In-Touch, or do I need to fill out a form?

We recommend that you register for a full law school load during the advance registration period. You can add non law classes during drop/add. Non Wharton student registration doesn’t take place until September 15th, more information on this will follow in the coming months .Enrollment in non-law courses (with more details available here at our Cross-Disciplinary Education page) happens as such:

Application Process:
Students interested in taking a course outside of the law School for credit must submit an Law Credit for Non-Law Course form. Students accepted into formal Joint Degree programs do not need to complete the application form when enrolling in non-Law courses required for their non-law degree; candidates for Certificate and Ad Hoc joint programs DO need to complete the approval form.

Enrollment Procedure:

1. Please note that approval means only that the Law School will accept the course credits toward your law degree should you satisfactorily complete the course. It does not ensure that you will actually be enrolled in the course. Enrollment is determined by the University department controlling the course and is subject to availability.

2. Once you receive your approval, you should complete the registration process with the other department. Each department has its own rules and procedures for you to follow to ensure successful enrollment. For example, to register for courses at Wharton, students go in person to 300 Huntsman Hall, at 3730 Walnut Street, on the date WH has assigned for open registration. You may wish to visit the department or call to speak with their Registrar to ensure that you are following their procedures correctly.

3. The other University department will then either enroll you in the course or enter a “permit” into Penn InTouch, reserving a seat for you in the course.

4. If a permit has been entered, and you have access to Penn InTouch, you can visit the site to register. If add/drop is over and you no longer have access to Penn InTouch, please be in touch with the Law School Registrar’s Office and request that we claim the permit. This will complete your enrollment in the course. If you do not take this last step, you will not be registered in the course.

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Does the seminar “Professional Responsibility: Traversing the Ethical Minefield” satisfy the school’s Professional Development graduation requirement?


I know a lot of 2Ls take Appellate Advocacy, partly to keep up their legal writing skills and partly for Keedy. I absolutely understand that it makes sense to keep writing, but if we’re already planning to take seminars and other writing-heavy classes, is appellate advocacy necessary? (Particularly if we don’t know whether we want to do Keedy).

If practice in writing, under the supervision of an experiences attorney or judge, is something that will help you hone skills you expect using, Appellate Advocacy is a useful course. That said, i is important to note that the writing practice gets underway very quickly, and some students find they don’t have the time to engage in the first few weeks of the semester. If you take the course, be prepared for a quick start! We should also note that it is not a requirement to have taken Appellate Advocacy to participate in Keedy.

How do we go about signing up to do a moot court competition outside of Penn?

To see a description of the process for doing a moot courts (internal and external), click here

Can we see how many seats are available in a course?

In Penn InTouch, you can view the max enrollment for each course. This is listed when you do a search, say for LAW, under Registration & Planning, Course Search. The Max column is the fifth column over. We will soon circulate the email that went out last fall, listing the courses that closed during advance registration; this can give you a good idea of the demand in certain courses. As I’m sure you know, there is no guarantee that this will hold true for this year.

Is there any difference in the curve for seminar classes vs. upper-level courses? Or is each class specific to the professor?

As a general matter, upper-level courses are on a (strongly suggested) curve. Faculty teaching seminars and upper level courses with enrollments of fewer than fifteen have greater flexibility in grading.

What are the requirements for independent research? What kind of information or plan do you need in order to contact a professor about doing an independent research project with him or her? Can a 2L do independent research?

Upper-level students (2Ls and 3Ls alike) may engage in Independent Study projects under supervision of a Penn Law Faculty member (full-time or part-time).  Information on Independent Study work can be found here.  Check out that link for a basic understanding of how to arrange an Independent Study. To expand on the information at the link, there are two basic ways to approach a faculty member about their supervising an IS project. First, you could develop a specific topic, problem, or research you would like to write on, and approach a faculty member who teaches/researches in that field.

Second, you can approach a faculty who teaches/researches in an area of interest to you, and ask if they have any topics they would suggest as an Independent Study project. You can review faculty areas of expertise by looking at the on-line faculty bios, at this link, which includes full-time and part-time faculty.

As credits and work load, Independent Study projects generally carry 2 or 3 semester hours of credit. More than that is extremely rare. Each faculty member working with a student on an IS project will set his or her own requirements for the length of the paper: there is no school-wide standard, but keep in mind that the work of an IS project should be at least equivalent to the work of a course carrying the same number of credits (including class time, reading time, and exam prep).

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If you have any questions, please email