After completing their first-year requirements, students have free rein in choosing the direction of their legal education. While there are still several types of courses required for graduation, students are free to choose whether they want to continue with the traditional lecture-style courses, partake in a more conversational seminar course, or even do hands-on work in a clinic, among other choices. Below are the requirements for graduation, as well as some suggestions for students planning out their upperclass schedule.
While the following information is primarily for students who are just beginning the upperclass curriculum, primarily students in their 2L class year, it also should be useful to students in their 3L class year. Part-time, evening students in their 1L class year might also pay some attention to this advice when beginning to make curricular choices in the spring semester. Course descriptions are posted here.
- The Required Curriculum
- Graduation Requirements
- Choosing Elective Courses
The required core curriculum includes the following eight courses: Civil Procedure; Constitutional Law; Contracts; Criminal Law; Property; Torts; and Legal Analysis, Writing and Research Skills I & II. In addition, following completion of the core curriculum, students must successfully complete either Professional Responsibility or Legal Profession, the upperclass writing requirement, and the skills training requirement to graduate.
Full-time students complete the required core curriculum in the fall and spring semesters of the first-year of law school. Upon assignment to a track, the balance of the first year curriculum is set by the administration. Part-time students complete the required core curriculum over the first four semesters (including the 1LE summer semester). Sections for the required core curriculum are set by the Dean’s Office and are not subject to reassignment except in extraordinary circumstances.
Although students will generally complete the required core curriculum within the above timeframe, under certain circumstances, students will not have successfully completed all of the required classes as planned. In those cases, students must take any class not successfully completed the next time it is offered. These circumstances occur when a student:
- has received a grade of “F” in a required course;
- did not take a required course when it was first offered to his/her class (as when the student was on leave of absence during that semester);
- has been required by the Committee on Scholastic Standing to repeat a course;
- has transferred from part-time to full-time status before completion of the required core curriculum;
- has transferred from full-time to part-time status before completion of the required core curriculum; or
- has transferred from another law school and did not take one or more such courses before transferring.
Students for whom one of the above circumstances applies must have their proposed program of study approved by the senior associate dean to ensure timely completion of the required core curriculum. Only designated sections of required core curriculum courses are open to upper-class students. You must secure prior permission to register for these courses. Please speak with the Registrar to obtain the section, course, and registration numbers for these courses. Permission to defer taking a required course when it is next given may be granted only by the senior associate dean.
Students who delay complying with these requirements may be closed out of their preferred sections of upperclass and required courses. Students who do not register for a required course that they must complete may be dropped from one of their elective courses and reassigned to a section in the required course.
As detailed more fully in the Student Handbook, a candidate for a J.D. degree must complete four requirements:
- Completion of the required curriculum: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, Torts, Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research I and II in Camden or Legal Analysis, Writing, Research, and Skills I and II in Newark, and an upper-level course in Professional Responsibility.
- Completion of 84 credits of academic work. All students must complete at least 84 academic credits, of which at least 75 credits must be taken in the form of Course Credits, which are regularly scheduled classes, seminars, clinics, and, subject to the limitations described herein, Directed Research. In addition to the 75 required Course Credits, students may count up to 9 Non-Course Credits toward the 84-credit requirement. These Non-Course Credits include externships, field placements, teaching assistants and fellows, moot court competitions, Hunter Moot Court Fellows, Marshall Brennan Fellows, journals, and faculty research assistants (Newark location only).
- Completion of two writing intensive (WI) courses after the first year. At least one of the WI activities must be fulfilled through a class, seminar, or clinic. The other WI course may be satisfied by successful completion of a Directed Research project or through a student’s Journal note, under faculty supervision.
- Completion of 6 credits of skills courses. Only 3 of the 6 required Skills course credits may be completed in an externship. An individual externship must be certified by the Dean as Skills credit eligible in order to satisfy this requirement. The Graduation Writing and Skills requirements cannot both be satisfied with a single course or enterprise.
In addition to the above requirements, please note the following requirements relevant to preparation for the bar examination:
- First, students who have a required core curriculum GPA lower than 2.7 must submit their curricular choices for review and approval by the senior associate dean. The requirement was adopted by the faculty in the fall of 2006 to help ensure that students who struggled in their first year select coursework that will adequately prepare them for the rigors of the bar examination.
- Second, students who have a required core curriculum GPA lower than 2.7 must take Legal Analysis in the fall semester of the second year for full-time students and in the spring semester of the second year for part-time students.
- Third, students who have a required core curriculum GPA of 2.95 or lower must successfully complete the Advanced Common Law Capstone (4 credits) in the final year of study. The requirement was adopted by the faculty in the spring of 2014 to provide a comprehensive review of topics tested on the New Jersey bar examination. Please note that this course is offered once a year in the spring semester.
A number of factors should inform your curricular decisions, including: (1) preparing for the bar exam, (2) familiarizing yourself with the fundamentals of the substantive law in areas where you are likely to practice, (3) honing skills (writing, advocacy, negotiation, etc.) necessary to be an effective lawyer, and (4) satisfying your intellectual curiosity. There are no absolute rules for choosing courses. Nevertheless, you need to select a balance of offerings that expose you to a variety of subjects and skills and give you the versatility demanded of lawyers. Do not be tempted to choose courses on the basis of the average grade of the course or scheduling convenience. While it may not seem so now, your time in law school is precious; you may well miss out on opportunities to become a well-rounded lawyer by choosing courses on such bases.
The Bar Exam
Obviously, passing the bar exam is critically important, but do not let the bar exam dominate your curricular choices. Law school is not an extended bar review course. That said, we provide below some basic information on the subject areas covered by the bar exams most of you will take, New Jersey and New York, which have both adopted the Multi-state Bar Exam (MBE).
Multi-State Bar Exam
The Multi-state Bar Exam (MBE) is a six-hour, 200-question, multiple choice exam that comprises parts of the bar exams of all states except Louisiana and the District of Columbia. The MBE tests on seven major areas:
- Civil Procedure
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Real Property
Each year, the MBE is administered by participating jurisdictions on the last Wednesday in February and the last Wednesday in July. Study aids can be found online at http://ncbex.org/study-aids/.
Anticipated Area of Practice
Choosing some of your classes with an eye toward gaining substantive knowledge related to your anticipated area of practice is sensible. However, legal careers often follow quite unanticipated paths. Often opportunities will arise that take one into new and very different areas of practice. Much more often than you might imagine, lawyers find themselves making careers in areas they did not contemplate in law school. Thus, you should be very cautious about focusing too narrowly on a particular subject area.
Intellectual Curiosity (Seminars)
We mentioned intellectual curiosity as a factor in course selection. Such curiosity may carry students in various directions. We want to note here our interesting selection of seminars. As many of you know from your undergraduate education, seminars are small classes that proceed by discussion rather than lecture and often require the student to develop a topic of interest into a project or paper. Seminars are also more likely to be quite focused on areas of the faculty member’s current research or practice interest, and thus involve areas in which the faculty member is giving concentrated thought. You might do well to consider taking at least one or two such offerings.
Statute-Based Subjects. Students are often tempted to avoid statute-based courses, such as Federal Income Tax, Commercial Law, and Debtor-Creditor Law. Most practicing lawyers, however, will probably tell you that the great majority of legal work is done in areas governed by one or more comprehensive statutes. Accordingly, we firmly believe that law students do themselves a great disservice by avoiding “code-based” courses. Perhaps the tendency to shy away from such courses reflects a perception that those courses are particularly difficult. However, you will almost inevitably confront statute-based areas in your practice. Avoiding such courses will leave you unprepared for legal practice, putting you in the unfortunate situation of having to figure out such statutes on the fly without the support of an academic setting, and when a great deal may be at stake. More generally, avoiding such courses will likely leave you with a distorted perception of the importance of the courts, in particular, that law is almost exclusively developed by courts and rarely in any meaningful way by legislatures and administrative agencies.
Skills Courses. As a graduation requirement, students in the Class of 2016 were required to complete at least one skills course, such as Negotiations, Trial Presentation, or Appellate Advocacy, among others. Beginning with the Class of 2017, students are required to complete 6 credits of skills courses for graduation. Effective lawyering is measured not only by knowledge of substantive law, but by the skills and techniques necessary to put that knowledge to practical use. Of course, our clinics also teach skills in a practical setting, and up to two-thirds of our students take at least one clinical course at some time before graduation. However, you should not take so many skills courses that you do not have an opportunity to take an array of substantive classes, as we fear some students have done.
Global and Transnational Courses. Increasingly, law is becoming a global and transnational discipline. We, therefore, encourage you to take one or more courses that approach law from that perspective. Our faculty has expertise in a range of particular areas of international law, e.g., International Trade, International Law, International Criminal Law, International Taxation, and International Protection of Human Rights.