The Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) Degree

Overview of Degree Requirements

The requirements for the degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence are:

  • For students who entered law school before 2019, successful completion of all first-year required courses plus an additional 82 quarter units of elective coursework (111 total units)
  • For students who entered law school in 2019 or later, successful completion of all first-year required courses plus an additional 78 quarter units of elective coursework (111 total units);
  • For students who entered law school in 2016 or later, satisfaction of the experiential learning requirement;
  • Satisfaction of the ethics requirement;
  • Satisfaction of the writing requirement;
  • Satisfaction of the learning outcomes requirement;
  • For students who entered law school before 2016, satisfaction of the professional skills instruction requirement;
  • Nine quarters of residency;
  • Timely filing of an application for graduation

In accordance with ABA accreditation standards, JD students may not count toward the JD graduation requirement more than thirty-one (31) quarter units of the following types of coursework: externship, directed research, directed writing, senior thesis, research track, courses taken outside the Law School, and moot court (Kirkwood competition).

Additionally, students must make satisfactory academic progress (see the section on ‘Satisfactory Academic Performance.’)

Required Curriculum: First-Year Program

For JD students entering law school in 2019 or later, each JD student must complete the following courses during his or her first year at the Law School:

Autumn Quarter

Winter Quarter

Spring Quarter

  • Civil Procedure
  • Contracts
  • Torts
  • Legal Research and Writing
  • 1L Discussion Seminars
  • Constitutional Law I
  • Criminal Law
  • Federal Litigation in a Global Context
  • Electives (0-5 units)
  • Property I
  • Federal Litigation in a Global Context
  • Electives (3-8 units)

Each first-year student is assigned to a small section of approximately 30 students. During the first quarter of the first year, students take Legal Research and Writing and one other of their required courses with only their small section. With the exception of 1L Discussion Seminars, they take the other required courses in combination with their section and one other small section. Usually, each of these courses will be with a different small section. Neither section assignments nor class assignments may be changed. 1L Discussion Seminars will be assigned separately.

Unit Requirement

Students who entered law school before 2019 must complete all first-year required courses plus an additional 82 approved quarter units of elective coursework to obtain a JD (a total of 111 units). Students who entered law school in 2019 or later must complete all first-year required courses plus an additional 78) approved quarter units of elective coursework to obtain a JD (a total of 111 units).

During the Autumn Quarter, a first-year student may take only those courses on the required list.

First-year JD students may take no more than 5 units of electives in the Winter Quarter, and they must take at least 3 units but no more than 8 units of electives in the Spring Quarter. Elective courses are limited to those within the Law School, with the exception that first-year JD students may take a physical education course or music lessons each quarter but those courses will not count toward residency or graduation.

Experiential Learning Requirement

Students entering in Autumn 2016 or thereafter must complete 8 units of coursework designated as fulfilling the Experiential Learning (EL) requirement pursuant to ABA Standard 303.

Pathway A – Full-time Clinic:

Students who complete any of Stanford Law School’s full-time clinics are deemed “Pathway A” students. These students will automatically satisfy the ABA Experiential Learning Requirement.

Pathway B – Self-Design:

Students who do not enroll in one of Stanford Law School’s full-time clinics are deemed “Pathway B” students. Pathway B students must submit to the Registrar’s Office a Self-Design Plan specifying which courses the student has taken and/or intends to take to satisfy the ABA Experiential Learning requirement. Courses that count towards the EL requirement are identified on the Registrar’s website and in course listings. Students choosing Pathway B to fulfill this requirement should note that not all courses are offered every year and that enrollment for some courses may be limited.

All students who elect Pathway B must include a Professional Writing (“PW”) course within their individually tailored plan. A course designated as a “PW” course is defined as one in which the students engage in the sort of professional writing common to practicing lawyers, e.g. writing briefs, drafting contracts, etc. PW courses include only those approved by the Curriculum Committee and explicitly classified as a PW class before the term begins.

Deadlines

Primary Experiential Learning Curricular Planning Form (Rising 2Ls)

All rising 2L students must submit a Primary Experiential Learning Curricular Planning Form by the deadline set by the Registrar’s office before the start of the student’s second year. This form will indicate whether the student intends to satisfy the EL graduation requirement through one of Stanford’s full-time clinics (Pathway A) or through Self-Design (Pathway B). Students who do not meet this deadline will have a hold placed on their course registration until they submit the form.

Pathway A:

Students planning to satisfy the EL requirement via clinic must indicate whether they have applied and been accepted to a clinic for the 2L year and/or intend to enroll during the 3L year. Stanford has capacity for 100 percent of our students to take a full-time clinic, but admission to a particular clinic in a particular quarter is not guaranteed. Students electing Pathway A should ordinarily plan to apply to more than one clinic, and will be required to apply to multiple clinics (the number will be set by the Associate Dean for the Clinics) if they need to gain admission into a clinic during the third year to satisfy the graduation requirement.

Pathway B:

If the student plans to elect Pathway B, the student must complete the portion of the form calling for the student’s Self-Design Plan. Self-design plans will be reviewed and approved by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs and the Associate Dean for Curriculum. The plan should demonstrate how the student will complete at least 50% of their EL credits (4 units) by the end of their second year.

Plans in which fewer than 4 units will be completed by the end of the 2L year will be approved only upon a showing of good cause necessitating the completion of more than half of the credits in the third year. Students whose plans are initially rejected may resubmit the form to address any identified deficiencies by the deadline, or may elect to move to Pathway A. If the resubmitted form is rejected, the student will be moved to Pathway A.

In some circumstances, an externship may satisfy the Experiential Learning Requirement. Ordinarily, an externship that otherwise meets the criteria will be approved for EL credit when the field placement provides specialized experience complementary to a student’s intended career path and comparable benefits cannot be obtained through other EL coursework at Stanford. Students who plan to satisfy the experiential learning requirement through an externship should consult with the law school’s Externship Director regarding the externship proposal as early in the process as possible and must secure approval for the externship no later than the deadline for rising 3Ls to file Pathway B curriculum plans. (These Secondary Curricular Planning forms are described below).

If, during the second year, the student finds that he or she is deviating from the submitted and approved Self-Design Plan (because, for example, the student did not gain admission to a limited-enrollment EL offering, the student had planned to take), the student must, as soon as practicable, consult with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs concerning the deviation.

 


 

Secondary Experiential Learning Curricular Planning Form (Rising 3Ls)

Students who have not completed a clinic by the end of their second year must also submit a Secondary Experiential Learning Curricular Planning Form by the deadline set by the Registrar’s Office at the start of the student’s third year. Students who do not meet this deadline will have a hold placed on their course registration until they submit the form.

Pathway A:

Students who indicate on the Secondary Experiential Learning Curricular Planning Form that they plan to satisfy the EL requirement via a clinic in their 3L year must, in the spring of their 2L year, apply to multiple clinics (the number will be set by the Associate Dean of the Clinics) in the clinic application process or, if they apply to fewer clinics, have a clearly articulated and feasible back-up plan in Pathway B.

Pathway B:

If the student had previously elected Pathway A on the Primary Experiential Learning CurricularPlanning Form as a rising 2L but has decided to switch to Pathway B, the student must demonstrate good cause for the switch.

For students who had previously elected Pathway B on the Primary Experiential Learning Curricular Planning Form, the Secondary Experiential Learning Curricular Planning Form must indicate whether the student did in fact complete at least 4 units towards the EL requirement prior to the start of their 3L year or, if they failed to do so (and did not have an approved plan for doing so), why extraordinary circumstances excuse their failure to complete the units on schedule and how they realistically plan to complete the 8 units before graduation.

The Associate Dean for Students Affairs and the Associate Dean of Curriculum will review the forms containing the Self-Design Plans to ensure that each student has a coherent and feasible plan for completing the graduation requirements that takes into account, among other things, the fact that some classes may not be offered every year or have limited enrollment. Students whose plans are rejected may resubmit to address any identified deficiencies by the deadline, or may elect to move to Pathway A.

If the submitted form is rejected, students will be moved to Pathway A. If, during the third year, the student finds that he or she is deviating from the submitted and approved Self-Design Plan (because, for example, the student did not gain admission to a limited-enrollment EL offering, the student had been planning to take), the student must, as soon as practicable, consult with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs concerning the deviation.

Students who plan to satisfy the EL requirement through an externship should consult with the Law School’s Externship Director regarding the externship proposal as early in the process as possible and must secure approval for the externship from the law school’s Externship Director no later than the deadline for rising 3Ls to file Pathway B curriculum plans.

Ethics Requirement

JD students must complete at least one advanced course that contains one or more units of ethics instruction. Only a course approved by the Curriculum Committee and explicitly classified as an ethics course before the quarter begins satisfies this requirement.

Course Catalog

Writing Requirement

Students Entering Prior to Autumn 2012

In addition to first-year Legal Research and Writing and Federal Litigation, all students must complete three courses of at least two units each in which a principal part of the assigned work is a paper or other written product. Only courses approved by the Curriculum Committee and explicitly classified as an R or W course before the term begins can satisfy this requirement. Of the three courses, at least one course must be designated as an “R” course.

  • A course designated as an “R” course is defined as one in which the written product is substantial and is based on open-ended research by the student.
  • A course designated as a “W” course is defined as one in which students engage primarily in focused writing and research exercises.
  • A course could potentially satisfy either the “R” or the “W” requirement. The instructor and student must agree whether the student will receive an “R” or a “W” and the student must enroll in the appropriate section of the class for “R” credit.
  • A course in which the final examination is a take-home paper does not satisfy the writing course requirement.
  • A Directed Research paper may count as the equivalent of an “R” course with the approval of the supervising faculty member.
  • Satisfactory completion of a Senior Thesis or Research Track counts as the equivalent of two “R” courses.
  • An “R” course may count as a “W” course. So, a student who takes three “R” courses or two “R” courses and one “W” course will have satisfied the writing requirement.

 

Students Entering in Autumn 2012 through Autumn 2016

In addition to first-year Legal Research and Writing and Federal Litigation, all students must complete two courses of at least two units each in which a principal part of the assigned work is a paper or other written product. One course must be an R course and the other must be a PW course. Only courses approved by the Curriculum Committee and explicitly classified as an R or PW course before the term begins can satisfy this requirement.

  • A course designated as an “R” course is defined as one in which the written product is substantial and is based on open-ended research by the student.
  • A course designated as a “PW” course is defined as one in which the students engage in the sort of professional writing common to practicing lawyers, e.g., writing briefs, drafting contracts, etc.
  • A Directed Research paper may count as the equivalent of an “R” course with the approval of the supervising faculty member.
  • A Directed Writing project may count as the equivalent of a “PW” course with the approval of the supervising faculty member.
  • Satisfactory completion of a Senior Thesis or Research Track counts as the equivalent of an “R” course.

 

Students Entering in Autumn 2017 and Thereafter

In addition to first-year Legal Research and Writing and Federal Litigation, all students must complete another course of at least two units in which a principal part of the assigned work is a paper or other written product (an “R” paper). Only courses approved by the Curriculum Committee and explicitly classified as an R course before the term begins can satisfy this requirement.

  • A course designated as an “R” course is defined as one in which the written product is substantial and is based on open-ended research by the student.
  • A Directed Research paper may count as the equivalent of an “R” course with the approval of the supervising faculty member.
  • Satisfactory completion of a Senior Thesis or Research Track counts as the equivalent of an “R” course.

Double-Counting Requirements

Students Entering in Autumn 2016 and Thereafter

If a course satisfies two requirements (such as “R” and “Ethics,”) students may use that course to satisfy both requirements. However, this rule permitting double-counting does not apply to the Experiential Learning requirement. Students wishing to use a course to satisfy the Experiential Learning requirement cannot double-count, and must use that course solely to satisfy the Experiential Learning requirement.

Substantial Instruction in Professional Skills Requirement

Students Entering Prior to Autumn 2016

Students entering Law School before 2016 must complete at least one course that includes substantial instruction in the professional skills generally regarded as necessary for effective and responsible participation in the legal profession. Only courses approved by the Curriculum Committee and explicitly classified as professional skills courses before the term begins can satisfy this requirement.

This requirement does not apply to students entering law school after Autumn 2016.

Learning Outcomes Requirement

The ABA requires each law school to “establish and publish learning outcomes” designed to “prepare its students, upon graduation, for admission to the bar and for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the profession.” ABA Standards 301 (a) & (b). The syllabus for each course may either set forth the course’s particular Learning Outcomes or direct students to the online course description, where Learning Outcomes are provided. By completing your degree, Stanford Law School certifies that you have satisfied the ABA’s Learning Outcome requirements listed below.

  • LO1: Exhibit knowledge and understanding of key concepts in substantive law, procedural law, and legal thought.
  • LO2: Demonstrate facility with legal analysis and reasoning. This may include, but will not necessarily include, a combination of skills such as synthesizing cases, identifying and applying relevant principles, and mastering modes of inquiry (whether scientific, social scientific, or humanistic) that inform and contextualize legal analysis and reasoning.
  • LO3: Demonstrate the ability to conduct legal research.
  • LO4: Demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively in writing.
  • LO5: Demonstrate the ability to communicate orally (such as in group or individual presentations, while delivering advice to a client, or in the course of oral advocacy).
  • LO6: Display familiarity with the law governing lawyers and exhibit an understanding of a lawyer’s distinctive ethical responsibilities to clients, the legal system, and the broader public.
  • LO7: Display other professional skills needed for effective and responsible participation in the legal profession (such as, interviewing; counseling; negotiation; fact development and analysis; trial practice; contract review and drafting; conflict resolution; leadership behaviors, attitudes, and styles; collaboration and teamwork; execution; and cultural competency).

Residency Requirement

To graduate, a JD student must be “in residence” as a law student for at least nine (9) quarters and no more than twelve (12) quarters. For purposes of the JD degree, the term “in residence” means that a student:

  • Takes at least 9 quarter units of credit that can be counted toward the degree each quarter.
  • By the date all grades for the quarter are due, passes at least 8 such units each quarter.
  • Pays full tuition to the law school.
  • Does not work more than 20 hours per week during the term. (See section entitled ‘Limitations on Working’ for more information.)
  • A student must be in residence during the quarter in which the final degree is conferred or during the quarter immediately preceding degree conferral.

Timely Filing of a "Graduation Application"

Students should consult the University’s online Academic Calendar for the Graduation Application deadline dates for each term. The Academic Calendar is available through the Office of the University Registrar.

Transfer Students

In a transfer student’s offer of admission to Stanford Law School, the Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid will specify the amount of transfer credit that the student will receive and the course requirements that the student will need to fulfill at the LawSchool to ensure that the student’s professional training in law will be substantially equivalent to that required of a student who does all of his or her JD coursework at the Law School. Thus, it is possible that transfer students may be required to enroll in one or more first-year required courses. A transfer student will not be given credit for law course work taken elsewhere unless at the time s/he took such course work it would have been allowed credit toward a first degree in law if taken at the Law School.