2015-2016 Catalog 
    Jul 21, 2024  
2015-2016 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Law School Regulations

Graduation Honors

Latin honors are awarded to the top 40 percent of graduating classes. Summa cum laude is awarded to no more than the top 3 percent of the members of a graduating class. Magna cum laude is awarded to no more than 7 percent of the graduating class. Cum laude is awarded to the remaining 30 percent. Transfer students with only one year in residence will be entitled to have “honors” printed on the diploma for the work done at this law school if the record for that year is equivalent to magna cum laude.

The Order of the Coif, American University Chapter

The Order of the Coif was established to recognize graduating students for high attainments in the study of law. Students whose cumulative grade point average at graduation places them in the highest 10 percent of the class may be elected to membership in the American University chapter of the order.


Degree candidates must maintain continuous registration until all requirements are satisfied. Registration for all students is not complete until fees have been paid or proper arrangements for payment are made with the Office of Student Accounts. A student who was previously registered but did not attend during the most recent semester and was not granted a leave of absence may seek readmission only by filing an application for readmission with the WCL admissions office for action by the admissions committee. A student seeking readmission must satisfy existing admissions standards and, if readmitted, must satisfy the curriculum requirements existing at the time of readmission.

Normal Course Load

Full-time students may not register for more than 16 or fewer than 12 semester hours in any semester without the written permission of the registrar. Part-time students are expected to register for 8 or 9 semester hours each semester and may not register for more than 11 semester hours. No student may register for more than 7 semester hours in a summer session without the written permission of the registrar. Appropriate petition forms are available on-line at http://www.wcl.american.edu/studentaffairs/adminapprovalform.pdf or in the registrar’s office.

Transfer between Divisions

No student may transfer from the full-time to the part-time division or vice versa without the written permission of the dean. Students transferring between divisions should be certain that their course loads satisfy American Bar Association and Washington College of Law residency requirements, below, and are urged to consult the registrar to determine the effect a shift will have on their future credit hour loads and number of semesters required by these requirements.

Washington College of Law Residency Requirements

Washington College of Law residency requirements provide that full-time JD students must complete degree requirements in a minimum of 6 semesters or the equivalent of 12 or more successfully completed hours per semester; part-time JD students must do so in a minimum of 8 semesters or the equivalent of 8 or more (not exceeding 11) successfully completed semester hours. To comply with residency requirements, students must have 5 regular semesters (7 for part-time students) and 2 summer sessions of at least 35 class days each in which a total of 12 (for full-time students) or 8 (for part-time students) semester credits are earned. It is possible to combine a semester of fewer than the required number of credits with a summer session in which the necessary additional credits are earned to form an equivalent semester. Residency requirements cannot be waived. Resident semesters must be taken at WCL unless waived by the registrar on the basis of extraordinary, compelling personal circumstances.

As a general rule, most students who do not change divisions or who do not attempt to accelerate their graduation are able to satisfy residency requirements. Students considering a transfer among divisions of the university or acceleration of graduation date should consult with the registrar and obtain a comprehensive information sheet from that office.


Students are expected to attend classes regularly, a minimum of 75 percent of the time, to receive credit. If a student accumulates an excessive number of absences without good cause, such as illness, he or she may be denied credit for that semester or be barred from taking a final examination in the particular course or courses. Excessive absence means failure to attend a substantial number of classes, indicating a lack of seriousness of purpose on the part of the student. Faculty members may set more stringent standards as a matter of discretion, in which case the more stringent standard will apply.

Excess Employment

Full-time students may not engage in employment in excess of 20 hours per week. Students who are employed in excess of 20 hours per week must register for the part-time program. WCL policy permits full-time students to undertake a maximum of ten (10) hous per week of employment during the first-year academic semesters, after obtaining permission from either the Associate Dean of Student Affairs or a WCL full-time resident (non-visitor) faculty member who currently is teaching or has taught the student. The approved form signed by the student and the sertifying professor or dean of students will be filed with the Office of Student Affairs. Full-time students are prohibited from working during their first year of law school and should arrange access to funds sufficient to allow them to complete the first year without working.

Change of Courses

A student may drop or add a course or a seminar within one week after the beginning of the semester. An additional week is permitted for adding independent study projects and externships. Add/drop forms are available at the registrar’s office and on-line. Students are not permitted to change from one section to another in any required course. Dropping a course after the designated add/drop period will be permitted only in cases of compelling personal circumstance and may result in a pro-rata return of tuition, in accordance with university refund policies, and a W on the student’s transcript for the course(s) dropped. Permission of the course instructor and the registrar is required to add or drop a course after the designated add/drop period.

Change of Status

Students may change their course enrollment status from “credit” to “audit” only during the designated add/drop period and with the permission of the registrar. Exceptions will be made only in special cases of compelling personal circumstance.

Advanced Work

A student may not register for any course or seminar without meeting the stated corequisite(s) or prerequisite(s), unless the student demonstrates reasons satisfactory to the dean and the instructor for exception.

Credit for Courses at Other Law Schools

No student registered at the law school will be given any credit toward the JD degree for courses taken prior to law school matriculation. Students will not receive credit for courses taken at another law school, unless it is an approved law school, specific written permission is obtained in advance from the registrar, and the student earns a passing grade in any such work. Only the credit hours earned and not the grade will be transferred and noted on the student’s permanent transcript. A student is not permitted to take for credit at another school a required course or any course in which he or she received a grade of F at the Washington College of Law. Permission to study as a visiting student at another law school will be granted only on the basis of extraordinary, compelling personal circumstances and for no more than one academic year.

Credit for Courses in Other Schools of the University

Law students may take up to 6 credits of work toward their JD degree requirements in other schools of the university. Before undertaking such work the student must demonstrate the appropriateness of the particular course and obtain the written permission of the registrar. In determining whether a course is “appropriate,” consideration is given to the relationship the course bears to the study of law and to the student’s intended area of practice. Only the credit hours earned and not the grade are accepted for credit toward JD degree requirements. Generally, non-law courses taken under this policy must be graduate-level courses. Law students enrolled in one of the college’s dual degree programs may only transfer nonlaw courses for JD credit in accordance with the regulations of those programs. Credits for non-law classes are included in the 12 non-classroom credits (18 for students enrolled in the law school’s dual degree programs within American University) allowed toward the JD degree.


Written examinations are required at the end of most courses; however, research papers may be required in lieu of written examinations in seminars and certain elective courses. All students are required to take examinations as scheduled but are able to defer examinations if they have (1) a physical inability to take the examination; (2) a personal necessity, including emergency situations and religious observances; (3) three examinations scheduled on three consecutive days, in which case, one of the three may be deferred; (4) an examination scheduled at 9:00 a.m., after having taken an examination beginning at 6:00 p.m. the prior evening; or (5) two examinations scheduled on the same calendar day.

When an examination is deferred, it may be deferred only to one of the next two available examination periods during which deferred examinations are scheduled and in which the rescheduled examination would not again be subject to deferral under the grounds outlined above. Deferred examinations must be taken prior to the beginning of the subsequent term. For further information on the administration of the deferred examination policy, students should contact the registrar’s office.

Grading, Assessment and Review

A student’s performance in each course is expressed normally in terms of the following letter grades which have numerical equivalents for computation purposes: A or 4.0; A- or 3.7; B+ or 3.3; B or 3.0; B- or 2.7; C+ or 2.3; C or 2.0; D or 1.0; and F or 0. A minimum course grade of D or 1.0 is required before credit may be received for a particular course. Students who do not receive passing grades in required courses must repeat them and earn passing grades. Students may not repeat courses for which they earned passing grades.

Final grades are based primarily on written examinations in those courses in which they are required. In addition, an instructor may give appropriate weight to written assignments, classroom performance, and attendance records. Final written examinations are conducted according to an anonymous grading system. Students are assigned anonymous grading numbers by the registrar and only the anonymous grading number should appear on the final examination for identification. Students must obtain anonymous grading numbers for the academic year from the registrar’s office.

To maintain the integrity of the anonymous grading system, students should check with the registrar to determine in what way a particular course instructor wishes to receive a request for grade change before contacting the course instructor directly. If a course instructor changes a grade, a detailed statement of the reasons must be provided to the registrar’s office.

Any course for which no grade has been entered must be made up by the end of the next semester or the grade automatically is converted to an F, unless the dean grants an extension. Students on academic probation may not receive “Incomplete” or “In Progress” grades, nor may “I” or “IP” grades be issued if an exam was not taken or is incomplete.

In the course of academic life, a student may wish to request further feedback about a professor’s assessment of his/her work. It is the policy of the school to encourage informal discussion and consultation between the student and professor as part and parcel of the professor’s obligation of assessment and the educational process. If, for any reason, a student has concerns about approaching a professor to request a consultation, the student may request the Dean of Student Affairs Office to assist in facilitating a meeting. The school encourages informal processes to respond to student’s questions and concerns regarding assessment and grading.

Because judgment regarding standards of evaluation of a student’s academic performance is a faculty responsibility, the exercise of that judgment is not subject to a grievance procedure. If, however, after being furnished the basis for assessment and after thoroughly exhausting the informal consultation review process, a student believes that a faculty member’s assessment of his/her work failed to comply materially with the professor’s stated policies/requirements of the course; or was the product of a grossly arbitrary grading process, or was the product of systematic discrimination in the award of grades not related to the student’s course performance, the student may initiate a grievance with an Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs. A grievance may be filed no later than 10 business days after the last date on which attempts at informal resolution have failed, but in no event later than September 25, in the case of the immediately preceding spring and summer terms, or February 15, in the case of the immediately preceding fall term. Information on the grievance procedure is at (https://www.wcl.american.edu/registrar/grading_policy.cfm).

Probation and Exclusion for Academic Deficiency

Students must maintain a cumulative average of 2.0 or greater at the end of the first year of law study or be dismissed unconditionally from the Washington College of Law. The only exception to this policy is the following: a student who maintains a 2.0 or greater average in any semester of the first year but ends the year with a cumulative average of less than 2.0 but greater than 1.9 will be placed on academic probation for one semester. While on probation, the student must raise his or her cumulative average to 2.0 or greater by the end of that semester or be dismissed unconditionally.

Students who are dismissed for academic deficiency at the end of the first year of law study and are reinstated by the admissions committee (see “Reinstatement,” below) must bring their cumulative average to 2.0 or greater in the two semesters immediately following their readmission and maintain a cumulative average of 2.0 or greater, or they will be dismissed unconditionally.

Students who obtain a 2.0 or greater cumulative average at the end of the first year but fail to maintain that average in any subsequent semester shall be placed on a one-semester probation (“probationary semester”). Failure to bring this cumulative average to a 2.0 or greater at the end of the probationary semester shall result in unconditional dismissal.

In some cases grades for work done in the probationary semester(s) will not be available until after the next academic period has begun. Whenever this situation occurs and the grades, when received, would not have permitted a probationary student to have continued, the student will be dismissed retroactively to the first day of classes of that academic period and will receive a full refund of tuition paid.

Any student on probation shall be dismissed unconditionally if his or her cumulative average falls below 2.0 in any subsequent semester. For purposes of this regulation, “end of the first year of study” means completion of the first two (fall and spring) semesters of course work. “Semester” is defined as the completion of at least 14 credit hours of courses for full-time students and 9 credit hours of courses for part-time students over 14 weeks of class and an examination period.

The cumulative grade point average (GPA) is based only upon law school courses taken for a grade (A-F) at the Washington College of Law. The quality point (credit hours x letter grade numerical value) total is divided by the total number of credits earned for graded WCL law courses. The cumulative GPA is derived by carrying the quotient three places to the right of the decimal point and truncating that number at the second (hundredths) place. Figures are not rounded up to the next highest hundredths position. The semester grade point average is computed in the same manner but includes only courses taken in that academic term.


Once dismissed for academic deficiency, a student may be reinstated only by petitioning the admissions committee for readmission. Readmission is granted only in extraordinary cases of demonstrated, substantial improvement in a student’s potential for continuing the study of law successfully. As a matter of policy, the admissions committee generally requires that a student dismissed for academic deficiency remain out of school for a minimum of two semesters (a summer session does not constitute a semester for this purpose) before a petition for readmission is acted upon. In cases where a substantial period of time has elapsed between dismissal and readmission, the “five-year rule” may result in the loss of some or all of the credits earned prior to readmission (see “Leave of Absence” below).

Leave of Absence

Upon approval of the dean, a student who has completed at least one full semester and is in good standing may obtain a leave of absence from the law school for a stated period of time. Students on leave are not required to maintain continuous registration; however, a student who fails to observe the terms and conditions of the leave granted must file an application for readmission to the law school with the admissions committee. Moreover, the law school follows a five-year rule under which any credits earned more than five years prior to being readmitted will not be credited toward degree requirements, and the student will be required to replace these disallowed credits after readmission. All credits earned in required courses that are disallowed because of the application of this rule can only be replaced by repeating the same required courses in which the credits are disallowed. Students who maintain their connections with the law school by an approved leave of absence generally are not subject to this five-year rule.

Voluntary Withdrawal

A student who wishes to withdraw from the law school must notify the dean in writing. To withdraw in good standing, a student must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or above, or otherwise be doing satisfactory work in all courses in which he or she is registered. Upon receiving the dean’s approval of the withdrawal, the student may apply to the Office of Student Accounts for any refund to which he or she is entitled under the refund regulations of that office.

Student Records

Confidentiality of Student Records. University policy and procedures for confidentiality of student records may be found in Academic Regulation 90.10.00 ww.american.edu/american/registrar/AcademicReg. The following explains the university’s policy for complying with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (“FERPA” or “Act”). Students at American University have the following rights regarding their education records: (1) to have access to their education records, (2) to consent to release a record to a third party, (3) to request nondisclosure of directory information, (4) to seek amendment of information in an education record which the student demonstrates is inaccurate, (5) to be notified of their privacy rights, and (6) to file complaints with the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by American University to comply with the Act.

For purposes of this policy, the term “student” means any individual who is attending or has attended American University and for whom the university maintains education records. The term “education records” or “student education records” means, with certain exceptions, any records (1) that are directly related to a student and (2) maintained by the university or its agents. Student education records are confidential and may only be released with consent of the student or as otherwise permitted by law.

The university does not maintain education records in one central office. Education records are maintained in the various departments, schools, or colleges. A student should contact the Office of the University Registrar or, for law students, the Washington College of Law (WCL) Registrar for guidance in determining which unit(s) to contact about an education record.

Examples of academic and nonacademic student education records include without limitation:

  • Academic Records: Permanent record of academic performance (e.g., transcript, including supporting documents) maintained by the Office of the University Registrar, the WCL Registrar, academic advisor, dean’s office, and provost’s office; files of academic progress maintained by the individual school or college academic office and the provost’s office; admission files of students; Career Center files.
  • Nonacademic Records: Files related to Financial Aid, Housing and Dining Programs, International Student and Scholar Services, Student Accounts, and the library; student discipline files; employment files of students who are employed because of their student status (e.g., work-study, graduate assistantship or fellowship).

Only information directly relevant to the educational processes of the university or which is voluntarily offered by the student and accepted from the student shall be included in student education records. Specifically excluded from such student education records are:

  • Medical and mental health information which is created, maintained, or used by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional in connection with treatment of the student and disclosed only to individuals providing the treatment. Such records are strictly confidential and not accessible except as provided by applicable laws.
  • Sole possession records or private notes maintained by individual faculty and instructional, supervisory, or administrative personnel for their own use and which are not accessible or released to anyone except a substitute.
  • Records created and maintained by Public Safety solely for law enforcement purposes.
  • Employment records of students which are made and maintained in the normal course of business, relate exclusively to their employment, and are not available for use for any other purpose.
  • Alumni records which contain only information about former students after they are no longer students at the university.

Student Access to Student Education Records. Each student may inspect his or her education record, subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. A student must submit a written request to review an education record. The request will be granted as soon as possible, but no later than forty-five (45) days from the date of the receipt of the request. At the time of inspection, the student must present identification and must inspect the records in the presence of a designated university official. In lieu of inspection and at the request of the student, the university may provide a copy of the requested education record. The student may be charged for the actual costs of copying the records. The university reserves the right to deny requests for copies of records if there is an administrative restriction on the individual’s student account (e.g., financial obligation, disciplinary stop).

Students do not have access to the following education records:

  • Financial information submitted by parents.
  • Confidential letters of recommendation for which a student has waived the right of access, provided that the recommendations are used only for their intended purpose (i.e., admission, employment, or consideration for any honor). However, the student may know the names of all people making recommendations.
  • Confidential letters of recommendation placed in a record before January 1, 1975, if the letters were used only for the intended purpose.

Disclosures of Student Education Records. At its discretion, the university may release directory information unless the student has instructed the university to restrict this information.

FERPA considers directory information as generally not harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. In accordance with FERPA, the university defines this information to include a student’s name, telephone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses, month and day of birth, dates of attendance at the university, major field of study and class, date of graduation, degrees and honors received at the university, participation in officially recognized university activities, height and weight of members of athletic teams, photographs, and similar information. Directory information cannot include student identification numbers, Social Security numbers, citizenship, gender, race, religious preference, grades, and GPA.

The university does not provide student directory information to third-party vendors except in limited circumstances when disclosure of specific directory information is necessary to provide a university-related service. In these unusual situations, the university will not disclose all student directory information but only the specific elements of directory information that are minimally necessary to provide the university-related service. Appropriate university offices will review contracts that involve the use or disclosure of directory information for compliance with this policy and FERPA.

Students who object to the disclosure of directory information must notify in writing the Office of the University Registrar or, for law students, the WCL Registrar. Forms for this purpose are available from the Office of the University Registrar or the WCL Registrar and should be filed within thirty (30) days following registration each semester at the university. The request for nondisclosure may be rescinded by written notification to the Office of the University Registrar or the WCL Registrar. The university is committed to offering students effective choices concerning disclosure of directory information entrusted to the university.

Third-Party Access to Education Records. The university may disclose student education records with the prior written consent of the student. A student may authorize access to third parties to review the student’s education record by completing a written and dated authorization form which specifies the information to be released, the reasons for the release, and to whom the information is to be released.

The university may disclose information in the following circumstances without the prior written consent of the student:

  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. Unless otherwise directed by the order or subpoena, the university will make a reasonable effort to notify the student in writing of the order or subpoena in advance of compliance.
  • To the parents of a dependent student, as defined in the Internal Revenue Code. The parent must sign, and provide to the university, a written statement confirming that the student is a dependent; the statement must be accompanied by a copy of the parent’s most current tax return which reports the student as a dependent.
  • To persons or organizations providing the student financial aid or who determine financial decisions concerning eligibility, amount, conditions, and enforcement or terms of the financial aid.
  • To organizations conducting studies for educational agencies to (1) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; (2) administer student aid programs; or (3) improve instruction. Disclosure under this paragraph shall only be made if the study is conducted in a manner that does not permit personal identification of students by individuals other than representatives of the organization and that personally identifiable data will be destroyed when no longer needed for the purpose for which it was collected.
  • To authorized representatives of the comptroller general of the United States, secretary of education, or state and local educational authorities to audit or evaluate a federal or state supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with legal requirements of those programs. Disclosure under this paragraph shall only be made if information is protected in a manner that does not permit personal identification of students by individuals other than the specified officials and that personally identifiable data will be destroyed when no longer needed for the purpose for which it is collected.
  • To accrediting organizations for purposes related to accreditation of the university.
  • To appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency.
  • To victims of crimes of violence or nonforcible sex offenses concerning the results of disciplinary proceedings about those incidents.
  • To appropriate parties as permitted by the university’s Parental Notification of Disciplinary Violations Involving the Use or Possession of Alcohol or a Controlled Substance.
  • To appropriate parties in other circumstances as required by law.

Education records will only be disclosed to third parties if they are advised not to redisclose the information to others without the prior written consent of the student or as permitted by law.

Each university office must maintain a list of all individuals or organizations who have obtained access to a student’s record. The list must indicate the legitimate interest that each person or organization has in obtaining the information. This “record of access” is part of the student’s education record. A record of access is not necessary for disclosures (1) to the student, (2) pursuant to a written authorization from a student, (3) to university officials, (4) of directory information, and (5) in response to a subpoena or court order specifying that the existence and/or contents of such documents may not be revealed.

Student’s Right to Challenge Information in the Student Education Record

If a student demonstrates that the student’s education record is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights, the student may request in writing that the record be changed. The request should be made directly to the custodian of the record. Any disagreement should be resolved informally, if possible, and within a reasonable time period. If the request is denied, the student may file a written appeal within 30 days to the Office of the University Registrar or, for law students, the WCL Registrar. The registrar will appoint a hearing committee to review the complaint. The committee will provide the student a full and fair opportunity to present evidence. The student may be assisted or represented by one or more individuals of the student’s choice, including an attorney. After the committee completes the proceeding and makes findings, it will render a written decision and forward it to the relevant parties for implementation.

Students dissatisfied with the results of a hearing may place an explanatory statement in the relevant education record commenting upon the information in dispute, and/or setting forth any reason for disagreement with the institutional decision not to correct or amend the record. Such a statement will become part of the student education record.

Inactivity of Student Education Records. After five years since the student has graduated or was last registered at the university, the university generally destroys student education records. Exceptions include but are not limited to the following: permanent records of academic performance, including supporting documents; such financial records as are necessary so long as there exists a financial obligation to the university; and disciplinary records that involve a permanent notation to the student’s record.