2023-2024 WCL Catalog 
    Jul 21, 2024  
2023-2024 WCL Catalog

Juris Doctor, JD

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This academic program stresses the traditional rigor of the Socratic method and the development of critical analysis skills. After the required first-year curriculum, in the second and third years the student elects a course of study best suited to individual needs and interests, culminating in advanced courses, seminars, independent research, clinical programs, and fieldwork in private and government institutions in the Washington area.

Admission to the Program

Those applying as a first-year entering student must have earned a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. accredited college/university or its foreign equivalent. Applicants must have taken the LSAT or GRE within the past five years, need to submit an application through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), and submit all their undergraduate transcripts through LSAC’s Candidate Assembly Service (CAS). Additionally, applicants who attended college or university outside the U.S., its territories, or Canada must have their international transcripts authenticated and evaluated through the CAS service. Applicants submitting a GRE score must provide an official GRE score report from ETS to AU including all scores from the past five years. Applicants whose native language is not English and whose undergraduate coursework was not conducted in English are required to take the TOEFL exam and submit their score through LSAC’s CAS.  For further details on the admissions requirements and deadlines please visit https://www.wcl.american.edu/school/admissions/jd/apply/first-year/.

Juris Doctor Degree Requirements

  • Satisfactorily complete no fewer than 86 credit hours, including all required courses, with a quality point index of 2.0 (C) or better. Credits earned during the summer term are applicable to the degree requirements.
  • Fulfill the Upper Level Writing Requirement (ULWR).
    • As a requirement for graduation from the WCL, all students must satisfy the Upper Level Writing Requirement (ULWR) after completing the first year of study. The ULWR ensures that prior to graduation, a student shall have demonstrated competency in legal writing and research by writing, under faculty supervision, a product that is single authored, original, well written, analytical, and properly supported by citation.

      The ULWR is fulfilled by writing a document or series of documents of at least 7,000 words, excluding footnotes. The document must be written in connection with a law school activity of at least two credit hours, and supervised by a faculty member who has approved the writing project in advance and approves the final product. This written work also must demonstrate proficiency in writing and analysis; incorporate adequate original research; and the student must earn a grade of B or better or, if satisfied through an option that does not provide grades, such as a law journal, be eligible for a grade of B or better for the course or academic activity with which the work is associated. Additional information is available from the Office of the Registrar.

    • The Upper Level Writing Requirement must be satisfied at WCL, regardless of whether a transfer student satisfied the requirement at a prior institution.

  • Satisfactorily complete six credits of approved experiential skills.
    • To receive the JD, all students must successfully complete one or more experiential course(s) totaling at least six credit hours that includes substantial instruction in professional skills generally regarded as necessary for effective and responsible participation in the legal profession. Substantial instruction in professional skills must engage each student in skills performances that are assessed by the instructor. This class is taken in addition to required courses with instruction in substantive law, legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem solving, oral communication, writing in a legal context, and professional responsibility. Those who have questions about whether or not a particular course, or their performance in that course, satisfies the requirement should check with the Registrar.

      A student may satisfy this requirement through successful completion of classes that include instruction in such professional skills as trial and appellate advocacy, alternative methods of dispute resolution, reflective judgment, counseling, interviewing, negotiating, problem solving, factual investigation, organization, or management. The requirement may be satisfied through a course for the entire group of students enrolled in the class or it may be satisfied individually. Additional information is available on the Office of the Registrar’s website. 

    • In calculating the satisfaction of experiential skills credits, the Office of the Registrar will allow up to three experiential skills credits that a student successfully completed at a transfer student’s prior law school, if the student provides evidence that the credits satisfied the experiential skills credits at that school. Forms of evidence include: (a) certification on the student’s prior law school transcript; or (b) correspondence from an official of the prior institution certifying the name of the course, a description of the course, the grade earned by the student, and the number of experiential skills credits successfully completed.

  • Remain in residence at this law school for at least three full academic years or the equivalent.
    • Credit hour requirements are normally met in six semesters (three academic years) of full-time study (12 or more credits) or in eight semesters (four academic years plus at least one summer session) of part-time study (eight or more credits). Degree requirements make it mandatory that resident semesters be taken at the law school unless waived by the Registrar on the basis of extraordinary, compelling personal circumstances.
  • Study for the JD degree must be completed in no more than 84 months.
  • A maximum of 12 non-classroom credits may be applied toward the 86 credits required for the JD degree. Such credits include but are not limited to those in field components, law journals and reviews, externship fieldwork, non-law classes, independent studies, moot court, and mock trial.
  • All students must be recommended by the faculty for graduation.


The full-time and part-time programs of study leading to the JD are the same, each having basic requirements and differing only in the time and sequence of scheduled courses and seminars. While the law faculty is always engaged in program evaluation and change, there are underlying features that remain constant in the legal education offered:

  1. Required courses that provide tools of critical analysis in basic areas of substance.
  2. A balance between courses or methods oriented toward the practical world of the profession and those oriented toward the world of inquiry and understanding.
  3. A variety of learning processes, including the traditional classroom, the small seminar, independent work, research seminars, clinical or special activities under professional supervision, externships, and practicums.
  4. The relevance of other disciplines or professions in the legal process, when needed.

The required curriculum for the full-time and part-time programs must be completed in the semesters noted below, except that Legal Ethics (LAW-550) and/or Criminal Procedure I (LAW-508) may be taken in the summer semester following completion of the first year.

Full-Time Program Required Courses

(32 credits of required coursework)

First Year

Second Year

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

Part-Time Program Required Courses

(32 hours of required coursework)

First Year

Second Year

Spring Semester

Electives and Upper Level Courses

  • Complete 48 credits of approved coursework designated as LAW-600 and higher

Experiential Skills

  • 6 credits of approved coursework

Clinical Program

The WCL Clinical Program provides an intensive, closely supervised educational experience in which second-year and third-year students function as lawyers, taking full responsibility for litigation, administrative, transactional, and policy matters under the tutelage of faculty members. Participation in WCL’s Clinical Program is a truly unique opportunity, as the program has been nationally ranked for more than 25 years. Each academic year, more than 200 second- and third-year law students participate in clinic for either a semester or an entire academic year.

The Clinical Program consists of 10 distinct in-house clinics. The current in-house offerings are as follows:

  • Civil Advocacy Clinic
  • Community Economic and Equity Development Law Clinic
  • Criminal Justice Clinic (Defense and Prosecution)
  • Entrepreneurship Law Clinic
  • Disability Rights Law Clinic
  • Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic
  • Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic
  • Immigrant Justice Clinic
  • International Human Rights Law Clinic
  • Re-Entry Clinic
  • Rising for Justice
  • Gender Justice Clinic

More information about the clinics can be found at www.wcl.american.edu/academics/experientialedu/clinical/theclinics/

Each clinic is designed to provide students a laboratory within which to learn and practice core lawyering skills such as client interviewing and counseling, factual development, case theory development, case preparation, witness preparation, the proof of facts, the application of the rules of evidence, oral argument, strategic planning, drafting of litigation and transactional documents, and negotiation. Clinic students also develop competence in the increasingly important realms of legislative and policy advocacy, community organizing, and working with the media. The clinical experience is an invaluable bridge into law practice, as it allows students to understand the demands of professional responsibility, to grapple with the difficult interpersonal issues raised by those demands, and to explore the intersections among theory, doctrine, and practice.

The clinical method includes individual supervision, simulations, classroom discussions, and case rounds. At the core of the clinic experience is representation, by students, of actual individual and organizational clients across a broad range of issue areas. Through this experience, students gain first hand knowledge of the work of a lawyer, an understanding of the criteria by which one judges success, and a basis for evaluating one’s own work in the future.

Students who wish to join a clinic must submit an application in the spring semester prior to the year the student seeks to participate in clinic. A meeting is held each spring to describe the Clinical Program and the application process. The clinical faculty take a variety of factors into account in making clinical selections. Application forms, as well as information on prerequisites, credits, and expenses, are available online: www.wcl.american.edu/academics/experientialedu/clinical/applying-to-clinic/.

Externship Program

The law school’s Externship Program allows students to learn about the legal profession through law related fieldwork and, at the same time, to develop their reflective learning skills under close faculty supervision. Students are placed in government agencies and nonprofit organizations, where they work under the supervision of a practicing attorney. In tandem with the field placement, students meet weekly in a seminar led by a faculty member. The seminar draws on the placement work and assists students in reflecting on the work of the lawyer and on their own professional goals. Students also meet frequently in small groups or individually with the faculty member to discuss the progress of the externship. In some cases, students may participate in independent tutorial externships, which must be arranged with and supervised by a faculty sponsor.

Independent Study

This program enables a student to earn academic credit for directed research performed under a contract between the student and a faculty member upon approval of an academic advisor. Credits are earned based on the number of words submitted and hours of work logged. Students are required to submit a contract signed by all parties to the Office of the Registrar for subsequent enrollment in LAW 799  . JD students enrolled in an independent study in order to meet the ULWR must enroll in a minimum of two (2) credits. The complete independent study policy and registration process is available through the Office of the Registrar.

Credits Number of Words Number of Hours
1 3,500 42.5
2 7,000 85
3 10,500 127.5
4+ 3,500 additional words per credit hour 170+


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