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.
The clinical program provides an intensive, closely supervised educational experience in which second-year and third-year students function as lawyers, taking full responsibility for litigated and transactional matters under the tutelage of faculty members.
The clinics are designed to provide for each student a laboratory within which to learn such lawyering skills 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. In addition, the clinics’ law offices are ideal environments in which to begin to understand the demands of professional responsibility, to grapple with the difficult emotional issues raised by those demands, and to explore the relationships among theory, doctrine, and practice.
The clinical method attempts to teach the student through individual supervision, simulations, classroom discussions, case rounds, and critiques of both actual lawyering performances and simulated exercises. By this process students gain an understanding of the criteria by which one judges success as a lawyer and a basis for evaluating one’s own work in the context of those criteria.
Clinics generally are oversubscribed. Admission to the clinics is based, among other things, on an application filed in the spring semester prior to the year the student seeks to participate in clinic. The clinical faculty take a variety of factors into account in making clinical selections. For more specific information about the selection process, consult the clinical program website. Application forms, as well as information on prerequisites, credits, and expenses, are available online. A meeting is held each spring to describe the clinical program to upper-level students. Second-year students are eligible for the Community and Economic Development Law Clinic, Disability Rights Law Clinic, Civil Advocacy Clinic, Intellectual Property Law Clinic, Immigrant Justice Clinic, and International Human Rights Law Clinic, while the other clinics are open only to third-year students due to the requirements of student practice rules, which authorize the supervised representation of clients by students.
The Externship Program
The law school’s Supervised 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.
This program enables a student to earn academic credit for directed research performed under a contract between the student and a member of the faculty upon approval of the dean.
Juris Doctor Degree Requirements
The degree of Juris Doctor (JD) is conferred upon students who satisfactorily complete no fewer than 86 semester hours, including all required courses, with a quality point index of 2.0 (C) or better, who are in residence at this law school for at least three full academic years or the equivalent, who have fulfilled the upper-level writing requirement and either the one-credit professional skills requirement (for students who matriculated before Fall 2016) or the six-credit experiential skills requirement (for students who matriculated in Fall 2016 and later), and who are recommended for the degree by the faculty. Credit hour requirements are normally met in six semesters (three academic years) of full-time study or in eight semesters (four academic years plus at least one summer session) of part-time study. Study for the JD degree must be completed in no more than eighty-four months.
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. A semester is a period of instruction of at least 70 class days, excluding reading and examination periods, or the equivalent. Academic credit is determined according to ABA Standard 310 and WCL’s implementing policy. See Determination of Credit for Coursework.
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.
General. The full-time and part-time programs of study leading to the juris doctor degree 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:
- Required courses that provide tools of critical analysis in basic areas of substance.
- A balance between courses or methods oriented toward the practical world of the profession and those oriented toward the world of inquiry and understanding.
- 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.
- 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.