The JD program is a full-time day curriculum requiring three academic years of study. All first-year students begin in the Fall Semester. Beginning with the Class of 2017, students must complete a total of 85 credits with a final weighted average of at least 2.3 (C+) to graduate. Continuing students in the Class of 2015 and the Class of 2016 must complete 84 credits. Students must complete the JD program in no more than five years, including any leaves of absence.
The entering class is divided into three sections of about 60-70 students, with students in each section taking all their classes together. First-year students are also assigned to at least one smaller class of approximately 30-35 students for one of their substantive classes (Torts, Contracts, Property, etc.). They also take a research & writing seminar, each with about 14 students.
The first year at BU Law forms the core of a legal education, conveying not only the basics of legal doctrines and rules, but also building the skills and confidence that allow students to frame, interpret, and apply those rules effectively. Required courses are:
- Civil Procedure
- Constitutional Law
- Property Law
- Criminal Law
- First-Year Legal Writing and Appellate Advocacy Program
The First-Year Legal Writing and Appellate Advocacy Program has two components. During the Fall Semester, all first-year students participate in a research & writing seminar, in which they learn to analyze complex legal questions, research the law, and develop professional legal writing skills. In the spring, first-year students put these skills into action by participating in the J. Newton Esdaile Appellate Moot Court Program, in which they conduct research, draft a brief, and present a case in oral argument before a panel of judges made up of faculty, lawyers, and students.
Students must pass all first-year courses and achieve an average of at least 2.0 for these courses.
The one-week intensive Lawyering Lab guides students to bring to bear legal concepts, core practice competencies, and practical judgment to address simulated client problems and achieve a client’s objectives within the bounds of the law—the essence of what clients hire attorneys to do. This is done through lectures to provide necessary background, but more importantly through interactive discussion and “hands-on” exercises—both in and outside of class—that require students to actually do what lawyers do in solving client problems and achieving their objectives. This includes (1) determining the client’s goals; (2) determining the legal constraints and opportunities that affect the client’s ability to get what it wants; (3) determining the relevant facts; (4) identifying multiple options for action; (5) assessing the various options to generate possible recommendations; (6) counseling the client; and (7) negotiating and drafting agreements.
Students work collaboratively to produce the kind of memos, analyses, and advice written by practicing lawyers. The deadlines for class assignments are tight, as they usually are for lawyers seeking to respond with immediacy to particular client problems. Through the expertise and guidance of the instructors, collaborative exercises with peers, and exposure to some of the day- to-day elements of lawyering, students in the Lawyering Lab learn about law and legal practice in a way that is exciting, innovative, and participant-centered. It is 1 credit, Pass/Fail. The Lawyering Lab is a required beginning with the Class of 2017.
Second- and Third-Year Requirements
After the first year, students must take at least 12 credits (but no more than 17 credits) each semester and at least 26 credits (but no more than 34 credits) each academic year. Second- and third-year students choose from a selection of more than 190 courses and seminars.
In addition, students must meet the following requirements after the first year:
- Professional Responsibility Requirement: Students can satisfy this requirement by taking a 3-credit course in Professional Responsibility; a qualifying seminar; or a specified clinical or externship program. For 2014/2015, the qualifying seminars are Effective & Ethical Depositions, Lawyering in the 21st Century, and Prosecutorial Ethics.
- Upper-Class Writing Requirement: During the second or third year, students must complete an intensive research & writing project under faculty supervision.
- Professional Skills Requirement: Students must take at least one course that offers substantial instruction in professional skills.
- Introduction to Business Fundamentals: Beginning with the Class of 2017, students must complete this self-paced online course, which provides foundational instruction in business, corporate finance, accounting, and related subjects.
A maximum of 16 non-graded credits may be applied to the JD. (Non-graded credits include: journal credits; study abroad credits; non-law graduate course credits applied for JD credit; credits for courses taken at other law schools; fieldwork components of externships and the semester-in-practice program.) Students must maintain a GPA of 2.0 in second-year courses and seminars and a cumulative GPA of 2.3 at the end of the second year. Students must earn a final average of at least 2.3 to graduate, and they may not fail more than 5 credits after the first year.
BU Law offers students the opportunity to graduate with a certificate that demonstrates their concentrated study in one of five fields:
- International Law
- Intellectual Property Law
- Health Law
- Litigation & Dispute Resolution
- Transactional Practice
By pursuing an optional concentration, students can engage in advanced, in-depth study with the leading scholars and practitioners in a specific field, without having to pursue an advanced degree. Typically, students begin a concentration in the second year, but they may formally declare a concentration any time in their three years of study. A faculty advisor who has specialized expertise in a given area of the law is assigned to each concentration to offer students advice throughout their course of study. Students in each concentration must do a substantial paper. The School of Law website provides information on the requirements for each concentration.
Clinical and Externship Programs
BU Law’s clinical and externship programs provide opportunities for second- and third-year students to apply classroom learning to real-life lawyering. By participating in a clinic or externship, students can gain experience in such areas as representing real clients in civil cases or the prosecution or defense of criminal cases, drafting legislation, serving as interns for judges or legislators, or working for a government, public sector, or public interest agency. Our clinical and externship programs include:
- Civil Litigation Program (Employment Rights Clinic; Housing, Employment, Family & Disability Clinic; Immigrants’ Rights Clinic)
- Criminal Clinical Program (Adult and Juvenile Defense; Prosecution)
- Externship Programs (Community Courts; Health Law; Judicial; Legal; Government Lawyering; Affordable Housing & Community Development)
- Legislative Programs (Africa i-Parliaments Clinic; American Legislative Practice)
- Wrongful Convictions Clinic
- Human Trafficking and Advanced Human Trafficking Clinics
- International Human Rights Clinic
The Semester-in-Practice Program provides an opportunity for students to spend a semester working full-time for credit at an externship placement. Placements may be local or outside of Boston. The program is designed for students who want an intensive hands-on experience, furthering specific and well-defined career and academic goals.
The Semester-in-Practice Program offers four options:
- Human Rights Externship in Geneva—Through the Human Rights Externship, students may spend a semester working in Geneva for a nongovernmental organization (NGO) committed to the protection of human rights.
- Government Lawyering in Washington, D.C.—Students in the Government Lawyering Externship may spend a semester working at a government office in Washington. Examples include opportunities with the staff of a congressional committee or subcommittee, in the legal office of an administrative agency, or with a federal board/commission.
- Death Penalty Externship—Students participating in the Death Penalty Externship may work at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Independent Proposal Externship—Students may develop their own proposal for a full-time externship.
Study Abroad Programs
BU Law offers 14 semester-abroad opportunities at top universities in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In addition, students can choose to spend their entire third year at one of three partner schools, pursuing an international dual degree program:
- JD/LLM in European Law at the University of Paris (Paris II)
- JD/LLM in International & European Business Law at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas (ICADE) in Madrid, Spain
- JD/LLM in Asian Legal Studies at the National University of Singapore
Visit the Study Abroad page for a complete list of foreign-study opportunities.
In addition to our international dual degree opportunities, students can pursue a dual degree by combining law study with another BU graduate program. These dual degree opportunities enable students to earn both a JD and a master’s degree in less time than it would take if the degrees were pursued independently. Students can also pursue a combined JD/LLM degree in either tax or banking and financial law on an accelerated seven-semester basis. Visit the Programs page for a complete list of dual degree opportunities.
Pro Bono Program
BU Law’s voluntary Pro Bono Program gives formal recognition to students who provide meaningful law-related service to persons of limited means, to organizations that serve such persons, or to other organizations dedicated to underrepresented groups and/or social issues. Participating students make a pledge to perform a minimum of 35 hours of pro bono work during their three years in law school. Upon completion of the pledged pro bono hours, students receive a notation on their law school transcripts attesting to their participation in the program and stating the number of hours volunteered.