JD Program

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Possess knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law;
  • Possess the ability to perform:
    • Legal analysis and reasoning
    • Legal research
    • Problem-solving
    • Written communication in the legal context
    • Oral communication in the legal context;
  • Understand the exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system; and
  • Demonstrate the professional skills of collaboration, counseling, and negotiation needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession. All students will also demonstrate a basic understanding of business fundamentals and be able to read and understand basic financial documents.

Degree Requirements

The JD program is a full-time day curriculum requiring three academic years of study. All first-year students begin in the fall semester. Students must complete a total of 85 credits with a final weighted average of at least 2.3 (C+) to graduate. Students must complete the JD program in no more than five years, including any leaves of absence.

First-Year Requirements

The entering class is divided into sections of students, with individuals in each section taking all their classes together. First-year students are also assigned to at least one smaller class for one of their substantive classes (Torts, Contracts, Property, etc.). They also take a legal research and writing seminar, each with about 20 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
  • Lawyering Program (Legal Writing & Research and Moot Court)
  • Property Law
  • Contracts
  • Torts
  • Criminal Law

First-Year Lawyering Program

The First-Year Lawyering Program has three components. First, all first-year students focus on objective writing, in which they learn to analyze complex legal questions, research the law, and develop professional legal writing skills in an objective context. These skills are reinforced through the research and writing of objective documents, such as objective memoranda or other objective analyses.

Second, first-year students are introduced to oral and written advocacy, 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 and students.

Finally, students focus on transactional skills. Students are introduced to transactional concepts such as client counseling and negotiations, through interactive discussion and “hands-on” exercises—both in and outside of class—that require students to 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 they want; (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. Throughout the year, students participate in lawyering skills simulation exercises to build their skills for legal practice.

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.
  • Upper-Class Writing Requirement: During the second or third year, students must complete an intensive research & writing project under faculty supervision.
  • Experiential Course Requirement: Students must take at least 6 credits in experiential education through courses that offer substantial instruction in professional skills.
  • Introduction to Business Fundamentals: Students must complete this self-paced online course, which provides foundational instruction in business, corporate finance, accounting, and related subjects.

Seventeen (17) non-graded credits may be applied to the JD, unless the Academic Standards Committee grants a petition to increase the number to the maximum of 21. (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 seven fields:

  • International Law
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • Health Law
  • Litigation & Dispute Resolution
  • Transactional Practice
  • Risk Management & Compliance
  • Public Interest Law

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 (Individual Rights Litigation Clinic; Access to Justice Clinic; Employment Rights Clinic)
  • Compassionate Release Practicum
  • Consumer Debt Practicum
  • Criminal Law Clinical Program (Adult and Juvenile Defense; Prosecution)
  • Entrepreneurship, Intellectual Property & Cyberlaw Program (Startup Law Clinic, Technology Law Clinic)
  • Environmental Law Practicum
  • Externship Programs (Cannabis Law; Compliance Policy; Corporate Counsel; Criminal System: Theory & Practice; Health Law; Judicial; Legal; Legislative; Small & Midsize Firm; State and Local Taxation; Independent Proposal)
  • Health Justice Practicum
  • Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program
  • International Human Rights Clinic—Fieldwork, Skills I, and Human Rights Advocacy
  • Legislative Policy & Drafting Clinic
  • Sex Crimes Practicum
  • Startup Law Clinic
  • Technology Law Clinic—Fieldwork and Seminars
  • Wrongful Convictions Clinic

Semester-in-Practice Program

The Semester-in-Practice Program provides an opportunity for students to spend a semester gaining legal experience full-time for credit at an externship placement. Placements may be local, in another state, or in another country. The program is designed for students who want an intensive hands-on experience, furthering specific and well-defined career and academic goals.

Students work with the Director of Externship Programs to find a placement that meets their academic and career goals. In addition to the full-time legal externship placement (10 credits), students enroll in a 2-credit Semester-in-Practice seminar that meets weekly.

Some recent placements include: Committee for Public Counsel Services; First Circuit, US Court of Appeals; Greater Boston Legal Services; International Legal Foundation; Movement Law Lab; National Public Radio; UN International Maritime Office; US Senate Committee on Investigations; and US State Department.

Study Abroad Programs

BU Law offers 15 single-semester abroad opportunities at top universities in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In addition, students can choose to pursue an international dual degree program through one of five partner universities:

  • JD/LLM in European Law at the Université Panthéon-Assas in Paris, France (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
  • JD/LLM in Chinese Law at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China
  • JD/LLM in Finance at the Institute for Law and Finance in Frankfurt, Germany

Visit the Study Abroad page for a complete list of foreign-study opportunities.

Dual Degrees

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 & 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. (LLM students complete a minimum of 12 hours of pro bono work during their year at BU Law.) 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.