Requirements and Overview of J.D. Program

The course of study leading to the Juris Doctor degree is designed to be completed in six semesters of study or their equivalent, in residence at an accredited law school. To receive credit for a semester in residence, The American Bar Association Standards provide that students must be registered for a schedule of no fewer than ten class hours per week. The College of Law Rules and By-Laws require that students enroll in the prescribed first-year curriculum of fifteen units per semester and a minimum of thirteen units per semester during the second and third years of law school. After consultation with the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, single parents or students with extraordinary circumstances may take a reduced load each semester of their first year.


To meet graduation requirements, a student must successfully complete at least 88 units of law study, including all required courses, with a cumulative grade point average of at least a 2.00 (C). Of the total 88 units required for graduation, 37 of a student's upper division units must be graded. The traditional three year course of study may be accelerated by summer study, but in no event may a student complete the course of study in fewer than two and a half academic years and one or more summer sessions whose units must total the equivalent of one full academic period in residence (minimum 10 units) to qualify a student for early graduation.


In addition to the required first-year curriculum, each student must satisfactorily complete courses in Professional Responsibility (Legal Profession), Evidence, professional skills, and a seminar in advanced research and writing (often referred to as the "substantial paper requirement").   Members of the Arizona Law Review and the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law may satisfy the substantial paper requirement by writing a note of publishable quality under the supervision of a faculty member and otherwise completing the requirements of the Law Review or Journal for the award of four units of academic credit.


Small Section Program

The heart of a student’s first year at the College of Law is the small section program. In the first semester of the first year, each student is assigned to a Small Section (approximately 30 students), typically in one of three substantive first-year courses: Contracts, Torts or Civil Procedure.  The Small Section serves as an academic and personal hub during the first year. In addition to sharing the experience of a small class setting with fellow small section students, students in each small section usually share the same class schedule . Other classes during the first semester are formed by combining two or more small sections.


The benefits of the small section include the opportunity to develop a community with a group of fellow students and the small section faculty member. In turn, the benefits of the interactions in the small section carry over to the larger first year classes as well. Friendships are often forged among students in a small section that flourish long after graduation from law school. Interactions with one’s small section professor also often extend beyond the first semester of law school because of the shared academic experience and individualized attention that are an integral part of the small section experience.


Core Curriculum

The College of Law faculty strongly recommends that each student take a number of elective and required courses in the second and third year, designated as the Core Curriculum. The Core Curriculum recommendations are intended to provide students explicit guidance for planning their studies in preparation for the practice of law in any of a wide variety of areas. The core curriculum continues the fundamental grounding in basic legal principles, theories, and areas that should provide the foundation for practice in any area of specialization, giving the graduating law student and new lawyer a breadth of perspective from which to develop more specialized areas of expertise.


Related to the Core Curriculum and the College’s emphasis on a broad, general legal education, is the conviction that the College of Law is preparing lawyers for lifelong learning. The College strives to introduce students to ways of thinking, approaching problems, researching, and formulating ideas that will be effective in any legal context. The content of laws changes, as do the fields that any given lawyer may work in over the course of a legal career. But the skills of analysis, writing, thinking, communicating, and research, which are important to a lawyer throughout any legal career, are developed and nurtured at the College of Law.


Upper Level Electives

Many students arrive at the College of Law with little idea of the broad range of possibilities and fields open to the practicing lawyer, and even less idea of what particular area or areas he or she might wish to pursue. Others, however, arrive at the College with very specific ideas about their career goals and aspirations. While for some, these aspirations change or develop, for others, the focus they bring to their first day of law school is unwavering. For interested students, there are opportunities to emphasize certain areas of law in the electives available to all students during their second and third years. For those students interested, the College offers ample opportunity to explore a broad spectrum of topics.

There are a number of areas of study, some of which tie uniquely to our area of the country and continent, which offer students the opportunity for in-depth study and exploration. A number of areas of possible emphasis or concentration that individual students may choose to pursue are outlined under Certificate Programs and Concentrations. 



The Legal Process, Analysis and Writing course, which spans the entire first year, the upper level course in Advanced Legal Writing and Appellate Advocacy (formerly called Persuasive Communication), and the  substantial paper seminars provide substantial practice in legal writing.  Students may further refine their writing skills by participating in the second year Fegtly Moot Court Competition, and by enrolling in any of a variety of courses requiring significant writing. Finally, membership on the Arizona Law Review , the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, or the Arizona Journal for Environmental Law and Policy offer additional research and writing opportunities.


Clinical Programs

Clinical programs offer students the opportunity for practical experiences in law under the guidance and supervision of law faculty and practicing lawyers. Clinical legal education is an integral part of the experience for over 80 percent of our students. Through the clinical programs, students engage in real-life experiences working with clients, attorneys, and judges. The clinical programs allow second and third-year students to participate in such activities as drafting opinions for judges, representing clients in court, conducting in-take interviews, and negotiating cases.


 The College of Law currently operates in-house legal clinics in Child and Family Law, Immigration Law, Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy, and Civil Rights Restoration.  Additionally, the College offers four placement clinics:  Prosecution, Criminal Defense, the Mortgage Clinic, and the Attorney General's Clinic, as well as additional externships with other public agencies and judges.


Throughout our clinical programs, students are able not only to develop the skills of effective legal practice, but also to step back and reflect upon the philosophical and moral assumptions underlying legal practice. Students participating in any clinical program meet weekly in the classroom to observe and practice lawyering skills, to discuss issues raised in the field, and to analyze their "law practice” experiences.


Litigation and Trial Advocacy Program

The College of Law’s outstanding Litigation and Trial Advocacy Program was developed and is directed by Professor Thomas Mauet, a national leader in trial advocacy. The program has multiple sections of three courses, all based on the simulation method, in which students in restricted-enrollment classes act as lawyers litigating and trying cases against each other.

The Basic Trial Advocacy course focuses on fundamental trial skills, such as direct and cross examination, introduction of exhibits, impeachment of witnesses, opening statements, and closing arguments. Each class section is limited to sixteen students. Several sections of this basic course are offered each semester. The Pretrial Litigation course focuses on civil litigation, including the initial client interview, fact gathering, legal research, pleadings, discovery, motions, and settlement. Class sections, limited to sixteen students, act as law firms litigating civil cases against each other. Finally, the Advanced Trial Advocacy course focuses on jury trials. Each student tries four cases, acting as the plaintiff’s and defendant’s lawyer in civil and criminal cases.


Course Load Requirements

The study of law requires substantially all of a student’s time and energy. Students must spend a great deal of time outside of class, in out-of-class preparation, writing, and research. Many students find that engaging in some of the student professional activities serves as valuable preparation for becoming contributing members of the bar. In addition, the friendships developed during law school provide intellectual and personal growth and serve as the foundation for life-long social and professional relationships.


The Faculty believes that part-time legal education lacks the depth required for adequate professional training. During the first year, it is essential that students devote themselves to their studies and not engage in outside work. During the second and third years, students may choose to work on a part-time basis; however, the classroom educational experience and the preparation necessitated by the rigors of law coursework demand that academic work take primary importance in a student’s pursuits. Finally, the American Bar Association Standards for Accreditation of Law Schools require that full-time students not be employed more than twenty hours weekly (whether inside or outside the law school).



Several internships are currently available to law students. Over the past several years, various congressional internships have provided an opportunity for one second- or third-year student each semester and summer to work with the legislator’s staff in Washington. In addition, the College participates in the Arizona Legislative Internship Program, which enables selected students to spend the Spring semester working at the Arizona Legislature in Phoenix. The College also offers internships with the Navajo, Tohono O’odham, White Mountain Apache and Pascua Yaqui tribal governments, through which students interested in Indian Law may undertake clerkships.


Courses Outside the Law College

A student who has completed the first year of law studies and who has a 2.75 cumulative grade point average may, with the approval of the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, take a maximum of 6 units of graduate work in other colleges of the University. The courses so elected must be relevant to law study. Although law school credit will be awarded for courses in which a grade of C or higher has been received, the grades received will not be included in the student’s law school cumulative grade point average.


A law student may enroll in one course offered outside the Law College without meeting the requirements above if the course has been approved as a cross-listed course.To enroll in any additional courses offered outside the Law College, including cross-listed courses, the student must satisfy the above requirements.  Grades earned in cross-listed courses shall appear on the student’s Law College transcript and shall be included in the student’s cumulative grade point average at the Law College, provided that the student enrolls under the Law College listing for the course.


A student may receive a maximum of 9 units of credit towards his or her J.D. degree for courses taken under this section.


Updated: 09/01/2011