- The degree of Juris Doctor (J.D.) is conferred, on recommendation of the Law Faculty, upon students admitted as candidates for the degree who successfully complete a minimum of 85 semester credit hours of work in six semesters and otherwise comply with the rules and requirements set forth below.
- A student, in order to graduate, must complete 56-57 required credits and 28-29 elective credits comprised of the following:
- First Year Required Courses (31 credits):
- LAW 109 - Civil Procedure (Fall, 4 credits)
- LAW 130 - Constitutional Law (Spring, 4 credits)
- LAW 140 - Contracts (Fall, 4 credits)
- LAW 150 - Criminal Law (Spring, 3 credits)
- LAW 163 - Legal Research (Fall and Spring, .5 credits per semester)
- LAW 165 - Legal Writing I (Fall, 2 credits)
- LAW 166 - Legal Writing II (Spring, 2 credits)
- LAW 179 - Property (Spring, 4 credits)
- LAW 190 - Torts (Fall, 4 credits)
- LAW 195 - Transnational Law (Spring, 3 credits)
- Second Year Required Courses:
- LAW 285 - Evidence (Fall, 3 credits)
- LAW 390 - Professional Responsibility (Spring, 3 credits)
- Second-year writing requirement (1-2 credits): Must satisfy the writing requirement in your second-year (Fall or Spring) by completing a research and writing project under the direct supervision of a member of the Faculty or a Dean. Satisfactory completion of the requirement will be demonstrated by certification from the instructor who supervises the project. To satisfy the requirement a writing project must require thorough legal research, a substantial piece of legal writing, and rewriting in response to criticism from the supervising instructor. The requirement may be satisfied by an Independent Research Project or a law journal note if the above standards are met. The requirement may also be met by satisfactory completion of a paper meeting the above standards and submitted as part of the regular work in designated courses or seminars. For additional information about this requirement and a list of courses that may satisfy this requirement in 2021-2022, please visit the writing requirement webpage.
- Third Year Required Course:
- LAW 407 - Skills Immersion (Fall, 2 credits).
- Experiential Credits (Second and Third Year):
- Must complete at least 16 required experiential credits taken during second and third years. Courses that count towards experiential credits are: Practicums, Clinics, and Externships.
- Externship courses have two components: field placement and seminar - credits for both components will count toward this requirement.
- Actual Practice - at least one experiential course must be an “actual practice” course. Actual practice courses are: all clinics, all externships, and the following practicums:
- LAW 307P - Global Corruption and Good Governance Practicum
- LAW 477P - Global Corruption Law Practicum
- LAW 330P - International Human Rights Practicum
- LAW 433P - Trusts and Estates Practicum
- LAW 365P - Mergers & Acquisitions Actual Practice Practicum
- Electives (Second and Third Year):
- 28-29 additional credits taken during second and third year to accumulate a total of 85 credits by the end of your third year. Students may use any elective, seminar, practicum, externship, clinic, journal, or any non-required course to satisfy the elective credit requirement.
- Students must maintain residency for six semesters unless they transfer in with advanced standing, in which case they must maintain residency for four semesters. To meet the residency requirement students are required to enroll in a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester. Ungraded credit listed in paragraph 10 does not count towards the 12-credit minimum. A student must receive a passing grade in at least nine credits per semester.
- First-year courses and all other required courses may not be dropped. Second- or third-year courses other than externships and clinical courses may be added or dropped at the option of the student (subject to limitations on class size and other limitations announced by the instructor) during the first five days the semester. Thereafter, such courses may be added or dropped only with the consent of the instructor. Under no circumstances may such a course be added after the tenth day of the semester or dropped after the first regularly scheduled time for taking the final examination in that course. (Non-exam courses must be dropped before exams begin.)
- A letter grading system is used. The grades are A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, and F. Their weights are 4.0, 3.67, 3.33, 3.0, 2.67, 2.33, 2.0, 1.67, 1.33, 1.0, 0.67, and 0.0 respectively. Other grades include P (Pass), H (Honors), LP (Low Pass), NP (Not Passing), I (Incomplete), CR (Credit), or WIP (Work-in-Progress). In ungraded (credit only) courses, the supervising faculty member may enter a grade of I or F in appropriate circumstances.
- A mandatory mean grade applies in every course, including first‐year and upper‐class courses, and including seminars, clinics, externships, practicum courses, and all other graded activities with the exception of (1) independent research, for which the only grades are “pass” or “not passing,” and (2) the two‐week skills immersion courses, for which the only grades are “honors,” “pass,” “low pass,” or “not passing,” with no more than 20% of the grades being “honors.”
- The mandatory mean grade is 3.30, plus or minus 0.05, except in courses in which more than half the grade depends on work product other than an exam, for which the mandatory mean grade is 3.50, plus or minus 0.05. This exception does not apply to first‐year courses, including Legal Writing and Legal Research, for which the mean is the generally applicable mean of 3.30, plus or minus 0.05. If a course offers students the option of taking an exam or writing a paper, the course is treated as an exam course, and the mandatory mean is 3.30, plus or minus 0.05. For all courses in all three years, regardless of enrollment, the grade of F shall be excluded from the mandatory mean calculation.
- Except for first-year courses, additional flexibility is allowed in smaller enrollment courses:
- Courses in which more than half of the grade depends upon an exam
- over 30 students +/- 0.05 3.30 (3.35 - 3.25)
- 21-30 students +/- 0.1 3.30 (3.40 - 3.20)
- 20 or fewer students +/- 0.2 3.30 (3.50 - 3.10)
- Courses in which more than half of the grade depends on work product other than an exam
- (e.g., seminars/simulation/clinics/practicums/externships)
- over 30 students +/- 0.05 3.50 (3.55 - 3.45)
- 21-30 students +/- 0.1 3.50 (3.60 - 3.40)
- 20 or fewer students +/- 0.2 3.50 (3.70 - 3.30)
- A student’s cumulative average is computed by averaging the grades received in all courses taken, on the basis of the number of credit hours accorded to each course.
- A course in which a grade of F is received shall not be counted toward the total of 85 semester hours required for graduation; such course, however, shall be counted in computing the student’s cumulative average whether or not the student repeats the course.
- Every student is expected to maintain satisfactory academic performance throughout the terms of residence.
- Beginning with a student’s second semester, a student who fails to attain a cumulative average of 2.33 at the end of any semester is ineligible to continue in the School of Law.
- A student who fails to attain a cumulative average of 2.33 at the end of the sixth semester is ineligible to receive a degree.
- A student who during any of the first five semesters of law school receives two D+ or lower grades in one semester is automatically placed on academic suspension for the following semester. If a student leaves school for one semester, readmission requires compliance with existing reinstatement procedures.
- A minimum grade of D in each required course is necessary for graduation. A student receiving a grade of D- or F in a required course, who is otherwise eligible to continue in the School of Law, must retake the course. No course may be retaken if a passing grade was previously received (D or higher for a required course, D- or higher for an elective).
- Credit toward a degree can be earned by participating in the following activities:
- Inter-school competitions. A student may earn only one credit in each of the following categories, for a maximum of four credits for inter-school competitions in their academic career:
- A student may earn one credit hour by participating in an inter-school appellate advocacy competition approved by the Moot Court Board Faculty Advisor. No more than four appellate advocacy competitions may be approved in any academic year.
- A student may earn one credit hour by participating in an inter-school mock trial competition approved by the Moot Court Board Faculty Advisor. No more than two mock trial competitions may be approved in any academic year.
- A student may earn one credit hour by participating in an inter-school negotiation competition approved by the Moot Court Board Faculty Advisor. No more than two negotiation competitions may be approved in any academic year.
- A student may earn one credit hour by participating in an inter-school client counseling competition approved by the Moot Court Board Faculty Advisor. No more than one client counseling competition may be approved in any academic year.
- A student may earn one credit hour by participating in an inter-school mediation competition approved by the Moot Court Board Faculty Advisor. No more than one mediation competition may be approved in any academic year.
- A student may earn one credit hour by participating in an inter-school arbitration competition approved by the Moot Court Board Faculty Advisor. No more than one arbitration competition may be approved in any academic year.
- A student may earn credit for participation on the Moot Court Board, one credit per semester for the Chair and Vice Chairs, and one credit for members of the “Lower Board” (those in charge of particular intramural competitions) in the semester of the relevant competition.
- Law Review: up to six credit hours may be earned by participating in this activity. (Second-year students may receive two ungraded credits per semester. Third-year students may receive one ungraded credit per semester.)
- Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice: up to four credit hours may be earned by participating in this activity. (One ungraded credit per semester.)
- German Law Journal. Students who have successfully completed the German Law in Context Seminar are thereafter eligible to serve as student editors of the German Law Journal. Maximum of two ungraded credits.(Third year students only) (One ungraded credit per semester.)
- Summer Internship Program: credit may be earned by participation in an approved unpaid internship program. (Maximum of two ungraded credits, one per summer).
- Rules for ungraded credits listed in this paragraph:
- No more than five hours of credit for activities described in this paragraph may be earned toward the required 85 credits for graduation. Law Review is an exception: a student participating in Law Review may earn up to 6 credits toward the 85 required for graduation.
- Activities listed in this paragraph cannot be used towards the 12-credit residency requirement, see paragraph 3 above.
- Allocation and granting of credit for participation in each of the activities described in this paragraph shall be determined by the faculty advisor.
- The faculty advisor of any activity listed in this paragraph may assign a grade of F to any student who fails to perform satisfactorily. In the alternative, the faculty advisor may enter a grade of “I” or may require or permit the student to drop the activity.
- Additional information about these activities can be found on the Programs for Academic Credit page.
- Academic Success Requirements
After 1L Spring Semester: Students in approximately the bottom 10% of their class at the end of their 1L year will be, during their 2L fall semester, (a) required to participate in Legal Method, a course normally to be taught by the professor supervising the Academic Support Program; and (b) required to take one bar exam course from the list below.
- After 2L Fall Semester: Students in the bottom 20% of their class after their third semester will be required to take one bar exam course during their 2L spring semester.
- After 2L Spring Semester: Students in the bottom 20% of their class after their fourth semester will be required to take (1) one bar exam course during their 3L fall semester; and (2) Core Skills and Concepts during their 3L spring semester.
- After 3L Fall Semester: Students in the bottom 20% of their class after their fifth semester will be required to take Core Skills and Concepts during their 3L spring semester.
- Bar Exam Courses:
- LAW 216 - Business Associations
- LAW 225 - Conflict of Laws
- LAW 148 - Core Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) Concepts
- LAW 233 - Criminal Procedure - Investigation
- LAW 266 - Decedents’ Estates and Trusts
- LAW 289 - Family Law
- LAW 293 - Federal Income Taxation of Individuals
- LAW 405 - Remedies
- LAW 413 - Sales
- LAW 414 - Secured Transactions
- Any elective course (but no required course, clinic, externship, or practicum) may be taken on a pass/no pass basis unless the instructor, before the beginning of the semester in which the course is offered, denies students this option. A grade of “C” or higher shall be recorded as “P” (Pass). A grade of “C-” or lower shall be recorded as “NP” (Not Passing) unless the student promptly files in the Law Registrar Office an election to accept the letter grade. Neither a grade of “P” nor a grade of “NP” shall affect the student’s cumulative grade-point average. Any semester credits for which a grade of NP is recorded shall not be included in the total semester credits the student has completed toward the minimum 85 required for graduation. If a student who has received a grade of “C-” or lower elects to accept the letter grade, it shall be treated as a grade in a graded course for all purposes. Students may complete the pass/no pass election form located online.
- Rules for pass/no pass election:
- First-year students may not elect to take any of their courses pass/no pass.
- In order to declare an elective pass/no pass, a second-year student must have at least twelve (12) graded credits remaining on their schedule for the semester - not including the pass/no pass course or any ungraded credits described above in paragraph 10.
- In order to declare an elective pass/no pass in the third year a student must have at least six (6) graded credits remaining on their schedule for the semester - not including the pass/no pass course or any ungraded credits described above in paragraph 10.
- Independent Research projects or Tutorials must be approved by the Law Faculty’s Independent Research Committee no later than the tenth day of the semester in which the project is to be completed. Externship and clinical courses may be dropped under extraordinary circumstances only and only with the consent of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
- A grade of I (Incomplete) must be changed to a letter grade no later than the end of the grading period for the semester following the semester in which the I is awarded. Otherwise, the I becomes a permanent grade. A grade received by the change of an incomplete in conformity with this requirement shall be treated for the purposes of any other degree requirement as having been received in the semester in which the I was received.
- A student who wishes to petition the Law Faculty to waive any of these regulations because of special circumstances or hardship shall deliver to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs a petition setting forth such special circumstances or hardship.
- A student’s petition to take all or part of the third year at another ABA-approved law school will be granted only when such action is necessary for a student to deal with compelling circumstances that demand his or her presence near such other school.
- The degree of Juris Doctor summa cum laude, magna cum laude, or cum laude is conferred, on recommendation of the Law Faculty, upon students who complete their course of law study with the appropriate academic distinction.
In accordance with the accreditation standards of the American Bar Association, the School of Law requires prompt and regular class attendance. The School of Law also expects its students to prepare for their classes diligently and to complete course assignments in a timely and professional manner. A professor has the authority to reduce a student’s grade for poor attendance, lack of preparation, or failure to complete course assignments on time. In extreme or chronic cases of poor attendance, lack of preparation, or failure to complete course assignments on time, a professor has the authority to give the student a failing grade or to deny the student the right to sit for the final exam. In the case of a student’s failure to satisfy attendance and other obligations in multiple courses, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, after consultation with the Dean, may impose other sanctions, including withdrawal from a course or courses or withdrawal from school.
Washington and Lee University values diverse religious perspectives and beliefs. Our students celebrate and value a variety of religious traditions. We are committed to supporting our students in observing their religious holidays, while also maintaining their commitment to their academic efforts. The catalog states the following university policy:
Any student who is unable, because of his or her religious holiday(s), to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study, athletic, or work requirement on a particular day shall be provided an opportunity to satisfy the requirement in a timely manner or shall be excused from the requirement. Specifically,
- Undergraduate students should reach out to their faculty member, adviser, supervisor, or coach, within the first two weeks of class in fall or winter term, two days in spring term, and again prior to the religious holiday to discuss how best to make up the missed requirement.
- Law students should reach out to their faculty member within the first two weeks of class in the relevant semester and again prior to the religious holiday to discuss how best to make up the missed requirement.
No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student who makes use of this provision of university policy.
The faculty (including coaches) receive annual reminders of this policy and are encouraged to work carefully with students in anticipating and resolving conflicts to their mutual satisfaction.
As stipulated in the Faculty Handbook, apart from absences for observance of religious holidays, faculty may set their own attendance policies and have discretion to designate absences for other reasons as “excused” or “unexcused” based upon their professional judgment.
First-year students are strongly encouraged not to be employed outside the law school and to limit their hours to 10 per week.
Classroom Computer Use
Laptop computers or other electronic devices may be used in class only for taking notes, displaying case briefs, or other academic purposes explicitly authorized by the professor. Some professors prohibit classroom laptop use.
The Law School has a number of exchange programs with partner schools in other countries. One program is with Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. At Trinity, Ireland’s premier university, Law School students take courses with graduate law students from both Ireland and from other countries. This program offers Law School students a fine opportunity to gain international perspectives on the law, and to meet other law students from around the world. The program also adds to the intellectual life of the Law School by bringing international law students to Lexington. W&L students would normally spend only one semester at Trinity. Openings are limited.
A second program is with the University of Copenhagen, the largest educational institution in Denmark. The University of Copenhagen offers a significant number of courses in English each semester. This allows exchange students to put together a comprehensive study programme, which will meet the demands of their home institutions.
These programs, however, may present challenges in meeting the law school’s experiential credit graduation requirements. Students considering either of these should discuss scheduling with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, who has the authority to grant waivers in appropriate cases. Law School students pay regular Law School tuition during their stays; financial aid packages are not affected by participation in these program. For more information, please visit the Study Abroad page.
Credit for Work in Summer Session
The School of Law does not offer a summer session. However, students may take courses offered in the summer session at other ABA accredited law schools to earn up to six credit hours toward their degrees. In order to receive credit for courses taken in the summer session at other law schools, a student must obtain advance approval from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the School of Law and submit to the Law Registrar Office, no later than the end of the grading period for the following semester, an official transcript evidencing satisfactory completion of the summer work. Satisfactory completion of a summer school course means fulfillment of the course requirements established by the law school where the course is taken, with a letter grade equivalent to C or higher. Credits earned for summer session coursework taken pass-fail are not eligible for transfer to Washington and Lee. Only summer credit will transfer; your W&L grade point average will not reflect any transferred credit.
For more information regarding summer internship credit, please visit the Summer Internship page.
Exact class standings are not released. Each student, however, is informed of his or her grade-point average, and may divulge this information to prospective employers. In addition, each student can determine the approximate percentile in the class in which he or she falls because students are provided with grade-point cutoffs at five percent intervals.
Applications for Degrees
An applicant for the degree of Juris Doctor is required, during the third year in the School of Law, to file an application for the degree with the Registrar of the University.
Auditing a Course
Washington and Lee University does not offer audit as a grading option; therefore, students may not formally audit a course. The informal audit practice is a “no record, no charge” activity, whereby students obtain permission from the instructor to attend a class and participate at a level deemed appropriate by the faculty member. Students who informally audit a course under these circumstances may not be registered for the course nor receive academic credit for the course for that particular term. The Student Handbook and the policies contained therein apply to all students enrolled at Washington and Lee University, including those auditing courses.