JD Curriculum

JD Curriculum

First Year JD Curriculum

The first year of study at Northwestern Law focuses on building a solid foundation in legal reasoning, analysis, and writing, as well as a thorough understanding of the structures and policies of the law. The first-year curriculum consists of 22 credits of required classes and six credits of electives. Half of all first-year classes are taught in sections of 60 or fewer students.

Required First Year Courses

The following required first-year courses provide a basic foundation in law and legal reasoning:

Unique First Year Opportunities

  • Teamwork and communication skills are strongly emphasized in classes such as Communication and Legal Reasoning, a required year-long course in which students collaborate on analytical exercises and group projects. Part of this class involves participation in the Arlyn Miner First-Year Moot Court.

  • Another supplement to the first-year education is the Lawyer as Problem Solver program. Faculty and legal professionals teach this mandatory seminar, in which students learn how to facilitate problem solving for clients in settings outside the courtroom or boardroom.

  • At the end of the year, students may apply for a position on one of the Law School’s scholarly journals. Selection is based on a writing competition, first-year grades, and a publishable note or comment on a legal topic.

Electives Open to First Year Students

During the second semester of the first year, students have the opportunity to take two upperclass electives that may form the basis of additional study in subsequent years. Also available as electives will be courses that meet the graduation requirement that every student take at least one course offering an interdisciplinary perspective on law and the legal system.

Below are examples of courses that have recently been available as electives to first year students (those courses marked with an * meet the interdisciplinary perspective graduation requirement).

American Legal History*

Basic Federal Income Taxation

Business Associations

Civil Procedure II

Comparative Law*

Constitutional Criminal Procedure

Corporations (Kellogg)

Economic Analysis of Law*

Employment Discrimination

Environmental Law


First Amendment

Fourteenth Amendment

Immigration Law

Intellectual Property

International Law

Introduction to Islamic Law


Large Law Firms

Law and Social Change

Legal Issues in Health Care Delivery Systems

Narrative Structures*

State and Local Government

Second and Third Year Curriculum

After the first year, Legal Ethics is the only mandatory class. All other courses are elective. Students generally register for 14 to 16 credit hours each term 

Students must also fulfill a writing requirement in their second or third year. This requirement can be met by completing a minimum of four hours of supervised Senior Research or submitting two manuscripts, one of which must go through at least three drafts (including the final submission). The three-draft manuscript can be satisfied by writing for one of the Law School's legal journals, participating on the National Trial or the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court teams, or completing a class or seminar that requires an extensive paper.

Unique Second and Third Year Opportunities

  • Students may choose a general course of study or a concentration in one of six areas: Appellate Law, Business Enterprise, Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Environmental Law, International Law, or Law and Social Policy. 

  • Our renowned Bluhm Legal Clinic is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the country. The program offers training through a simulation-based curriculum, which includes the Bartlit Center for Trial Advocacy, the Program on Advocacy and Professionalism, and the Program on Negotiation and Mediation.

  • Students may also choose to pursue on-the-job experience through a Practicum. Northwestern Law offers Judicial, Criminal, Public Interest, and Corporate Counsel practica, which also have a seminar component.

  • Second-year students can participate in the Law School's annual Julius H. Miner Moot Court competition, an appellate advocacy program administered by third-year students with faculty supervision.

  • For those interested in international law, Northwestern Law offers study abroad programs in Australia, Belgium, Amsterdam, Israel, Argentina, and Singapore. You may also earn credit for summer study abroad programs offered by other American Bar Association-approved institutions.

  • Students may also participate in an International Team Project (ITP). You work with other students to customize a curriculum and research agenda, then team up for extensive study of the chosen country, including two weeks of field research abroad and a final group project. Recent ITP countries have included Brazil, Russia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, India, and Namibia.

JD Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate with the degree of juris doctor from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, each student must:

  • Earn 85 semester credit hours.

  • Achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 2.25, or of 2.0 if two-thirds of all grades are C+ or better.

  • Earn credit for the following required courses: Civil Procedure, Communication and Legal Reasoning I & II, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, Torts, Legal Ethics, a Perspective Elective (from a list of such courses as designated by the Curriculum Committee and identified as such at registration), and a Professional Skills Elective (from a list of such courses as designated by the Curriculum Committee and identified as such at registration).

  • Complete the academic writing requirement during the second or third year in one of three ways:

    • Complete a minimum of four hours of Senior Research

    • Complete satisfactory service on Jessup Moot Court or satisfactorily complete a 3-draft note during two years of service on a journal and write two drafts of a manuscript in a seminar designated by the instructor as allowing for completion of the writing requirement. (The seminar manuscript and the Journal/Moot Court work must be unrelated.)

    • Complete a single draft manuscript in one seminar and a three draft manuscript in another seminar. The seminars must be designated by the instructor as allowing for completion of the writing requirement. (The two manuscripts must be unrelated.)

Related Links

Course Catalog | Academic Calendar