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

Evidence

First Amendment

Fourteenth Amendment

Immigration Law

Intellectual Property

International Law

Introduction to Islamic Law

Jurisprudence*

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 an upper level 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 by completing one Research Writing course plus one Professional Writing course.  JDMBAs and 2-Year-JDs may satisfy the upper level writing requirement by completing either one Research Writing course or one Professional Writing course, but they may not count the writing course toward another degree requirement, such as Experiential Learning.

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 6 credits of Experiential Learning (from a list of such courses as designated by the Curriculum Committee and identified as such at registration).

  • Complete the advanced academic writing requirement during the second or third year*:

Research Writing

  1. A course meets the graduation requirement of a Research Writing course if a principal element of the assigned work in the course consists of one or more papers totaling a minimum of 7,000 words, including footnotes, and meets the following criteria:
    • Each paper makes an argument based on research conducted by the student.
    • Each student submits a full initial draft for each paper.
    • Each student receives substantial individual feedback from the professor on the clarity and effectiveness of the writing as well as on the substance and organization of the argument in the draft.
    • Each student submits a final draft responding to the professor’s feedback.
  2. Senior Research counts as the equivalent of a Research Writing course.
  3. Satisfactory completion of a journal note written with faculty supervision, certified as satisfactory by the appropriate journal editor and the faculty supervisor, counts as the equivalent of a Research Writing course.

Professional Writing

  1. A course meets the graduation requirement of a Professional Writing course if a principal element of the assigned work in the course consists of substantial transactional, litigation, legislative, regulatory, public advocacy, or judicial writing of the sort that practicing lawyers do and that is assigned in a real or hypothetical practice context. This sort of writing is designated here as an “assignment.”
  2. Assignments meet the Professional Writing requirement if they consist of at least:
    a. A single substantial written assignment of approximately 5,000 words, written entirely by an individual student; or
    b. Three or more written assignments completed over the course of the semester.
    • A single assignment that requires multiple substantial revisions responding to feedback may count as multiple assignments.
    • Although professors may permit students to write some assignments under 2(b) collaboratively, the professor must also have the opportunity to distinguish and evaluate each student’s individual writing.
  3. Students must receive substantial feedback on the clarity and effectiveness of the writing as well as on the substance and organization of each assignment. 

* JDMBA Students will complete the Advanced Writing Requirement by completing either a Research Writing or a Professional Writing course, designated as such at the time of registration.  JDMBAs may not double count a course toward the Advanced Writing Requirement and another graduate requirement, such as Experiential Learning.

Related Links

Course Catalog | Academic Calendar