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The Juris Doctor Degree (JD)

Penn Law has a full-time program leading to the JD, the first professional degree in law. Applicants have completed their undergraduate degrees and, oftentimes, advanced degrees in a broad array of disciplines; many have work experience prior to attending law school. We also, on occasion, have admitted international students who hold a law degree from outside the United States but who want to earn a JD degree in the United States. We also accept a select group of Penn undergrads who submatriculate, combining their bachelors degrees and their JDs.

Students graduating with the JD will acquire:

  • The analytical and critical intellectual skills necessary to meet tomorrow’s challenges in an ever-changing world
  • A thorough understanding of the basic principles of the law
  • An appreciation of the value of contributing to society through pro bono legal service
  • The ability to research and convey ideas and legal arguments both cogently and coherently
  • An understanding of, and an appreciation for, legal ethics and the inherent responsibilities of becoming a member of the legal profession

The basic course of instruction covers three years (6 semesters) and requires full-time attendance at Penn Law (full-time employment while enrolled in the program is not permitted). Graduation depends upon the successful completion of all coursework and the fulfillment of all JD degree requirements.

First Year (1L)

Penn Law’s first-year curriculum is comprised of five semester-long required core courses and two spring-term electives, one from the regulatory/administrative law realm and the other from a general electives category.

Required First-Year Courses include:

  • Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Legal Practice Skills and Torts.
  • One Regulatory/Administrative Elective: In recognition that legal issues of import often involve our nation’s regulatory system, Penn Law offers a unique elective choice to 1Ls in this area. Students choose from courses in administrative law, bankruptcy, environmental law, legislation or public international law.
  • One General Elective: Students choose from a wide range of survey courses that are designed to highlight different viewpoints and areas of law for students’ examination and consideration. Examples include advanced contracts, introduction to intellectual property law & policy, law and economics, law and society in Japan, legal responses to inequality, and property.

Second and Third Year (2L & 3L)

Across the second and third years, course selection is entirely elective and students have a wide range – between 80 to 100 courses, seminars, clinics and externships per semester – from which to choose.  The one course requirement for graduation is a course in professional responsibility.

Cross-Disciplinary Opportunities

We encourage our students to participate in our cross-disciplinary programs. Last year our 2L and 3L students took nearly 700 classes outside the Law School as individual courses or part of a formal joint degree or certificate program.

More than 100 students graduate each year with joint/dual degrees or certificates. In addition, Penn Law’s clinical programs include: Detkin Intellectual Property Clinic, The Civil Practice Clinic, Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic, Criminal Defense Clinic, Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic, Legislative Clinic, Mediation Clinic, Transnational Legal Clinic and the Supreme Court Clinic . These programs engage students directly in real-world casework and provide outstanding professional development opportunities.

Centers, institutes, and programs at the Law School - and across Penn - bring together faculty and practitioners to conduct research and host lectures and

Many of our symposia examine key challenges in the law and related fields, such as business and economics, environment, health, regulation, and technology and intellectual property.

Our faculty  are leaders in the law and related fields; in addition to the JD 70 percent of Penn Law faculty hold advanced degrees, and approximately 50 percent of faculty have secondary appointments or affiliations with other Penn professional schools, departments, or centers. No wonder that more than 50% of courses offered at Penn Law are cross-disciplinary.