Duration of Study and Course Load Requirements

III-A-2. Duration of Study and Course Load Requirements

A.        Maximum/Minimum Course Load

In the first year, JD students generally must take 31 credit hours, all of them in required courses, unless granted permission to take fewer hours by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. In the second and third years of law school, in the fall and spring semesters, students must take a minimum of 12 credit hours and a maximum of 16 credit hours per semester. With the permission of the Associate Dean, students may take fewer than 12 or as many as 17 credits, as set forth below in III-A-2-B(1). Pursuant to ABA requirements, in no case will a student be permitted to register for 18 or more credit hours in a fall or spring semester. A student may take up to 7 credit hours in a summer semester; a student may petition the Associate Dean for permission to take up to 8 credit hours in a summer semester.

B.        Duration of Study

1.         Basics

The School of Law’s program of legal education is designed as a three-year experience.  Completing course work on an accelerated schedule can be a disservice to students and deprive them of experiential learning opportunities that may require additional time commitments, such as clinics and externships, as well as legal employment opportunities during the summer and extracurricular activities during the school year.  Further, when students enroll in too many courses in a semester, their performance may suffer.  Accordingly, as noted above, students may not take more than 16 credits in the fall or spring semesters (17 with the permission of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs), or more than 7 credits over the summer (8 with the permission of the Associate Dean).  Most students enroll in 14 or 15 credits in the fall and spring semesters. In order to ensure that students are making steady progress toward graduation, students are required to take at least 12 credits each semester unless they receive permission from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs to take fewer credits. Permission to take fewer than 12 credits in a semester (or fewer than 31 credit hours in the first year) may be granted for good cause, including situations when a student has the opportunity to pursue professional opportunities that would require a lighter course load or needs fewer than 12 credits to meet graduation requirements in the student’s final semester, or faces a personal situation that necessitates flexible scheduling and a reduced credit hour load. Students must enroll in the Mentor Externship Course every semester, even if they are taking fewer than 12 credits, except in exceptional circumstances or if the student has already completed all required Mentor Externship course hours. Students should check with the financial aid office to determine how a course load of fewer than 12 credits (or fewer than 3 hours in the summer semester) would affect their financial aid. 

There is no formal requirement that students take six semesters of courses.  For students who take summer courses, it is possible to complete the 88 credits required for graduation in fewer than six semesters.  Note that all graduation requirements must be met, and students who wish to graduate early must notify the School of Law Registrar before the beginning of their final semester and make arrangements for satisfying the Mentor Externship Course requirement with the Director of the Mentor Program.

2.         Residency Requirements for Transfer Students

In addition to fulfilling the graduation requirements as set forth above, a student who transfers to the University of St. Thomas School of Law from an ABA-accredited law school must complete at least three semesters of at least 12 credit hours at the University of St. Thomas School of Law to receive a J.D. degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Transfer students cannot count more than 44 transferred credits toward the 88 credits required for the St. Thomas JD degree.

3.         Credit Hours for Joint Degree Students

A candidate for a joint degree in an approved program may apply 12 hours of credit and successfully completed in the second discipline toward the requirements of the J.D. degree, provided the student satisfactorily completes the requirements set out for the joint program by the faculty conferring the second degree.

4.         Students Visiting Other ABA-Accredited Law Schools

A student who will complete at least four semesters of at least 12 credit hours at the University of St. Thomas School of Law may petition the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for permission to visit for one or two semesters at an ABA-accredited law school. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will not grant permission absent good cause. Students requesting study away at an ABA-approved law school must provide a written statement showing good cause to the Associate Dean. For requests to visit at another ABA-accredited law school, good cause includes, for example, the petitioning student’s need to relocate in order to provide care to a family member of to accompany his or her spouse to a new job. Good cause requires circumstances beyond personal convenience or financial considerations.

Students approved to visit at another ABA-accredited law school must satisfy the graduation requirements of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, but a course required by St. Thomas may be taken at the host institution with the advance approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. The student must have the written agreement of the Mentor Director concerning how the student will satisfy the Mentor Externship requirements outside the formal program during the semester(s) of the visit. The student must complete at least 12 credits of course work at the host law school during each semester of the visit.

Students studying away are charged an administrative fee by UST Law. The Assistant Dean for Administration will provide information on the current fee.

5.         Students Visiting at Foreign Law Schools

A student who will complete at least four semesters of at least 12 credit hours at the University of St. Thomas School of Law may petition the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for permission to visit at a non-ABA approved foreign law school when permitted under the ABA's Standards for Approval of Law Schools. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will not grant permission absent good cause, which requires a finding that the petitioning student is mature, has well-defined career goals, and that foreign study will enhance the student’s preparation for the practice of law. The petitioning student carries the burden to establish clear academic objectives related to career goals, along with sufficient maturity, academic capability, and sufficient foreign language skills to meet these objectives.

A student applying for foreign study carries the burden to ensure that he or she complies with all ABA Standards with respect to such study. Only in the most exceptional circumstances where a student shows personal hardship will the Associate Dean approve study at a non-ABA approved foreign law school for more than one semester. The visit cannot extend beyond two semesters under any circumstances.

Students approved to visit at a foreign law school must satisfy the graduation requirements of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, but a course required by St. Thomas may be taken at the host institution with the advance approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. The student must have the written agreement of the Mentor Director concerning how the student will satisfy the Mentor Externship requirements outside the formal program during the semester(s) of the visit. The student must complete at least 12 credits of course work at the foreign law school during each semester of the visit.

A student applying for foreign study must meet the following additional requirements:

a.         The student must find, and obtain written confirmation from, a UST Law full-time faculty adviser both to approve the student’s foreign study program in advance and to monitor the student’s foreign study. The student and the UST Law faculty adviser must first agree on a written plan to be submitted to the Associate Dean that defines how the foreign study will achieve clear academic objectives related to career goals, and explains how the student has sufficient maturity, sufficient academic capability, and sufficient language capability to realize the academic objectives. The written plan must define the methods of evaluation to measure whether the student’s educational objectives have been attained.

b.         The student will secure a full-time faculty adviser at the foreign law school.

c.         The student will work with the UST Law faculty adviser to obtain written confirmation from the foreign law school faculty adviser that the student’s educational objectives can be attained.

d.         The student will secure all syllabi of courses to be taken and provide them for the review of the UST Law faculty adviser.

e.         The UST Law faculty adviser will review both the confirmation from the foreign law school adviser and the syllabi and provide a written recommendation, attaching these documents, to the Associate Dean indicating what credit UST Law should give for the courses taken at the foreign law school.

f.          At the end of the foreign law school study, the student shall provide to the UST Law faculty adviser and the Associate Dean an official transcript of the student’s grades and a portfolio of the student’s work. The UST Law faculty adviser will certify to the Associate Dean that the work has satisfied the student’s written plan outlined in paragraph A above.

g.         Students requesting study away at a non-ABA approved foreign law school must satisfy all the requirements of the ABA standards and criteria for studying at a foreign non-ABA approved institution. 

Students studying away are charged an administrative fee by UST Law. The Assistant Dean for Administration will provide information on the current fee.

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