J.D. Admissions Standard

To gain admission to the Santa Clara University School of Law’s Juris Doctor program, an applicant must exhibit a demonstrated capacity to successfully complete the School of Law’s program of legal education and thereafter pass a state bar examination. In evaluating applications, the School of Law assesses each applicant’s attributes and qualifications holistically, without any single criterion being determinative. Admissions decisions therefore depend upon consideration of a variety of factors. These factors include the applicant’s performance on ABA approved admission tests; undergraduate academic record and course of study; academic performance in graduate or professional programs; demonstrated writing ability; extracurricular and volunteer activities; work experience; obstacles overcome; and potential contribution to the diversity of the student body. In addition, the School of Law considers evidence of an applicant’s character and moral fitness in an attempt to assess the applicant’s suitability to practice law and qualification for admission to a state bar.

To be considered for admission, applicants must (i) register with the Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) Credential Assembly Service (CAS), (ii) take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or other ABA-approved admission test, and (iii) demonstrate that they have earned (or will earn prior to matriculation) a bachelor’s degree that has been awarded by an institution that is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education. Applicants who have graduated from an institution outside the United States may apply if the quality of the program of education of their degree-granting institution is equivalent to that of institutions accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

Foreign applicants who have earned a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and are proficient in English are eligible to apply. Applicants who have completed all of their undergraduate work at institutions outside of the United States, its territories, or Canada must have those institutions send their transcripts directly to LSAC.

First-Year Program

The first year of law school introduces students to the fundamentals of legal analysis and to the substantive law in several basic subjects. First-year J.D. courses are listed below.

Coursework totaling 28 units is prescribed for full-time students. Part-time students take 21 units (deferring Law 114 and TBA to the second year).

– 101A and 101B. Legal Research and Writing 1 and 2
– 102A and 102B. Contracts 1 and 2
– 103. Torts
– 104. Property
– 106. Criminal Law
– 114A and 114B. Civil Procedure 1 and 2
– TBA. Critical Lawyering Skills Seminar

Advanced Curriculum

The School of Law offers a wide range of one-semester advanced courses. See the complete list at law.scu.edu/course-listing/. Required courses are listed below.

Students who were full-time their first year must take Law 105 200 and 201 in their second year.

Students who were part-time their first year must take Law 105, 114A, 114B, 200, 201, and TBA in their second year.

– 105. Advocacy
– 200. Constitutional Law I
– 201. Constitutional Law II
– 302. Legal Profession
– 320. Evidence

Upper Division Proficiency (UP) Points

(applicable to students who began in the fall of 2015 or thereafter)

    1. The UP system will not apply to first-year students. The system focuses exclusively on the upper division.
    2. Upper division courses eligible for proficiency points:
      200. Constitutional Law I (Required Course)
      201. Constitutional Law II (Required Course)
      248. Business Organizations
      281. Wills & Trusts
      290. Community Property 
      302. Legal Profession (Required Course)
      310. Criminal Procedure: Investigation
      311. Criminal Procedure: Adjudication
      320. Evidence (Required Course)
      324. Remedies
      543. Real Estate Conveyancing
    3. The minimum grade necessary to earn a point: Students must receive a C+ or better in an UP-eligible course to earn one UP point.
    4. Expected number of UP points: Except as provided in paragraph 6, students are expected to earn at least 4 points in UP-eligible courses before they graduate.
    5. Monitoring Student Progress Toward Completion of the UP Requirement:
      1. All upper division students are required to enroll in four or more UP-eligible classes prior to the completion of 54 units.
      2. For students who have completed 54 units or more, the Law Student Services Office will compute the number of UP points that each student has earned in upper division courses as of the first day of each new semester. Any student who has earned fewer than three points in upper division courses will be required to enroll in at least two UP-eligible classes during that semester.
      3. All students who fail to earn at least three UP points in upper division courses by the time they have completed 54 units will be required to complete 373b, Advanced Legal Writing: Bar Exam before they graduate from law school, and receive individual counseling from a faculty member from the Office of Academic and Bar Success.
    6. Deferred Graduation for Certain Students: Students who have earned 86 units of credit and completed the other requirements for graduation, but who have not yet earned four UP points, will be subject to deferred graduation. Such students must take a specialized bar preparation course during the summer after they complete 86 units (or during the subsequent spring semester if they complete their 86th unit in fall semester). The course will be graded on a Credit/No Credit basis. Students who receive credit will be eligible to graduate after completion of the course.


    Transfer students may receive UP credit for course work completed at their home school as long as they have taken an UP-eligible class and received a C+ or higher as an upper-division student. Students may not receive UP credit for a course, even if it is categorized as UP-eligible, if it was taken as part of the first-year curriculum at the school from which they transferred.

    Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement

    (applicable to students who began prior to the fall of 2015)

    As a condition of obtaining a J.D. degree, each student must complete a substantial upper-division writing project (or series of projects) under the direct supervision of a single faculty member or lecturer following the first year of law school.

    The Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement must be completed prior to the start of the student’s final semester. It is the responsibility of each student to satisfy the requirement by this deadline.

    General Goals and Objectives

    The ability to write effectively and persuasively is fundamental to law practice. A lawyer’s service to society and professional satisfaction depends on an ability to communicate through writing. The purpose of this requirement is (1) to integrate the student’s legal knowledge by applying it to a complex problem with original analysis; (2) to deepen the student’s writing skills through a systematic process of drafting and redrafting, with the benefit of expert feedback; and (3) to model mentoring relationships, in an applied context, that facilitate lifelong professional learning.

    Requirement Satisfaction

    Students must satisfy the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement by individual work only; joint papers or projects will not qualify. Students may discuss topics, ideas, or other aspects of the project with others, and may exchange drafts for the purpose of seeking feedback on improving the writing, but all research and writing must be the student’s own work exclusively. This requirement can be satisfied in different ways. The writing experience may take either the form of an academic paper in the style of an article for an academic journal, or a series of professional writings that require the application of legal analysis to a problem a client might encounter. In all events, the following criteria must be met: (1) the writing must include original analysis contributed by the author; (2) a single faculty member or lecturer must directly supervise the project so as to review and critique the student’s work; and (3) the student must review, reflect on, and incorporate this feedback into the final product (or products).

    The following guidelines apply to the requirement:

    1. Students may not use a writing that satisfies another graduation requirement (such as a writing produced in a course used to satisfy the skills requirement) to also satisfy the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement. A paper completed in connection with a course that satisfies the Skills Requirement may satisfy the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement if the skills course involves substantial instruction in a professional skill (such as negotiation, interviewing, or oral advocacy). Faculty will certify that any writing produced in a course is not being used to satisfy an additional requirement such as the skills requirement for graduation.
    2. Written work done in connection with Legal Research and Writing (LAW 101) and Advocacy (LAW 105) courses may not be used to satisfy the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement.
    3. Taken together, the writing (or writings) should total approximately 7,500 words.
    4. Qualifying writings could include (but are not limited to) legal memoranda, briefs, litigation documents, or other forms of legal writing that demand the application of original legal analysis to legal problems.
    5. A paper that satisfies the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement may be used to satisfy the requirements of a specialized certificate (e.g., international law, high tech, or social justice).
    6. Papers written for other purposes may satisfy the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement, so long as they independently satisfy the requirements of the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement. This includes (1) a paper written in a seminar;(2) a law journal comment or note, where a faculty member subsequently reviews the writing, provides substantial feedback, and receives a final draft that incorporates that feedback; (3) an independent research project; (4) writing that is the product of directed research for no units of academic credit; and (5) litigation documents prepared under the supervision of a member of the faculty.

    As guidance (1) for understanding this requirement’s objectives, (2) for determining whether a proposed project should qualify, and (3) for assessing whether a completed writing has fulfilled the requirement, faculty and students should consult the SCU Law Competency Model (adopted by the faculty in fall 2013), and particularly those competencies described under the headings of Research, Writing, and Legal Analysis.

    So long as the paper meets the criteria set forth in the next section, students may satisfy the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement in a variety of ways including:

    1. A paper required in a course or seminar in which the student is enrolled. Papers written for seminar credit must independently satisfy the criteria for the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement as set forth below.
    2. A law review comment or note written for one of the law school’s law reviews. A faculty member must review the student’s comment or note and determine whether it meets the criteria for the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement. A revision may be required.
    3. Individual research (Law 298).
    4. A directed research and writing project without credit.
    5. A brief written as part of a clinic or other experiential learning course as long as it satisfies the requirements set out below.
    6. Multiple writings as part of a course or an independent study which taken together satisfy the criteria set forth below.

    Requirement Criteria

    Regardless of the way in which students choose to satisfy the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement, the final product must meet the professional standards and expectations for the relevant audience. Close and critical faculty supervision and review of the writing is expected.

    Students should submit a first draft, engage in faculty consultation, implement revisions, and submit a final draft. If the final product is not satisfactory, the faculty member may deny approval or may require that the paper be rewritten again before certifying that the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement has been met.

    The student’s final product should be of professional quality and demonstrate an ability to analyze complex legal issues and to communicate the analysis effectively. The faculty member will approve the writing if it demonstrates the following qualities as they apply to the specific type of writing:

    1. The choice of an original or challenging topic
    2. Succinct articulation and support of the thesis, if applicable
    3. Logical organization
    4. An appropriate level of research and analysis
    5. Comprehensive analysis of the relevant law and application to the topic
    6. Persuasiveness and analytical depth, as appropriate
    7. A proper introduction and conclusion
    8. Clear, concise, direct sentences
    9. Proper paragraphing and appropriate use of headings, subheadings, and transitions
    10. The correct use of legal terms and citation forms
    11. Appropriate attribution to original and secondary sources, as necessary
    12. Adherence to the prohibition against plagiarism
    13. Proper grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization
    14. A neat and professional appearance

    Although the required page length depends upon the nature of the project and the number of units sought, rarely will a piece of writing of fewer than 7500 words including footnotes be adequate to satisfy the requirement. If multiple writings are used, their total should be 7500 words including any footnotes.

    Formal Procedures

    Any member of the full-time faculty may supervise the writing and certify that it meets the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement. Legal Research and Writing professors, visiting full-time professors, teaching scholars or fellows, and lecturers teaching an upper-division writing course may also supervise a paper for the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement. Under certain limited circumstances, the associate dean for academic affairs may approve certification by part-time or adjunct faculty, such as where the student desires to write on an area of particular expertise of one of the law school’s lecturers. Upon receiving a written petition from a student to allow for such supervision, setting forth reasons for which the paper should be supervised by a lecturer rather than a full faculty member, the associate dean will consult with the lecturer to explain that such supervision is not expected and to convey the time commitment and degree of rigor expected for the supervision.

    A student’s first choice of supervisor may not be available if the particular faculty member is already supervising, or has already supervised, a sufficient number of papers pursuant to the requirement.

    When the student has chosen the way by which s/he intends to satisfy the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement, an “Initial Agreement” form must be completed with the supervising faculty member and filed with Student Services Office at the outset of the project, but no later than the end of the fourth week of the semester prior to graduation.  This agreement should reflect the means by which the student intends to fulfill the requirement (by a seminar paper, independent research, etc.) and an estimated completion date. The agreement must be signed by both the student and the supervising faculty member. Upon final completion of the paper and approval by the supervising faculty member, the faculty member shall certify on the “Certification of Completion” form that the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement has been satisfied. The certification of completion must be turned in to the Student Services Office prior to the start of the student’s final semester.  At Santa Clara University School of Law we reserve the right to use electronic means to detect and help prevent plagiarism. By submitting the Supervised Analytical Writing Requirement Agreement, students consent to have their paper submitted to Turnitin.com’s restricted access database. This submission is solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. For details about this product please consult Turnitin’s website at www.turnitin.com.

    Professional Skills Requirement

    (applicable to students who began prior to the fall of 2016)

    In addition to legal analysis, research, and writing, a competent lawyer employs a variety of other professional skills, including interviewing and counseling, fact investigation, negotiation, drafting, and trial advocacy. The law school offers a variety of courses providing instruction in these other professional skills. Each student as a condition to graduation must successfully complete at least one such course. Courses satisfying this requirement will be so noted on the registration schedule of classes, posted on the Current Students website. In a qualifying course evaluated CR/NC, a student satisfies the Professional Skills Requirement with a CR. In a qualifying graded course, a student satisfies the requirement either with a grade of C or higher or with the faculty member’s written certification submitted to Student Services that the student has satisfied the professional skills component of the course, and hence the Professional Skills Requirement, notwithstanding a grade of C- or below, or a grade of NP.

    Experiential Course Requirement

    (applicable to students who began in fall of 2016 or thereafter)

    As a condition to graduation, each student must successfully complete one or more experiential course(s) totaling at least six credit hours. An experiential course is a simulation course, a law clinic, or a field placement that focuses on professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.

    1. Experiential courses are determined by the law school and may include skills such as interviewing, counseling, negotiation, fact development and analysis, trial practice, document drafting, conflict resolution, organization and management of legal work, collaboration, cultural competency, and self-evaluation.
    2. The Associate Dean for Experiential Learning in collaboration with the professor will determine which courses satisfy the experiential course requirements and they will be designated as such in the course description.
    3. A student may not use a course to satisfy more than one requirement for graduation. For example, a course that includes a writing experience used to satisfy the supervised analytical writing requirement cannot be counted as one of the experiential courses required.

    Regular Classroom Instruction Requirement

    The law school’s accrediting agency requires that students complete at least 64 credit hours in courses that require attendance in regularly scheduled classroom sessions or direct faculty instruction. The credit hours may include credit hours earned by attendance in regularly scheduled classroom sessions or direct faculty instruction and credit hours earned by participation in a simulation course or law clinic.

    Course units awarded for all field placements, Juvenile Justice courses, the Panetta Fellowship program, independent research, coursework completed in another department and co-curricular activities such as journals, moot court, and trial competitions will not meet this requirement.

    Degree Audit

    The law school assumes no responsibility for a student’s failure to complete the graduation requirements as outlined. Students should check their progress regularly by running a degree audit accessible via the eCampus system “Degree Progress” link. Direct questions regarding degree audits or graduation requirements to the Student Services Office at LawStudentServices@scu.edu or 408-554-4766.

    For more information regarding the Juris Doctor program of study, contact the Student Services Office.