Below are the requirements for the Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (General LL.M), Master of Laws in Taxation (Tax LL.M), Master of Laws for foreign law school graduates, and Doctor of the Science of Law (S.J.D) degrees.
Please consult the Law Catalog for additional information regarding the requirements for each degree.
To receive the degree of Juris Doctor the student must meet all of the following requirements. CLICK HERE for the Juris Doctor - Academic Advising Guide.
For a degree audit checklist for students admitted in fall 2018 or fall 2019, click on this link.
For a degree audit checklist for students admitted in fall 2020 or later, click on this link.
Six residence credits are required for graduation (Section III H, Residence). For requirements concerning attendance at other law schools, see Sections III B, "Admission With Advanced Standing" and III C, "Visiting Students" in the current catalog.
Hours and Grades
Candidates must earn 87 term hours of credit (i.e., grades of D or 1.00 or higher) with an overall average of C or 2.00 or more. All term hours of credit must be earned at this school, except for students admitted with advanced standing and students approved to study at other law schools under Section III G (5). All students must earn a minimum of (58) term hours of credit at this school.
At least 64 of the credit hours earned toward graduation must be in courses that require attendance in regularly scheduled classroom sessions or direct faculty instruction. Clinic hours count toward the 64 hours. The following do not:
1. Externship hours (excluding companion classroom component hours in an externship academic program)
2. Graduate level courses taken at other schools of the University taken with prior approval of assistant dean for student affairs
3. Summer courses in other ABA-accredited law schools with prior approval of assistant dean for student affairs
4. Law review hours
5. Moot court and mock trial hours
(A) The following requirements must be fulfilled: Civil Procedure; Constitutional Law I and II; Contracts I and II; Criminal Law; Legal Research, Writing and Advocacy I and II; Legislation and Regulation; Property; Torts; Professional Responsibility; Edited Writing Seminar; General Writing Requirement; and a practice skills requirement, which varies depending on the student's date of enrollment.
Students who enrolled in law school prior to the fall of 2016 must satisfy the “Professional Skills” requirement.
Students who enroll in the fall of 2016 or thereafter must satisfy the “Experiential Learning” requirement.
(B) If a student fails to receive a minimum passing grade in a required course, the student must repeat the course the next time it is offered.
Professional Skills Requirement or Experiential Learning Requirement
Students who enrolled in law school prior to the fall of 2016 must satisfy the “Professional Skills” requirement. This means that they must complete at least one upper-level course that includes professional skills generally regarded as necessary for effective and responsible participation in the legal profession. Courses that satisfy this requirement will be designated “(PS)” on the upperclass course list during registration.
Students who enroll in the fall of 2016 or thereafter must satisfy the “Experiential Learning” requirement. This means that they must complete one or more experiential course(s) totaling at least six credit hours. An experiential course must be a simulation course, a law clinic, or an externship. To satisfy this requirement, a course must be primarily experiential in nature and must:
- integrate doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics, and engage students in performance of a professional skill;
- develop the concepts underlying the professional skills being taught;
- provide multiple opportunities for performance; and
- provide opportunities for self-evaluation.
Courses that satisfy this requirement are designated “(EL)” in course registration materials. CLICK HERE for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Experiential Courses.
Edited Writing seminars require the student to participate in an intensive, scholarly expository writing project. It may take the form of a single paper, of at least 30 pages, or several shorter papers, as the professor may direct. The professor will review and critique the student's writing. Subject matter will vary at the discretion of the professor. Enrollment own each seminar is limited to 20 students. Classes that fulfill this requirement will be labeled "EW" in the registration materials.
NOTE: Only students who were admitted to the law school in Fall 2019 or earlier must satisfy the General Writing Requirement. Students who started in fall 2020 or later are not required to take a General Writing Course or otherwise satisfy the requirement.
Students may get General Writing credit from any class in which more than half of the grade is based on a paper rather than exam, from law review writing credit, and for 2 or 3 hour Directed Research papers. Courses that fulfill this requirement will be labeled "GW" in the registration materials. Students may also satisfy the General Writing requirement by taking an additional Edited Writing seminar. A student may not use one Edited Writing course to satisfy more than one requirement
Public Service Requirement
All students must complete a minimum of 30 hours of law-related public service to be eligible to graduate. Students may perform this service after they have completed two semesters of law school. All such service must be performed at an approved service placement. The Law School's Public Service Program Director is charged with arranging for approved public service placements for students. Public service used to fulfill this requirement cannot be compensated work nor can it be work for which academic or student organization points are awarded.
All requirements must be met in the School of Law, or another approved law school, within 60 months or five years from commencing law school. In computing the period, any time during which the candidate was in active U.S. military service shall be excluded.
Effects of Changes in Requirements
A student must meet the residence and grade requirements in effect at the time that the student enters. The student will not be affected by later changes in these requirements. Other requirements may be changed from time to time with such applicability as the faculty determines.
Waivers of requirements may, for good cause, be granted by the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. Requests should be made in writing, with all relevant information and reasons, to the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs.
General LL.M Degree
To receive the general LL.M. degree the student must meet all of the following requirements:
(A) Residence in the School of Law for no fewer than two terms if a full-time student and no fewer than three terms if a part-time student.
(B) Completion of 24 term hours in courses, seminars, or research and writing recommended by the student's academic adviser. A student entering the program must have an average of C or 2.00 on all courses taken. The requisite G.P.A. of C or 2.00 must be obtained in the first 24 credit hours. A student will not receive credit for a course or seminar in which his or her grade is below D or 1.00.
With prior approval of the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies, a student may take four of the required 24 term hours in graduate programs of Dedman College (SMU's school of humanities and sciences), in Perkins School of Theology, or in the Cox School of Business. The student will receive law school credit on completion of all work to the instructor's satisfaction, but the grades will not be computed into a student's law school average.
The student may be permitted to undertake directed research for a one- to three-hour graded paper if the student can obtain a faculty sponsor.
A student has the option of writing a Master's thesis (for four to six credit hours). This thesis must be written under the direction of a professor at the School of Law and must be approved by both the professor and the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies. After the supervising professor approves the thesis, the student must submit four copies of the thesis to the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies at least 60 days before the date on which the student seeks to receive the degree. In writing the thesis, the student must comply with committee instructions. A thesis is either approved or disapproved; it is not graded.
(C) Completion of all requirements within 36 months from the date of initial registration as a graduate law student. However, a candidate continuously enrolled as a part-time student has 60 months to complete all requirements.
Tax LL.M Degree
To receive the LL.M. (Taxation) degree the student must meet all of the following requirements:
(A) Residence in the School of Law for no fewer than two terms if a full-time student and no fewer than three terms if a part-time student. Except with special permission of the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies, all full-time students in this program must begin their studies in the fall term.
(B) Completion of 24 term-hours in courses, seminars, or research and writing. Of these 24 term-hours, 18 credit hours must be in the taxation area. Mandatory courses are Tax Accounting, and Taxation and Fiscal Policy. Income Tax is also required for any student who did not take it in their J.D. degree, and strongly recommended for all students, even if they did take it as a J.D. student.
With prior approval of the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies, a student may take four of the required 24 term-hours in graduate programs of Dedman College (SMU's school of humanities and sciences), in Perkins School of Theology, or in the Cox School of Business. The student will receive law school credit on completion of all work to the instructor's satisfaction, but the grades will not be computed into the student's law school average.
The student may be permitted to undertake directed research for a one- to three-hour graded paper if he or she can obtain a faculty sponsor.
(C) A student entering the program must have an average of C or 2.00 on all courses taken. The requisite G.P.A. of C or 2.00 must be obtained in the first 24 credit hours. A student will not receive credit for a course or seminar in which his or her grade is below D or 1.00.
(D) Completion of all requirements within 36 months from the date of initial enrollment as a graduate law student. However, a candidate continuously enrolled as a part-time student has 60 months to complete all requirements.
LL.M Degree for Foreign Law School Graduates
(A) Except with special permission of the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies, all students in this program must begin their studies in the fall term. In addition, they must participate in an extensive orientation program held at the School of Law in mid-August of each year before the start of classes in the fall term.
(B) Students pursuing the LL.M. degree for foreign law school graduates must complete 24 hours of credit from courses or seminars selected in consultation with the student's faculty advisor who is assigned during orientation. Faculty members advising candidates for this degree will make every effort to tailor a student's study plan to his or her specific graduate objectives. However, all students are required to take the course on Perspectives of the American Legal System. They will normally also take one basic J.D. course such as Contracts. In addition, many students take Perspectives of American Business Laws and/or International Business Transactions.
The School of Law awards the degree to those students who complete their course work with an average grade in all courses equivalent to a C or 1.70. A student will not receive credit for a course or seminar in which his or her grade is below D or 1.00. Students for whom English is a second language are allowed additional time to complete written final examinations.
Within a five-year period from first matriculation as an S.J.D. candidate, the S.J.D. candidate must satisfy the following requirements:
- Completion of the two-year probationary period described above.
- Submission of a doctoral dissertation of at least 80,000 words but no more than 100,000 words (including footnotes, but excluding Bibliography, Front Pages, Table of Contents and any Annexes or Appendices) on a coherent, analytical, and focused theme of a substantially legal nature; or submission of an equivalent doctoral dissertation in the form of a series of interrelated articles/chapters on a more general topic, but which collectively comprises a topically coherent volume.
- The dissertation must constitute the original work product of the S.J.D. candidate.
- The dissertation must represent and show evidence of substantial doctoral-level research work.
- The dissertation must display significant legal analyses on a doctoral-level subject.
- The dissertation must be of a publishable quality according to acceptable U.S. law review standards.
- The dissertation must make a substantial contribution to the advancement of the understanding of the relevant research subject matter.
- It is within the discretion of a S.J.D. candidate's Supervisory Committee to require a viva voce (i.e., oral examination), at which the S.J.D. candidate will be asked "to defend" orally his/her dissertation in the presence of the members of the Supervisory Committee.
- The dissertation must be approved by each member of the Supervisory Committee.
The award of the S.J.D. requires approvals of the Committee on Graduate Legal Studies, the Law Faculty, and University. Such decisions cannot be appealed, except as provided below. If the S.J.D. candidate's doctoral dissertation is not approved, the Graduate Committee will provide the S.J.D. candidate with an explanation of the reasons why it was disapproved; and the S.J.D. candidate then will be given one further twelve-month period within which to endeavor to satisfy such comments and to resubmit a revised dissertation. If the S.J.D. candidate then does not within the twelve-month period satisfy all doctoral requirements, the person is withdrawn from the S.J.D. program.