The J.D. program at UNC School of Law provides students with a broad legal education that will prepare them to begin their legal careers at a high level of readiness to pursue their professional goals. In recent years, law schools nationwide have been responding to the legal community's need for students to obtain additional practical skills while in school, and Carolina has responded with curriculum changes and additional extracurricular skills-training programs and offerings.
An Introduction to the J.D. Curriculum
The first-year curriculum has mandatory requirements in which students:
- Are introduced to legal method and legal analysis
- Study core subjects such as the American legal tradition, civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, torts and property
- Begin to develop legal skills, including legal research and writing and oral arguments
- Study with a small section course in a substantive area of law in the fall semester to foster active discussion and frequent teacher-student interaction
Many non-required second-year courses are tested on bar exams, and for that reason they are often referred to as "core courses." Thus, second-year students have registration priority for:
Second-year students are required to take Professional Responsibility, introducing them to legal ethics and the law governing lawyers, and they also have numerous opportunities to develop practical skills.
In the third year, students deepen and broaden substantive exposure to the law. Students are encouraged to pursue advanced electives that build upon the foundation courses taken during the second year and which are relevant to their career paths. They're also encouraged to enroll in "perspectives courses" to reflect on legal studies from the viewpoint of related disciplines, such as history, literature, social science or philosophy, or from the viewpoints of other cultures through comparative or critical legal studies.
Third-year students may enroll in up to three credit hours of courses offered by other UNC professional schools or graduate departments, if the courses are substantially related to the student's legal education and with the prior approval of both the graduate or professional school and the law school's Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
This is also a time in which students are more rigorously preparing for the transition to practice, and thus they have the opportunity to enroll in courses that stress practical skills, such as:
- The Trial Advocacy Program, which provides intensive training in trial related skills and satisfies the Skills requirement (see sidebar)
- The Clinical Program, to which students can apply to participate in Civil, Community Development, Immigration Policy or Juvenile Justice Clinics
- The Externship Program, which places students with federal and state judges, government agencies, public interest groups and corporate counsel offices
Skills-related courses such as Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiation or Mediation
Additional Requirements for Graduation
There are three additional requirements for graduation: two writing courses and one skills course.
Writing: Students must complete two writing experiences after the first year of law school, at least one of which must satisfy a "rigorous writing experience" (RWE). An RWE is defined as satisfactory completion of a significant research paper or a series of related papers, which, taken together, are the functional equivalent of a significant research paper, under the direct supervision of a faculty member. In addition, at least one of the two writing experiences should be completed during the second-year of law school.
In addition to an RWE, students must also satisfy one additional writing requirement. This second writing experience (WE) may be satisfied by:
- A second "rigorous writing experience"
- A course requiring one or more short writing assignments
- An add-on writing component for extra credit to existing courses
- A paper completed for a one or two-credit independent study
- A note or comment written for a student-edited journal
- A writing project for inter-school moot court competition administered by the Holderness Moot Court Bench
- Writing completed for a clinic designated by the director of Clinical Programs
Skills: Students must complete at least one two- or three-hour skills course beyond the first year. The Skills requirement may be satisfied in either the second or third year. If a course is designated as a writing course as well as a skills course, the student must indicate whether he or she is taking the course to satisfy the writing requirement or the skills requirement. A three-hour independent study may also satisfy the RWE requirement. The RWE may be completed in either the second or the third year of law school.
Second-year students are encouraged to participate in extra- and co-curricular activities designed to strengthen skills in legal writing, oral communication, and advocacy, and to provide opportunities for leadership and community service to individuals who require but often cannot afford legal assistance. The primary emphasis, however, must remain on academics.