The Degree of Juris Doctor

Yale Law School’s three-year J.D. program provides students with a legal education of outstanding breadth and depth. Our graduates go on to successful careers in academia, public and private practice, the judiciary, government, education, and business and industry.

Law school students everywhere take many of the same classes: Constitutional Law, Contracts, Procedure, and Torts. At Yale, each student takes these courses during the first term, and one of these courses is taken in a “small group” seminar format, with about 18 classmates and a faculty member. To foster an environment of collaboration rather than competition, all first-term courses are graded on a credit/fail basis.

The small group is at the heart of Yale’s first-term experience, and these seminars are led by some of the School’s best professors. The small size of the class ensures that students develop a close relationship with the professor and with each other. Many students find this class to be one of the most memorable experiences of their three years here, with small group members often forming close bonds that last not only through the three years of law school, but after graduation as well. Here, students learn not just the subject matter of the course, but how to begin thinking, researching, and writing about the law.

For the remaining five semesters, the curriculum is almost entirely elective, except for a few requirements. Some students choose to focus on traditional “black letter” law classes, while others explore cutting-edge legal theory or interdisciplinary pursuits.

Students can receive credit for participating in journals, enter a joint-degree program, develop a reading group or individual research program, devise an intensive semester research project, or take advantage of hundreds of lectures, conferences, and special events held each year.

Learning takes place outside the classroom as well—clinical programs and student organizations are vital to the academic life of the School.

To learn more, visit the J.D. Admissions page.