JD Academic Advising

After your first year, you have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of elective courses to fulfill the 86 (85 for those who began before Fall 2011) credits. The two classes you must take after your first year (or after your second year for part-time students) are Tax I and Professional Responsibility. Additionally, you may only take up to 16 credits per semester and no more than 7 credits during a single summer.

Rules to Remember When Choosing Courses

There are several academic rules in place to ensure that students take a variety of courses prior to graduation.  Keep in mind these rules as you plan your semesters:

  • No more than 16 total pass/fail (H/P/L/F) credits earned over all combined semesters may count towards your degree. (You may, of course, go over the 85/86 credits needed to graduate in order to take additional pass/fail courses.  With block tuition rates, this typically does not add costs).
  • No more than 2 Independent Supervised Research credits earned over all combined semesters may count toward your degree.
  • No more than 6 total Journal, Moot Court, and Independent Supervised Research credits earned over all combined semesters may count towards your degree.
  • No more than 6 total units may be taken at an institution other than USD School of Law (e.g. credits earned in courses from the USD Business School or another law school).

Bar Courses

In order to be licensed to practice law in a particular state you must pass that state’s licensing or “bar” exam.  Most of the courses you took in your first year are covered on bar exams across the country.  However there are additional subjects that are covered on the bar exam that are not required courses, but that students are strongly encouraged to take as electives. For the California Bar, these courses include:

  • Community Property (3 credits)
  • Constitutional Law II (3 credits)
  • Corporations (4 credits)
  • Criminal Procedure (3 credits)
  • Evidence (4 credits)
  • Remedies (3 or 4 credits)
  • UCC Sales (3 credits)
  • Wills and Trusts (3 credits)

Additional California Bar courses:

  • California Civil Procedure (3 credits) – occasionally offered
  • California Evidence – not regularly offered
  • Business Associations – not regularly offered


Many students come to law school with a particular practice area in mind for their future career or quickly develop a special interest. For students ready to focus their study after the first year, USD offers concentration programs in six key practice areas. These concentrations highlight curricular strengths, offering a rich selection of courses taught by leading scholars and expert practitioners.

Concentrations are offered in:

Students may consult the concentration curriculum as an informal guide for shaping their education or enhancing their career preparation. If you meet the specific requirements for a concentration, you will receive a transcript notation and Certificate of Concentration.  For assistance in planning your schedule to meet the requirements for a concentration, contact Irene Meloney, Director for Law Student Affairs.


Students have more than 50 credits in elective courses, so be sure to check out our Course Descriptions database to see what is available for each semester. We’ve already discussed the suggested bar courses and the path to a concentration above, but there are still other elective options to consider. The question becomes: what interests you? USD offers a variety of courses in many areas of the law and society including: Animal Law, Trademark Law, Art Law, Sports Law, International Human Rights, International Business Transactions, just to name a few.  Use your elective credits to explore these areas and get to know the professors teaching these courses.

You may also receive credit in more experiential courses and activities including:

Independent Research/Study

After your first year of law school, you may earn between zero and two credits during any semester or summer for supervised independent research and writing.  For more information on selecting a topic and faculty advisor, and to obtain a form, please contact the Office for Law Student Affairs.


Law Student Affairs
Warren Hall, Room 218
Phone: (619) 260-4651
Fax: (619) 260-7715


M-F: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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