Earning Your J.D. Degree
The UNT Dallas College of Law offers the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Students must earn at least 88 semester credit hours to receive the J.D. degree. Students in the full-time program will normally complete the J.D. degree in 3 years, while completion of the J.D. through the evening-division program will usually take 4 years. Completion might occur more quickly, depending on summer-session attendance.
An Innovative Approach to Instruction
Led by accomplished, full-time faculty, our instruction draws on the most current innovations and best practices in teaching and learning. Key features of our instructional approach include:
Multiple Formative and Summative Assessments
Traditionally, grades in law school courses are based entirely or primarily on a single end-of-term exam. By contrast, our courses—including first-year courses—will include multiple “formative” and “summative” assessments.
Formative assessment refers to activities or measures that provide feedback at a time when students can still learn and improve on the skill or knowledge that is assessed.
Summative assessment refers to activities or tests that measure, at a point in time, the student’s knowledge and mastery of the area for which the test provides the summative measure.
Thus, rather than using a single end-of-term exam (a single summative assessment), a first-year or upper-level class will include multiple formative and summative assessments. The multiple formative assessments could include regular quizzes on the material, or written assignments on which the professor provides a rubric and sample answer. As to summative assessments, the student’s final grade would be based on several measures at different points in time—for instance, several tests, a mid-term, and a final.
Courses Designed for Effective and Engaged Learning
We believe that all segments of a student’s coursework—before class, during class, and after class—should be designed in ways that use every minute most effectively. To that end, we will draw on the best insights of educators about designing classes in ways that promote effective and engaged learning with the proper use of technology, hands-on learning, stated learning objectives, and assessment.
Learning by Doing
Our students will be extensively involved in experiential learning—that is, learning by doing. This will start in the first year, in the course titled The Practice and Profession of Law. Most upper level courses will include a “learn by doing” component, reflected in a “2 + 1” model, with 2 hours of coverage on the substantive law and 1 hour for “lab.” The lab refers to work that applies substantive law—such as drafting, negotiating, researching a problem, or working with a team to design a research plan. Some upper level courses will be devoted primarily to skills and practice activities, such as Trial Advocacy and classes in advanced transactions. Finally, students will gain experience in actual practice settings through participation in clinics and externships.
Relationship to Bar Exam
We believe that a rigorous, competency-based curriculum can and should include moving toward readiness to pass the bar exam. Substantive knowledge of law, legal reasoning, and writing are primary areas covered on the bar exam (taking into account both the national and the state portions of the exam). Thus, while our educational goals are not identical to preparing students for bar passage, these goals do include much of the knowledge and skills needed for bar passage.
Discovering Your Professional Path
Starting with the first year and continuing through graduation, students should grow in their understanding of what lawyers (and legally trained professionals) actually do—including the nature of different practice areas and range of lawyering skills needed—and in their understanding of their own areas of interest, strengths, and aptitudes. In making this journey, students obviously should have the assistance and input of the career development office. But experiences, coverage, and feedback from the curriculum itself should also develop understanding of the many pathways in a legal life and help students discern and discover their own possible paths in their law careers.