The curriculum at the UNT Dallas College of Law reflects three overall aims:
- Ensuring that all students graduate with practice-ready competencies; that is, the knowledge, understanding, and skills essential to the practice of law;
- Providing students with the opportunity to explore a range of interest areas through electives and experiences; and
- Providing students with the opportunity to develop deeper and specialized knowledge, skills, and understandings in areas that interest them.
The components of the J.D. curriculum fall within three general categories:
- Required Courses. Some required courses are taken in a specific semester; other required courses may be taken during any of several semesters.
- Requirements that do not require the taking of specific classes but that are satisfied by a specific type or sequence of for-credit coursework or noncredit classes or experiences.
First- Year Curriculum
For both full-time and part-time division students, the first two semesters consist of required courses.
These required courses include two 1-hour courses that provide an introduction to being an effective and professional law student and lawyer (Fundamentals of Being a Lawyer), and to the core methods of reading, synthesis, and analysis used throughout law school and legal practice (Legal Methods).
Additionally, the first-year curriculum at the College of Law includes traditional core first-year subjects—Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, and Property (part-time division students take Property in the third semester). These areas of law are foundational in several ways: they are critical in the practice of law, they serve as basic building blocks for advanced courses, and they provide doctrinal and practice-area context for developing the skills of legal reasoning and legal analysis.
The first-year curriculum also includes two semesters of Legal Writing and Research (LWR). This course reflects the importance of a strong foundation in writing and research. In addition, Legal Writing and Research is tied in several ways to the core doctrinal subjects. First, the course in LWR allows us to give direct and explicit attention, at the start of law school, to several areas of basic knowledge and skills that are threaded throughout the entire first year, such as how to read cases and statutes, and how to synthesize a legal rule from multiple sources. Second, at the College of Law, the courses in LWR and the doctrinal courses will be mutually reinforcing—the work in LWR often will draw on doctrines and issues covered in Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, and Property.
The first year also requires Practice Foundation I: Interviewing and Counseling (this is in the third semester for part-time students). This is the first of three required Practice Foundations courses.
In the second year (semester 3 for full-time students and semester 4 for part-time students), students are required to take: Constitutional Law, and Practice Foundations II: Negotiation and Conflict Management.
Required courses taken in sequence during the latter third of the curriculum are: Capstone I and II (Legal Analysis and Bar Readiness), and Practice Foundations III: Business of Law.
The J.D. degree includes additional required courses in areas that are widely viewed as part of the knowledge, skills, and understanding that a competent attorney should have. Some of these required courses are included on the bar examination, reflecting the judgment of the State of Texas, through rules adopted by the Texas Supreme Court, about necessary basic knowledge. These courses also introduce students to a range of practice areas, and can form the basis for advanced study in any of these areas.
These required courses are:
- Administrative Law (3 hours)
- Business Associations (3 hours)
- Effective Oral Communication (2 hours)
- Evidence (3 hours)
- Family Law (3 hours)
- Principles of Finance and Accounting for Lawyers (1 hour) (students may place out of this)
- Professional Responsibility (3 hours)
- Commercial Law I (3 hours)
- Wills, Trusts, and Estates (3 hours)
- Texas Civil Procedure (2 hours)
- Texas Criminal Procedure (2 hours)
- Capstone I and II: Legal Analysis and Bar Readiness (6 hours)*
* Applies to students entering 2015 and later
In addition to required courses, students must complete a number of “Requirements.”
- Writing Requirement
- Research Requirement
- Skills Requirement
- Experiential Requirement
- Practice-Related Technology Requirement
Each of the Requirements relates to important skills, experiences, or proficiencies. The Requirements are not themselves “courses.” Rather, depending on the Requirement, the Requirements are satisfied through credit-bearing courses, not-for-credit courses or experiences, or demonstrated proficiency.
The Requirements are:
The Writing Requirement. The Writing Requirement is satisfied by (1) completion of six (6) writing segments, and (2) completion of a Major Writing. A writing segment is a writing assignment that correlates in scope and complexity with written work product that lawyers prepare; and on which the student receives assessment. A course may contain more than one writing segment, or may contain one or more writing segments along with a research or skills segment. The Major Writing (1) is an experience involving multiple, original writings or a single, lengthy writing, entailing significant synthesis and analysis; the sum total should generally be at least 25 pages; (2) includes the submission and assessment of at least two drafts of each writing (that is, at least one first-draft and a final draft); (3) must be taught (or supervised) by full-time faculty, or other faculty (such as part-time professor of practice, or adjunct professor) with demonstrated ability to supervise a legal writing experience entailing significant synthesis and analysis.
The Research Requirement. The Research Requirement is satisfied by completion of eight (8) research segments. A research segment requires the completion of at least one significant research assignment, which will include a research plan, a research trail, and a research bibliography. A course may contain more than one research segment, or may contain one or more research segments along with a writing or skills segment. To ensure that students become proficient in the foundational information and research abilities required in practice, multiple research segments will address and reinforce knowledge of sources, creation of a research plan, use of multiple platforms for research, maintaining a research trail, and storing information.
The Skills Requirement. The Skills Requirement is satisfied by completion of six (6) skills segments in addition to the skills provided in the required classes of Practice Foundations I and Practice Foundations II. A skills segment is a performance or activity on which students are assessed and which requires a student to engage in one or more of the following professional skills, or other skills recognized by the faculty as a possible basis for a skills segment: interviewing, counseling, negotiation, fact development and analysis, trial practice, document drafting, conflict resolution, organization and management of legal work, collaboration, cultural competency and self-evaluation. A course may contain more than one skills segment, or may contain one or more skills segments along with a writing or research segment. The Registrar will maintain and publish a list of courses containing skills segments approved by the faculty.
The Experiential Requirement. To satisfy this Requirement, a student must complete the following:
- Completion of at least two courses from any of the following three categories: Practicum, Externship, and Clinic. Subject to approval, two courses can be from the same category;
- Satisfactory completion of the Community Engagement Program; and
- Satisfactory completion of the L.A. Bedford Mentorship Program.
The Practice-Related Technology Requirement. The practice-related technology requirement is satisfied by demonstration of competency in the technologies and legal technology topics necessary for a practice-ready graduate, including technologies such as word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, antivirus software, email software, courtroom software, and time management software. The College of Law will identify these technology-related competencies and the methods for demonstrating them, and will track student progress.