To qualify for the Degree of Juris Doctor (J.D.), students must:

  •     meet the conditions to continue as a degree candidate
  •     successfully complete the required curriculum: the first-term course requirements        and a total of 83 units of satisfactory work
  •     satisfy the program’s writing requirements
  •     spend at least six full terms or the equivalent thereof in residence
  •     be recommended for the degree by the faculty



After the first term, students must satisfactorily complete at least 67 units of credit. Students are free to select their own curriculum, but by graduation they must complete:

  • Criminal Law or Criminal Law and Administration
  • a course of at least two units substantially devoted to issues of legal ethics or professional responsibility
  • for students who matriculated between July 1, 2012, and September 30, 2015, a course or program of at least 2 units providing the close supervision of professional skills; for students who matriculated after June 30, 2016, one or more experiential courses totaling at least 6 credit hours
  • the writing requirements
  • no more than 10 units may be approved for independent research and reading
  • no more than 12 units of courses in other departments at Yale may be counted toward the 83 units required for the JD.
    A student must enroll in no fewer than 12 units of credit in any term unless approval is given by the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs. Approval to take fewer than 12 units of credit will only be granted if a student can demonstrate extraordinary circumstances; no more than one term below 12 units of credit will be approved.
  • Yale Law School Policy on Satisfactory Academic Progress
  • For more detailed information on academic requirements, please refer to the Yale University Bulletin


Writing Requirements

All JD candidates must complete:

  • Supervised Analytic Writing (SAW) 3 units

    This involves work that is closely supervised by a Law School faculty member and is designed to increase the student’s proficiency in legal research, analytic reasoning, and writing in a single field of concentration. The paper may not be purely descriptive in character. Supervised Analytic Writing papers may not be submitted on a Credit/Fail basis.

  • Substantial Paper 2+ units
    Must be a significant written project. Professors may accept Substantial Papers on either a graded or credit/fail basis.

Prior to beginning work on a Supervised Analytic Writing paper or Substantial Paper, a student should secure the approval of the supervising faculty member.

At least one of these writing requirements must be satisfied before students can register for their penultimate term at the Law School. The Law School requires that the professor supervising one of those writing projects must certify the student’s completion of the project before the student can register for her or his penultimate term; the faculty certification must include a grade for the paper.

Supervised Analytic Writing papers or Substantial Papers may be prepared in connection with:

  • seminars or courses
  • independent research and writing under faculty supervision
  • the Intensive Semester Research Program
  • a program of research and writing, conducted under the joint supervision of two faculty members and spread over two terms, which is related to a course or seminar offered by one or both of the faculty members

Work done in courses outside the Law School will not be accepted in satisfaction of the writing requirements.


Grade Structure

Grades for all degree students are earned as:

  • Honors: Performance in the course demonstrates superior mastery of the subject.
  • Pass: Successful performance in the course.
  • Low Pass: Performance in the course is below the level expected for the award of a degree.
  • Credit: The course has been completed satisfactorily; no particular level of performance is specified. All first-term courses and certain advanced courses are offered only on a credit/fail basis.
  • Failure: No credit is given for the course.
  • Requirement Completed (RC): Indicates J.D. preparticipation in Moot Court or Barristers’ Union. 

There is no required “curve” for grades in Law School classes. Individual class rank is not computed.