J.D. Program

J.D. Program Overview

Full-Time Law Program

The UNM School of Law offers a full-time course of study leading to the degree of Juris Doctor (J.D.). Applicants for admission to the School of Law are required to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), to register for the Law School Data Assembly Service, and to have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university before the time of registration. Beginning law students will matriculate at the beginning of the fall semester only. The normal period for a full-time law student to complete requirements for a J.D. degree is three years.

First-year law students enrolled in the full-time program may work no more than 15 hours per week. Second- and third-year law students may work no more than 20 hours per week.

Flexible Time Program

An expanded Flexible Time (“Flex Time”) Program will be available to a limited number of first-year law students each year. Applicants who wish to be considered for the first-year Flex Time Program may indicate their interest by checking the applicable box on the UNM law school application form. No more than 10 entering students per year will be offered admission to the first-year Flex Time Program. If the demand for the expanded Flexible Time Program produces more qualified applicants than can be accepted into the program, those qualified applicants not admitted into the first-year Flex Time Program will be asked if they wish to be considered for admission to the full-time program.

Students enrolled in the Flex Time Program will be required to take 9 to 10 credit hours (3-4 classes) per semester during the first year. Fall classes will be Elements of Legal Argumentation I (3 credits), Contracts (3 credits), and Torts (3 credits). Spring classes will be Elements of Legal Argumentation II (3 credits), Property (3 credits), Introduction to Constitutional Law (3 credits), and Introduction to Legal Research (1 credit). Flex students will complete the remaining first-year required courses in their second year by taking Criminal Law and Lab in the Fall, and Civil Procedure I in the Spring. Whenever possible, the flex-time classes will be scheduled in a block in order to maximize scheduling efficiency and best meet the needs of the students.

First-year flex-time students will not be eligible to enroll in a summer externship program following their first year of law school as they will not have completed the first-year curriculum, which is a requirement for the externship. 

First-year students wishing to continue as Flex Time as in the second and third years must request permission from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

After completion of all first-year courses, the Flex Time Program allows upper-class law students, by permission of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, to take as few as 8 credit hours in any semester. However, all students must complete the J.D. degree in five academic years. 

Students enrolled in the Flex Time Program are not bound by the “work rules” which limit the work hours of full-time law students (see Employment During Law School page).

Flex Time Program students may re-enroll as full-time students with the permission of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

The Flex Time Program is not a true part-time program, as classes are scheduled throughout the day (not just evenings), Monday through Friday.

J.D. Program Degree Requirements

To graduate from UNM with a J.D. degree, a student must meet all of the following requirements:

Credit Hours

The student must earn at least 86 hours of law credit. At least 64 of the credit hours required for graduation must be earned through attendance in regularly scheduled classroom sessions or direct faculty instruction. For purposes of this calculation, credits earned for field placements (like externships and the D.C. Semester), courses taken elsewhere in the University, journals, and competitions are excluded.

A law "credit hour" is an amount of work that reasonably approximates not less than 750 minutes of classroom or direct faculty instruction (usually 50 minutes weekly over 15 weeks) and 1800 minutes of out-of-class student work (usually 120 minutes weekly over 15 weeks) for a total of 2,550 minutes (42.5 hours). Seminars, clinical courses, externships, field placements, journals, and competitions are likely to allocate instructional time and out-of-class student work time differently, but must still require at least 42.5 hours of combined direct faculty instruction and out-of-class student work per credit hour over the length of the course. 

Grade Point Average

The student must attain at least a 2.00 overall grade point average.

Required Courses

  • First-Year. The student must take the full required first-year curriculum offered upon entrance.
  • Second-Year. Students must take the two credit Applied Legal Research course in their second year (effective with the class of 2013)  They also must take the Constitutional Rights class in the Fall of the second year.
  • Professional Responsibility. Students must take and pass Ethics, a professional responsibility course. This requirement is a pre- or co-requisite with the clinic program.
  • Clinic. The student must participate satisfactorily in at least six hours of clinical law school credit, as prescribed by the faculty. No extern field experience courses or skills courses apply toward this requirement. There are pre-requisites and/or co-requisites for some clinical courses. To be eligible for clinic courses, a student must have successfully completed 40 credit hours.

Writing Requirements

  • Writing Seminar Requirement. Students may fulfill the writing seminar requirement by enrolling in a designated writing seminar. This course is normally taken during the second year, or the first semester of the third year.

    Writing seminar criteria: a single paper written by one student alone that requires research. The paper must represent at least 75% of the seminar grade. The course must be taught by a regular or emeritus faculty member.

  • Drafting Course Requirement. Students may fulfill the drafting course requirement by enrolling in a designated drafting course. This course must be taken in the second or third year. If the writing requirement seminar is going to be taken in the third year, the drafting course must be completed in the second year.

    Drafting course criteria: a substantial written product or series of products which are collectively substantial that require research (with the exception of well-conceived closed drafting classes). The written work is to be done by one student alone and the work will represent at least 75% of the course grade. The course may be taught by a regular, emeritus, adjunct, or visiting faculty member.

J.D. Program Attendance Policy

All ABA-accredited law schools are required to abide by the Standards for Approval of Law Schools of the American Bar Association, including the rule that, "A law school shall require regular class attendance." Consistent with these directives, the UNM School of Law faculty believes that regular attendance supports academic success and engagement in the classroom that is essential for effective learning, as well as the development of good professional habits.

Subject to the exceptions provided below, a student who misses more than 20% of the classes held by a professor for a course is deemed not in compliance with the requirement of regular class attendance. An individual professor may establish a limitation on absences that is lower than 20% if the professor has announced the lower limitation during the first week of class or has indicated the lower limitation in the syllabus or other class materials distributed in the first week of class.

A student may request that an absence be considered excused and not count toward the 20% limitation on absences or lower limitation established by the professor. A request for excused status, with any appropriate documentation that may be requested by the professor, should be presented to the professor for the professor’s consideration. Whether to grant excused status for an absence shall be at the discretion of the professor, but permissible reasons to grant excused status may include mandatory clinical requirements, a serious medical condition, a family emergency, or other extraordinary circumstances. If a student’s total absences (including both excused and unexcused absences) exceed 30% of the classes held by the professor, then any additional requests for excused status for any absences must be approved by both the professor of the course and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

If a student has unexcused absences that total more than 20% of the classes held by a professor, or a lower limitation established by the professor, then the professor shall notify the Director of Academic Success and the School of Law Registrar, and the student shall be withdrawn from the course with a grade of either WP (withdraw/pass) or WF (withdraw/fail).

Each professor is responsible for keeping track of student attendance in a manner of his/her choosing, as long as individual attendance can be verified. At the time that the professor turns in his or her grades to the Registrar, the professor must certify in writing that all students in the class have attended class in a regular and punctual manner, and that the professor maintains adequate evidence of individual class attendance by all students in the course.

A professor may take attendance into account in determining a student’s grade for a class.

J.D. Program Transfer Credits

The University of New Mexico School of Law accepts transfer credits from other ABA approved law schools with approval by the Registrar.

Study Abroad and Visiting Student Status

Current students are eligible to visit other ABA approved law schools and/or participate in study abroad programs approved by the ABA to receive credit toward the J.D. degree. Students must receive pre-approval of courses prior to attending such a program. The student will need to provide a course description for each course for which they wish to receive credit as well as completing a permission form. Transfer work is recorded as CR on the University of New Mexico transcript and the School of Law transcript record.

Transferring to UNM School of Law

Upon admission, the transfer student's law school transcript (from the first law school attended) and course descriptions for the courses taken by the student are evaluated by the Registrar to determine the amount of credit the student receives toward the J.D. degree at UNM School of Law. In general, transfer applicants must present one full year of academic credit. No more than a maximum of forty-three semester hours of transfer credit will be accepted toward the degree. Transfer work must have a grade of at least a “C” and all credits are recorded as CR on the University of New Mexico transcript and the School of Law  transcript record.

Transfer students may be eligible for a Latin honors recognition, but not for other graduation honors or nomination to the Order of the Coif.