The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

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First Year Curriculum

The School of Law maintains one of the richest academic programs of any law school in the country. The renowned strength of our faculty in scholarship, service to the profession, and teaching is the touchstone of this diverse curriculum. The foundation of a student's legal education is built during the first year, when students acquire the basic building blocks of the law, along with the fundamental skills of legal analysis and argumentation. The Law School faculty's commitment to teaching is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that, with rare exceptions, the first-year program is taught entirely by the regular full-time faculty of the Law School, including its most distinguished members. During the first year of law study, a student takes prescribed courses as determined by the faculty. The class meeting times are set by the administration and faculty and are spread throughout the week with at least two classes each day. No changes to the schedule or reduction in course load will be made because of personal convenience or outside employment. The faculty believes that students should not engage in outside employment during the first year of law study because it tends to weaken the first-year educational experience and lower law school performance.

Required First-Year Courses

Civil Procedure: 4 hours, Property: 4 hours, Contracts: 4 hours, Torts: 4 hours, Constitutional Law I: 4 hours, Legal Research & Writing: 2 hours, Criminal Law: 4 hours, Writing Component: 1 hour*, and an elective course: 2, 3, or 4 hours. *(added to one of the 4 hour courses)

Small Group Program

One of the required substantive first-year courses in each large section is divided into several smaller sections, each usually taught by a member of the regular faculty. The faculty assigns and supervises an early legal writing project, and gives individualized help to students in their legal writing. The small group program, which represents a major commitment of faculty resources to the core instructional program, has been a great success since it was implemented in 1997-98. The small classes promote greater classroom discussion, enhance student-faculty interaction inside and outside the classroom, and encourage innovative instructional methods.

Legal-Writing Program

First-year students take Legal Research and Legal Writing for two credits in the fall semester and two credits in the spring semester. The fall course focuses on legal research in print and electronic sources and written legal analysis in the form of a legal memorandum. Students also give an oral report of their research. The spring course focuses on brief writing and oral advocacy before an appellate court. In both semesters, the legal-writing faculty is assisted by TQs – capable second- and third-year students who help review student work.

Extended First Year Program

Each year the Dean may admit a limited number of students to the Extended First-Year Program. Participation in the program is restricted to students with disabilities and to students who are parents with the primary care and responsibility for young children. These students take a reduced load of courses completing the First-Year Program their second year. Admitted students who wish to seek admission to the program, or who want more information about it, should contact the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at (512) 232-1313. The priority deadline for admission to the Extended Program is June 1.

Requirements for Graduation

Eighty-six credit hours are required for graduation. After completing the first year of law studies (thirty hours), the only required courses are Professional Responsibility (two or three hours), Constitutional Law II (three hours), a writing seminar (three hours), and one course from the list of professional skills courses approved each year by the Dean. The remaining credit hours are electives. After the first year, an average of fourteen hours per semester is required to graduate in the usual total of six semesters, but a student may take any course load, provided the minimum and maximum hour requirements, ten and sixteen, respectively, are observed. A student may earn additional credits in the summer sessions. The Law School is strictly a full-time, daytime program.

Grading System

The following letter grades are assigned in the School of Law: A+, A, A-; B+, B, B-; C+, C; D; and F. In calculating the grade point average for law courses, an A+ counts as 4.30 points a semester hour; an A, as 4; an A-, as 3.70; a B+, as 3.30; a B, as 3; a B-, as 2.70; a C+, as 2.30; a C, as 2: a D, as 1.70; and an F, as 1.30. An explanation of the grading policy appears on the student's transcript.

Minimum Performance Standards

Less than one percent of students at the Law School are dismissed for academic performance. A student must receive a final grade of at least D in a course to receive credit for that course. A student must have a grade point average of at least 1.90 on all law courses taken to graduate from the School of Law. Grades of F are included in the grade point average, but courses in which the student earned an F are not counted toward the number of hours required for a degree. A student who has received final grades for more than twenty semester hours and whose average falls below 1.80 is dropped from the School of Law for failure. A student who has received final grades for more than twenty hours and whose average is 1.80 to 1.89 is placed on scholastic probation. While on scholastic probation, a student who fails to maintain a 1.90 average on all law courses taken during any semester is dropped from the School of Law for failure. A student who has been dropped for failure after receiving grades for thirty-three or more semester hours will not be readmitted to the School of Law, with this exception: If he or she has never been on scholastic probation in the School of Law, he or she may be readmitted on scholastic probation for one long-session semester. A student who has been dropped for failure after receiving grades for fewer than thirty-three semester hours may be admitted as a new student after he or she has remained out of the School of Law for at least twelve months. The Law School Admissions Committee may attach significance to the prior failure. No student who has been dropped for failure from the School of Law will be permitted, prior to readmission, to visit classes. A student who fails a required course must repeat it once. A student who fails an elective course may, at his or her option, repeat it once. The student may not repeat any course more than once. Both the original and the subsequent grade are used in computing the student's grade point average.