The Catholic University of America
CURRICULUM

 

J.D. PROGRAM — FIRST YEAR 

The first-year curriculum is prescribed for all students. The day-division curriculum consists of seven required courses totaling 29 credit hours. Evening-division students are required to complete the same basic courses within the first two years of their law school career.
 
A number of important changes to the first-year and upper division curricula were approved by the faculty to be in effect at the start of the fall semester, 2013.
 
Revisions to the first-year curriculum include an increase in the number of credit hours for Civil Procedure, Contracts, and Constitutional Law. For Constitutional law, the former five-credit course is split into two three-credit courses, one focused on the issues of governmental powers and structures and the other on individual liberties.
  
The revised curriculum is designed to achieve three main goals. It aims to strengthen first-year doctrinal courses by expanding credit hours for three courses, making two courses year-long, and by adding a practical element to the doctrinal focus of these courses. In subsequent years, the changes will support the development of practice-area concentrations to enable students who wish to specialize in selected substantive areas to acquire relevant expertise.

Finally, the reforms emphasize training that will help graduates transition to the real world of practice.
 
No law student can have a detailed knowledge of all legal areas. However, the first-year curriculum is designed to give students a solid foundation and basic understanding of substantive areas of the law. The concentration in specific areas of law and expansion of the range of subjects are reserved for the upper-division curriculum. 
 
For more detailed information, see Course Requirements. 

 

UPPER DIVISION  

The upper-division curriculum comprises several requirements, courses that are strongly recommended, and elective options. CUA Law students must complete a minimum of 84 credits to earn the J.D. degree.
 
Additional specific requirements apply to students who enroll in one of our structured certificate programs or concentrations. Other students can choose from a wide array of elective courses to design an academic plan that will fulfill their educational and professional objectives.
 
Required upper division courses include Professional Responsibility, Professional Skills, and Upper-Level Writing.
 
In addition, the law school is developing a Transition-to-Practice requirement for students. This new requirement is expected to be fulfilled by taking either a clinical course, or a capstone course. It will afford students the opportunity to apply the doctrinal knowledge, professional skills, and ethical values they have learned in the classroom to real world settings in an actual law practice or complex simulated practice.


Foundational courses for all areas of legal practice—and thus strongly recommended for all Upper Division students— include Evidence, Corporations, and Criminal Procedure. 


Practice Area Course Offerings
 
To respond to increasing demand for specialized legal services, the Law School has developed practice-area concentrations for upper division students. These are in addition to existing Institutes and Special Programs in Communications Law, Securities Law, Law and Public Policy, and Comparative and International Law, which students are encouraged to investigate and pursue. Each concentration will include: (a) foundational requirements; (b) a menu of electives; (c) one upper division writing requirement satisfied in the area of concentration; and (d) a transition to practice course requirement in the area of concentration.
 
CUA law offers concentrations in the following practice areas: Civil Litigation, Criminal Litigation, Family Law, Intellectual Property, Labor and Employment Law, and Securities Law.
 
For more detailed information, see Practice Area Course Offerings. 
 
 
Electives

There are many career choices available to today’s lawyers. To assist upper-division students in planning their academic programs, the faculty has organized elective offerings into 32 course clusters grouped by practice area.
 
Some courses are offered every year while others will be offered once every two or three years. A list of the course offerings available in a given semester and the professors who teach them will be posted prior to student registration. In all two-semester courses, the first semester course is a prerequisite to the second-semester course, unless the requirement is waived by the professor.
 
Students who wish to focus in a particular area of the law will find the clusters helpful as a curriculum guide. Additional counseling and information is available from the academic dean’s office and faculty advisers.
 
The wide variety of courses and types of educational experiences offered by the law school provide the opportunity to choose the curriculum that is most compatible with one's intellectual interests and career objectives.
 
For more detailed information, see Course Descriptions and Practice Area Course Offerings. 
 
 
Interdisciplinary Study

With permission of the academic dean, J.D. students may select up to nine credits of elective graduate-level non-law CUA courses to enhance their legal study.


Clinical Training

CUA law school’s clinical programs rank among the best in the United States and have been a defining feature of the curriculum for decades. Students enrolled in clinical courses may be certified under student practice rules to represent clients in trial or appellate courts, or in administrative hearings.
 
The clinical programs emphasize case planning and strategy, trial or administrative advocacy, and work with clients in real situations. Students learn practical trial techniques, refine research and writing skills, and develop other important lawyering skills, such as counseling, interviewing, negotiating, and mediating.
 

Clinical Opportunities

 
The law school offers numerous clinical courses. Four clinics fall under the umbrella of Columbus Community Legal Services: the General Practice Clinic, the Families and the Law Clinic, the Advocacy for the Elderly Clinic, and the Consumer Protection Project.
 
CUA law also offers additional clinical opportunities in other stimulating areas of the law. These include the Virginia Criminal Defense Clinic, the Criminal Prosecution Clinic, an Immigration Litigation Clinic, and the CUA Law/Ehrlich Partnership on Clemency Project, which is administered in conjunction with the law school's Innocence Project Clinic.

In addition to live-client clinical programs, the law school offers externship opportunities at hundreds of agencies and organizations in the D.C. area.  Academic credit may be earned for externships working in such settings as Congress, the courts, the Department of Justice, and other federal and local government agencies, in addition to local and national law firms, public interest organizations, trade associations, and corporations.
 
Student externs enroll in professional development seminars during their externships to share their experiences with others and to explore their career goals. The school offers a structured externship experience through our Securities and Exchange Commission Student Observer Program. The law school also offers many simulation courses in which students learn lawyering skills through practice and observation. 
 

 
Columbus Community Legal Services

Columbus Community Legal Services (CCLS) was established in 1969 in response to student demand for an opportunity to use their legal training in service to the community. Since its inception, CCLS has provided free, high-quality legal services to thousands of needy individuals and families who live in the District of Columbia.

In each of the four CCLS clinics, students have primary responsibility for their clients' cases. The students draft pleadings, deal with opposing counsel, argue motions, conduct hearings before local and federal agencies, conduct trials in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and present appeals to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The clinics' supervising attorneys interact daily with students and closely monitor case strategy and development. A supervising attorney also accompanies each student to all court appearances. CCLS is located on the first floor of the law school in a suite of offices that contains clinic faculty and administrative offices and clinic student work rooms.

General Practice Clinic

In the General Practice Clinic, law students serve the local community through legal representation of indigent clients and nonprofit groups. Students encounter the reality of legal practice in the context of a small general practice law office. Students have primary responsibility for their clients’ cases.

The General Practice Clinic provides students with the opportunity to handle civil law cases on behalf of low-income residents of the District of Columbia. The caseload of the clinic consists primarily of public benefits, consumer, employment, wills, guardianships, and family law matters. These cases offer the full range of client representation before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. The General Practice Clinic is designed to help students develop skills in interviewing, counseling, negotiating, drafting, motions practice, trial techniques, law practice management, and reflective lawyering.

In addition to the clinical work, there is a seminar component of the course and weekly supervisory sessions. The seminar includes participatory exercises in interviewing, counseling, negotiation, selected aspects of trial techniques, and structured discussions of legal ethics, recent common law, and statutory development. Students also participate in a limited legal assistance community project during the course of the semester. The General Practice Clinic requires an average of 20 hours per week from each student.

Families and the Law Clinic

The Families and the Law Clinic (FALC) is designed to help students develop lawyering skills through a focus on a particular substantive area of practice: domestic violence, family law, or immigration. FALC students help their clients address immediate safety needs and assert their legal rights by obtaining emergency temporary and year-long civil protection orders. Students also represent clients in longer-term litigation arising from abusive family situations, including resolving complex divorce, legal separation, property and debt distribution, custody, visitation, and child support matters. The clinic also assists immigrant victims of domestic violence seeking legal status and employment authorization through VAWA self-petitions, battered spouse waivers, and U visas. In addition to representing persons who would otherwise proceed pro se, FALC students learn to work with our client population, develop an understanding of poverty and the dynamics of domestic violence, develop trial techniques, refine research and writing skills, and hone other lawyering skills, such as counseling, interviewing, and negotiating.

FALC faculty and students also participate in a number of community projects and engage in policy work designed to address the entrenched social problems contributing to domestic violence on a systemic level. For example, FALC recently organized and facilitated regular legal information clinics at an emergency safe house funded by D.C.’s Crime Victims Compensation Program (CVC safe house), volunteered at the D.C. Superior Court Family Court Self-Help Center, and drafted educational materials and presentations on new legal protections for teen victims of dating violence in D.C.

Students participate in a weekly seminar in which a variety of family law, poverty law, professional responsibility, advocacy, and lawyering skills are covered through lectures, discussions, participatory exercises, and simulations. Students also have opportunities during the seminar to share information and insights about their clinical experience. In addition, weekly tutorial sessions with a faculty member are held with each student. The Families and the Law Clinic requires an average of 20 hours per week from each student.

Advocacy for the Elderly

Advocacy for the Elderly permits students, under faculty supervision, to provide direct representation to elderly clients on various civil matters. It was the first law school clinic in the nation developed specifically to provide evening-division students with a client representation experience. Our students currently are helping their clients solve problems dealing with fly-by-night contractors, custody of their grandchildren, estate planning, Social Security, domestic relations, pensions, real estate, and environmental protection. Seminars and meetings with supervisors are scheduled during evening and weekend hours. Except for hearings, meetings, and other client business that must be scheduled during the day, most clinic work can be done during evenings or weekends. Preference in enrollment is given to evening-division students.

Consumer Protection Project

In 2010, CCLS was selected as a recipient of a portion of unclaimed proceeds from a consumer class action settlement. CCLS used this generous gift to form the Consumer Protection Project (CPP). Today, the Consumer Protection Project equips at-risk consumers who might not otherwise be able to afford or access legal representation with the information and advice they need to protect their legal rights in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and the District of Columbia.

As part of the Consumer Protection Project, students attend a weekly seminar, participate in community legal educational outreach, and provide direct client representation. Students assist low-income Maryland and District of Columbia residents on a range of consumer-related matters such as bankruptcy, debt collection, wrongful repossessions, identity theft, and credit scams. Students also develop "know your rights" outreach programs, and conduct limited advice clinics for Maryland and District of Columbia residents.

CPP is open to all 2nd and 3rd year students and there are no course prerequisites. Students may sign up for either 4, 5, or 6 credit hours. All credit options include mandatory attendance at the weekly class seminar. The 4 credit option requires students to commit 13 hours per week to the project; the 5 credit option requires students to commit 17 hours per week to the project; and the 6 credit option requires students to commit 20 hours per week to the project. The weekly time commitment includes the weekly seminar.

Innocence Project Clinic and Clemency Project

The Innocence Project Clinic & Clemency Project provides services to individuals in two types of matters, those involving claims of actual innocence and those involving requests for executive clemency in the absence of actual innocence.

Through direct service to incarcerated inmates convicted of serious crimes who maintain their actual innocence, students in the CUA Innocence Project Clinic & Clemency Project develop essential lawyering skills: oral and written communication, investigation, interviewing, counseling, negotiating, professional judgment, and creative problem-solving. Students evaluate case histories — including review of trial transcripts, appellate briefs, medical reports, laboratory reports, and other documents — and fully reinvestigate the events that led to the arrest and conviction of the inmate. Students also may interview prisoners, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and expert and lay witnesses during their investigations. If the investigation reveals a viable claim of innocence, the matter is referred to an outside cooperating attorney who will undertake representation of the inmate to prosecute the claim of innocence. Whenever possible, students from the CUA Innocence Project Clinic will be assigned to work with the cooperating attorney in prosecution of the inmate’s claim.

The second area in which the Clinic provides service is to individuals who have been convicted of felonies in federal court who wish to seek a commutation of a sentence or full pardon from the President of the United States. In the clemency cases, the students fully investigate the circumstances leading to the conviction or convictions and the petitioner's conduct after the conviction and assist the individual in preparing and filing a petition for clemency with the Office of Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice.

In addition to working on claims of actual innocence on behalf of inmates and clemency petitions, students in this Clinic participate in a weekly seminar that examines the lawyering skills and processes necessary for investigating a claim of innocence and petition for clemency; state and federal post conviction procedures (e.g., motions for new trial based on new evidence, state collateral attack, federal habeas corpus, and clemency); the nature and uses of DNA and other scientific evidence; and problems in the criminal justice system that may contribute to convicting the innocent, such as ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct, witness misidentification, false confessions, and tainted evidence. The students also may participate in research and writing projects on issues to reform the criminal justice system to reduce the frequency of wrongful convictions, to address the problems faced by exonerated inmates upon their release from prison and reintegration into free society, or to improve the procedures for granting executive clemency.
Students earn six credits in this year-long clinic, three credits each semester. The written work in the clinic satisfies the requirements for the upper-level writing requirement portfolio credit, and participation in the clinic satisfies the upper-level skills course requirement. All credits are graded.

Criminal Prosecution Clinic

The Criminal Prosecution Clinic is a four-credit, one-semester course (offered in the spring semester only) that provides eligible students with a rigorous and intensive exposure to criminal prosecution practice through a combination of actual trial practice and classroom work. Students are supervised closely by assistant state attorneys in preparing and prosecuting misdemeanor criminal matters in one of the local jurisdictions.

In addition, the prosecuting attorneys or their supervisors conduct a weekly two-hour seminar that introduces students to the skills required to appear in court on behalf of the government in criminal cases.

 

Virginia Criminal Defense Clinic

The Virginia Criminal Defense Clinic is a four-credit, one-semester course that provides eligible students with a rigorous and intensive exposure to criminal defense practice through a combination of actual trial practice and classroom work. Students are assigned to work in a public defender’s office, where they defend criminal cases in the trial or juvenile courts.
 
After a short orientation, students are given a docket of cases for which they are responsible.  Under the supervision of an assistant public defender, the students engage in investigation, plea bargain negotiations, motions practice, and criminal trials to the court.  In addition, students have many opportunities to evaluate different styles of lawyering by watching criminal trial lawyers in action.  To supplement and refine their practice experience, students attend a weekly class in which they discuss their pending cases and what they have encountered in court.
 
Students must be eligible for certification under the Virginia student practice rule, which requires, among other things, completion of at least four semesters of legal studies and the completion of courses in criminal law, professional ethics, evidence, and procedure.

 

Immigration Litigation Clinic

The Immigration Litigation Clinic is new for the 2013-14 academic year. It will serve immigrants who qualify for pro bono representation, and is taught by two adjunct faculty members who are experts in the area. In a novel arrangement, the clinic will be conducted in a joint venture with Catholic Charities, which will undertake to screen potential clients and provide space for client meetings and files.  

 

^top

Legal Externships

The Columbus School of Law has one of the most highly regarded legal externship programs in the United States. Through this program, about 200 upperclass students per year earn course credits during the fall, spring, and summer by working in nonprofit organizations; federal, state, and local government agencies; Congress; and for judges, law firms, trade associations and corporations in the D.C. area. Here is a list of some of the hundreds of organizations and agencies where CUA students have done externships.

  • American Bar Association
  • Catholic Charities, USA
  • CUA Office of General Counsel
  • Children's Defense Fund
  • Death Penalty Information Center
  • D.C. Attorney General
  • D.C. City Council
  • D.C. Court of Appeals
  • D.C. Prisoners' Legal Services
  • D.C. Public Defender Service
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Food Research and Action Center
  • Legal Aid Society of D.C.
  • Montgomery County District Attorney
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
  • National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Organization of American States
  • Superior Court of the District of Columbia
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • U.S. Army Office of the Judge Advocate General
  • U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
  • Whitman-Walker Clinic Legal Services

Students may enroll in externships after completing the required first-year courses. A student may earn two or three credits per semester for externships and, as explained below, will earn two credits for an externship seminar during the first externship for credit. A two-credit externship requires 120 hours of work, and a three-credit externship requires 180 hours of work. Students submit detailed time logs to their faculty supervisors. Fieldwork for credit must be uncompensated. Each student must be supervised by a lawyer or another professional who is employed by the placement organization.

For the first externship, in addition to fieldwork, most students participate in a two-credit professional development seminar called Becoming a Lawyer. In the seminars, students present their field experiences and discuss professional goals, ethical dilemmas, and the legal profession. For the second or subsequent externship, students register for the fieldwork through Supervised Fieldwork and receive tutorial supervision from a faculty member.

Students are responsible for securing their own placements but may seek advice or guidance from Professor Mary Leary, the Director of Experiential Education, or from staff in the Office of Career and Professional Development. Find an online database of placement opportunities at http://externships.law.edu. Notices of current listings of externship opportunities are posted at https://law-cua-csm.symplicity.com.

Summer Program
International Business and Trade Summer Law Program
Cracow, Poland
 
In its 22nd year, the International Business and Trade Summer Law Program at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland, offers students intensive training in the global aspects of modern trade law, foreign investments, financial institutions, and various substantive areas of law. The Summer Law Program is unique in that American students live and study side-by-side with their Polish counterparts, who are selected on a competitive basis. 
 
In addition to staple courses examining the laws of the European Union and those that regulate international trade and foreign investment, new courses are frequently developed for the Summer Law Program. The law school’s goal is to offer students exclusive courses covering comparative aspects of substantive areas of law, which are occasionally available in the United States and are of fundamental importance to students of countries in transition, like Poland. In summer 2013, five courses were offered: Comparative and International Trade, Law of the European Union, International Business Transactions, and International Economic Regulation and International Securities Regulation. All classes are conducted in English. Students participating in the four and a half-week Summer Law Program may enroll in a maximum of four courses or six credit hours. Upon satisfactory completion of the program, students are awarded a certificate.
 
Supplemental to the academic component of the Summer Law Program is a Distinguished Guest Lecture Series. Notable international figures from the public and private sector who have participated include Sandra Day O’Connor, former associate justice of the United States Supreme Court; Dr. Kazimierz Jaskowski, justice of the Supreme Court of Poland; Dr. Stanley Glod, former vice president, Central Europe, Boeing Aerospace, Poland; and Dr. Jerzy Pruski, First Deputy President of the National Bank of Poland. Numerous cultural and enrichment activities include a tour of historic Cracow and Wawel Cathedral and excursions to Auschwitz, Wieliczka Salt Mine, Lancut Palace, the Tatra Mountain resort of Zakopane, and other destinations.
 
The Summer Law Program courses satisfy mandatory and/or elective Comparative and International Law Institute requirements. Many first-year law students fulfill some of the CILI requirements by registering in the Summer Law Program.

The International Business and Trade Summer Law Program in Cracow, Poland, is fully accredited by the American Bar Association.

For more information and to apply, visit our website: http://www.law.edu/summerabroad/cracow/ or contact the Office of Institutes and Special Programs.
 
International Human Rights Summer Law Program
Rome, Italy

Rome, the eternal city, is the site for Catholic University's International Human Rights Summer Law Program. The Rome Program allows participants to earn three or four credits over a three-week period of classes. Students live and study in Rome, home to the Holy See, a major international advocate for human rights and provider of humanitarian relief throughout the world. It is also the headquarters of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as other legal and humanitarian institutions of interest to those studying human rights. In addition, Rome’s historical, religious, cultural, and legal significance make it a perfect setting for a concentrated study of human rights law. In the program, students choose among course offerings that focus on different aspects of human rights law. Course selections are a blend of classes that include both existing offerings in the international human rights curriculum, as well as courses designed specifically for this program. In addition to the formal curriculum, students supplement their studies with planned visits to local legal institutions and organizations and have opportunities to explore the city of Rome to enjoy some of Italy’s cultural and historic treasures. Because the program is concentrated at the start of the summer, it is particularly well-suited to upper-level students, as well as evening students who may be working for the last two months of the summer.   In addition, students who have finished their first year of law school and have an interest in human rights law are also welcome to apply.

The International Human Rights Summer Law Program is fully accredited by the American Bar Association.
 
For more information and to apply, visit our website: http://www.law.edu/summerabroad/rome/ or contact the Office of Institutes and Special Programs.

^top