Jun 19, 2024  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Law (J.D.)

Admissions Information  

90 Credit Hours Required


Juris Doctor

Program Description

The mission of the University of South Dakota School of Law is to prepare lawyers and judges for the federal, state, and American Indian justice systems in South Dakota and to provide South Dakota residents and other students an affordable legal education imparting the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for the practice of law or other careers in a culturally diverse and global environment. Students at the Law School are a highly selective group that has demonstrated intellectual aptitude and personal characteristics desirable in the legal profession, including a desire to serve others.

A primary objective of the Law School curriculum is to develop analytical and other skills that are fundamental for the legal profession. The faculty employ a variety of pedagogical techniques to achieve that objective, including Socratic dialogue, the case method, lecture, and simulation. The curriculum is designed to familiarize students with basic legal doctrines and to instill in them the values of the legal profession and the judicial system.

Students also have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of co-curricular and extracurricular activities at local, regional, and national levels. These student activities complement the formal components of the curriculum and assist in the development of legal skills. Activities include, but are not limited to, participation in the South Dakota Law Review, the Moot Court Board, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Board, and Trial Advocacy Competition.

Joint Degree Program Description

The School of Law offers a joint degree program with other colleges/schools of the University of South Dakota leading to the juris doctor degree and a master’s degree in one of the following nine disciplines:

  • College of Arts & Sciences
JD/Master of Arts in English
JD/Master of Arts in History
JD/Master of Arts in Psychology
JD/Master of Public Administration
JD/Master of Science in Administration
JD/Master of Science in Sustainability (Plan B only)
  • School of Business
JD/Master of Business Administration
JD/Master of Professional Accountancy
  • School of Education
JD/Master of Arts in Education Administration & Leadership

Dual Degree Programs in Environmental Law, Energy Regulation, and Food and Agriculture Policy

Vermont Law School and the University of South Dakota School of Law offer three dual-degree opportunities that enable qualified students to earn two degrees in three years: a J.D. from South Dakota and one of the following Master’s degrees from Vermont Law School: a Master of Environmental Law and Policy (JD/MELP), a Master of Energy Regulation and Law (JD/MERL), and a Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy (JD/MFALP). The dual-degree program is comprised of courses taught at Vermont Law School’s Summer Session and courses offered by distance learning from Vermont Law School during the regular academic year, or a combination of Summer Session, distance learning courses, and internships.

Graduation Requirements

First-Year Required Courses: Total 32 credit hours

The first-year curriculum is designed to give students a broad understanding of the American legal system and the role of law in our society. These required first-year courses expose students to the fundamental principles of needed legal skills, including legal analysis.

Second-Year and Third-Year Studies

The required, upper-division courses include Evidence (LAW 823 ), Professional Responsibility (LAW 857 ) Constitutional Law (LAW 810 ), a code course (minimum 3 credit hours), 6 credits of experiential learning course work, a course that will satisfy the upper-level writing requirement, and Critical Legal Skills (LAW 835). These courses complete the core curriculum and are taken after the first year. As part of the experiential learning requirement, upper-division students will have the option of choosing among clinical, practicum, and externship courses that provide them with the opportunity to serve live clients while developing and refining their practice skills. Full-time students who have completed a minimum of 44 credits, and flex students who have completed a minimum of 40 credits may enroll in an externship. Students in this course acquire practical experience in a law firm, governmental agency, or other law office. Other live-client courses include the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic and the Tax Practice and Skills Practicum, the latter of which provides students the opportunity to address the tax law needs of Alaska Native clients. In addition to these courses, students explore a variety of other areas throughout the remainder of the elective curriculum. Students must earn a total of 90 credits in order to graduate. 

Upper-Division Required Courses (19-21 cr hrs required):

Electives (36-37 cr hrs required):

Some students may wish to focus their studies and activities in a particular area of law.  For these students, the Law School offers curriculum and career planning advice in the form of curricular tracks. Curricular tracks are provided in the following areas:

  • Business Law
  • Civil Litigation
  • Commercial Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law & Procedure
  • Employment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Estate Planning
  • Indian Law
  • Real Estate Law
  • Tax Law


Students must fulfill the Law School’s Upper-Level Writing Requirement either through successful completion of a designated writing course or under faculty supervision in the production of a significant written product, e.g., appellate brief, law review article, research paper, etc.

Flex-Time Requirements

This option will permit certain well-qualified students to take less than the normal load of credits each semester and to graduate with a juris doctor degree within five years instead of three years. Flex-time students follow the same class schedule as all other students, but take fewer hours each semester. The program’s flexibility is designed to admit a limited number of well-qualified students who could not otherwise attend law school on a full-time basis. The Law School does not offer evening or weekend courses. Flex-time students may apply to transfer to the full-time program after completion in good standing of the first year of law studies (which is the equivalent of the first two years in the flex-time program). Students who transfer into the full-time program complete the program in four additional semesters. Flex-time students who are not in good standing at the end of the first year of law studies (two years in the flex-time program) are subject to the dismissal and probation provisions of the Law School’s Academic Rules and Student Policies. Students who remain in the flex program will complete their degree after the tenth semester.

FIRST SEMESTER: Total 8 credit hours

SECOND SEMESTER: Total 7 credit hours

THIRD SEMESTER: Total 8 credit hours

FOURTH SEMESTER: Total 9 credit hours

FIFTH SEMESTER: Total 10-11 credit hours

  • 1-3 cr hrs
  • LAW XXX - Select a minimum of 7 elective credits
  • Note: Starting with the fifth semester students may select among a combination of elective courses and the additional Upper-Division Code (minimum 3 credits required), Experiential (6 credits required), and Writing course requirements, each of which may be taken at any point after the conclusion of the 1L year (see full description of these courses below). In addition, during the ninth or tenth semester, students must complete the bar examination preparation course, LAW 835, Critical Legal Skills. After completion of their required courses, students must complete 36-37 elective credits. Some students may desire to focus their studies and activities in a particular area of law.  For these students, the Law School offers curriculum and career planning advice in the form of curricular tracks. Curricular tracks are provided in the following areas: Business Law, Civil Litigation, Commercial Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Procedure, Employment Law, Environmental Law, Estate Planning, Indian Law, Real Estate Law, or Tax Law.

SIXTH SEMESTER: Total 10-11 credit hours

SEVENTH SEMESTER: Total 10-11 credit hours

EIGHTH SEMESTER: Total 10-11 credit hours

  • LAW XXX - Select a minimum of 10 elective credits

NINTH SEMESTER: Total 7-11 credit hours

  • LAW XXX - Select a minimum of 7-9 elective credits
  • Note: Students must take LAW 835, Critical Legal Skills, during either the 9th or 10th semester.

TENTH SEMESTER: Total 9-11 credit hours

  • LAW XXX - Select a minimum of 9 elective credits
  • Note: Students must take LAW 835, Critical Legal Skills, during either the 9th or 10th semester.

Student Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcome 1 

Each student will demonstrate the ability to identify and understand key concepts in American substantive and procedural law.  Each student will demonstrate achievement of this learning outcome by: 

  1. Articulating foundational concepts of substantive law. 
  2. Articulating foundational concepts in procedural law and recognizing their potential impact on substantive law claims. 

Learning Outcome 2 

Each student will demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge and critical thinking to perform competent legal analysis, reasoning, and problem-solving.  Each student will demonstrate achievement of this learning outcome by: 

  1. Identifying relevant rules and policies by interpreting cases, the U.S. Constitution, statutes, or administrative regulations (hereinafter referred to as “rules”). 
  2. Synthesizing the rules into a logical and coherent framework for analysis. 
  3. Analyzing which rule a court is likely to apply where rules conflict with, or appear to conflict with, one another. 
  4. Applying the rules to the facts of a case under consideration to determine the likely outcome of that case. 

Learning Outcome 3 

Each student will demonstrate the ability to conduct effective legal research.  Each student will demonstrate achievement of this learning outcome by: 

  1. Analyzing the legal issues to be researched and developing a research plan. 
  2. Using a commercial electronic research database to compile information regarding a given issue by creating search queries using terms and connectors. 
  3. Identifying print and online sources of legal information other than those accessed through electronic research databases. 
  4. Distinguishing between different types of primary law sources, and the weight, reliability, and binding or persuasive authority of each source. 
  5. Evaluating the reliability of information, including but not limited to authority, credibility, currency, and authenticity. 
  6. Addressing contradictory authorities. 

Learning Outcome 4 

Each student will demonstrate effective skill in legal writing and oral communication.  Each student will demonstrate achievement of this learning outcome by: 

  1. Drafting a legal document that is well-reasoned, clear, and organized. 
  2. Drafting a persuasive legal document that is appropriate to the audience and the legal requirements governing that type of document. 
  3. Demonstrating skill in oral communication. 
  4. Displaying listening skills and the ability to articulate proper responses. 
  5. Using proper citation forms. 

Learning Outcome 5 

Each student will demonstrate competency in the skills and methods that are essential for ethical and effective lawyering.  Each student will demonstrate achievement of this learning outcome by: 

  1. Employing client interviewing and counseling skills. 
  2. Demonstrating the ability to solve problems on behalf of clients. 
  3. Completing a substantial, professional-quality project. 
  4. Demonstrating the capacity for meaningful self-directed learning. 
  5. Demonstrating effective time management. 
  6. Developing minimal competency in financial analysis necessary for entry level attorneys. 
  7. Recognizing common ethical dilemmas faced by lawyers and resolving them through the application of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. ​
  8. Showing an understanding of the values of the profession, including integrity, fairness, respect, and civility. 

Learning Outcome 6 

Each student will demonstrate an understanding of, and sensitivity to, the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of people they encounter, both within and outside of the profession.  Each student will demonstrate achievement of this learning outcome by: 

  1. Exhibiting an awareness of cultural differences. 
  2. Exhibiting an awareness of social differences. 

Courses or Programs Leading to Professional Licensure or Certification

The University of South Dakota as of July 1, 2020, cannot confirm whether any particular course or program meets educational prerequisites for professional licensure or certification in states other than South Dakota. If you are planning to apply for licensure/certification in a state other than South Dakota after completion of your program, contact the academic department offering your major or CDE at 605.658.6152 or by email at cde@usd.edu. USD is working to comply with these requirements and will provide up-to-date information as it becomes available.

If your learning placement course (internship, externship, clinical, rotation, practicum, independent study, study away, etc.) or your online course will be taken outside South Dakota, please reference the State Authorization webpage below.

Information about State Authorization & Professional Licensure