Academic Programs

JD Curriculum

Willamette University College of Law is known for its challenging and rewarding curriculum. We provide our students with a solid foundation in the basics of the law, yet allow them the flexibility to investigate interests and develop specialties. During the first year, a solid core curriculum gives students the essentials of the law. The second and third years round out those studies and allow students to explore their individual interests.

Legal Research & Writing

Writing and research are an integral part of any legal education. Willamette's program is unique in that the required Legal Research and Writing class is taught in small sections to ensure students receive personal attention.

In the first semester of Legal Research and Writing, students are introduced to the basic principles of legal analysis, research and effective legal writing. They prepare case briefs, research assignments, and both closed- and open-universe research memoranda. In the second semester, students write more sophisticated memoranda and are trained in persuasive writing. The first year ends with a required appellate brief and moot court oral argument.

First Year

Willamette's first-year experience is distinctive. Both Legal Research and Writing and one substantive course are taught in small class sections limited to 30 students. This intellectual intimacy brings an unusual sense of collegiality to the traditionally competitive first-year. First-year law students are required to take the following courses:

Fall Semester

  • Civil Procedure
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law
  • Legal Research and Writing
  • Torts

Spring Semester

  • Constitutional Law I
  • Contracts
  • Legal Research and Writing
  • Property
  • One Elective Course*

* Students must choose from one of the following courses: Dispute Resolution, International Law, Law and Government, or Law and Business. Students may choose another elective with the approval of the associate dean for academic affairs.

Second Year

During their second year, students can begin to direct their coursework to meet their individual career goals by choosing from a wide range of courses in specific interest areas - as long as they meet the requirements for graduation. However, the following three courses are required in the second year: Professional Responsibility, Evidence and Constitutional Law II. In addition, students must complete a second-year writing requirement.

Third Year

In the third year, students continue to pursue their areas of interest as they strengthen their skills. Because effective written communication plays an increasingly important part in the practice of law, third-year students must fulfill a rigorous writing assignment under the close supervision of a member of the faculty and in connection with a course taught by that faculty member. Several seminars were designed specifically for the completion of the writing project, including First Amendment Law, Global Sustainability, American Indian Law, Civil Rights, Advanced Topics in Conflict Theory, Comparative Constitutional Law and State Constitutional Law. These courses provide an opportunity for students to learn about a specific area of the law, conduct focused research and prepare a substantial paper.

Although most students fulfill their writing requirement through one of these classes, they may satisfy the requirement in another class with the permission of the professor. Select students of high academic rank also may fulfill the writing requirement by writing a comment for Willamette Law Review or Willamette Journal of International Law and Dispute Resolution. The comment must be accepted for publication or be certified as publishable by the editor in chief of the journal, with the approval of a faculty advisor.