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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 14, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Law - Juris Doctor (JD)

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Pitt Law offers the Juris Doctor (JD) degree as well as a number of joint degree programs with other Pitt schools, which lead to both a JD and a second master’s degree.

In all of these programs, Pitt Law’s essential mission is to help lawyers and legal institutions to meet the demands of a rapidly changing legal and professional environment.

The program’s first-year curriculum offers a solid foundation in legal analysis and reasoning through courses in subject areas traditionally viewed as basic for legal education.

Pitt Law JD students enjoy a large degree of latitude in designing courses of study that meet their individual goals and interests, with only a handful of graduation requirements beyond the first year.

Pitt Law offers particularly rich opportunities in:

  • International law, featuring prominent international/comparative law faculty, a rich international and comparative law curriculum, several courses each year taught by visiting foreign law professors, internships abroad, internationally focused scholarships and fellowships, Languages for Lawyers courses, strong University programs (including area studies certificate programs), and international moot law competitions.
  • “Live-client” clinics in a range of substantive areas and practice settings, giving students opportunities to develop valuable lawyering skills in the context of real-life, not simulated, legal disputes and transactions. Students grapple with legal, ethical, and practical issues, under the supervision of - and in close counsel with - a seasoned attorney faculty member.
  • The Semester in D.C. Program, during which students spend a semester in Washington, D.C., earning a full semester’s worth of academic credit while working full-time as an extern with a non-profit organization or government agency.
  • Seven certificate programs/areas of concentration enabling students to concentrate their studies in particular areas of law. These programs include specialized advanced courses that incorporate lawyering skills relevant to particular areas of practice.
  • Cross-disciplinary learning - Pitt Law students may take courses in other schools at Pitt or other local colleges and universities (up to six non-law graduate credits can be used toward the JD requirements).

Some Pitt Law courses incorporate multiple disciplines, such as Law & Human Behavior and Law & Economics Seminar , or are jointly taught by law faculty and faculty from other disciplines to classes comprising both law and other graduate/professional students - for example, Commercializing New Technologies.

Pitt Law joint degree programs enable students to earn the JD as well as a master’s degree in another discipline through an integrated program, more quickly than earning the two degrees separately.

Degree Requirements

Admission applications for the Pitt Law JD program will be accepted starting September 1 through our deadline of April 1. Applications are considered only for the current year for the fall semester. We require all applicants submit their applications on-line through the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).  Pitt Law is highly competitive and decisions are based upon many factors.  Once your application is complete, our Admissions Committee will review your application. Once we are able to make a decision, you will be notified by mail within several weeks.  You can also verify your application status on-line with a user name and password, which will be sent to you electronically once you apply.  We ask for your patience during the admissions cycle as it can become very busy during key times of the year. 

Application Requirements:

  • Applicants must submit a $65 application fee
  • Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university in the United States before the first day of law school.
  • In cases where an applicant has completed studies outside the United States, the requirement is education deemed by the University of Pittsburgh to be comparable to a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university in the United States. Click here for more information
  • When evaluating an undergraduate degree, the committee pays careful attention to the strength of the major field of study, as evidenced by the courses listed on the undergraduate transcript. Pitt Law is looking for applicants who have demonstrated the discipline and ability to handle a rigorous and demanding program. The admissions committee carefully evaluates graduate work and professional experience, although utilizes the undergraduate GPA.
  • Applicants are required to register with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) through LSAC and must take the LSAT. If an applicant takes the LSAT more than one time the highest score is considered by the admissions committee when making a decision. The latest test score that will be considered for all entrance is the score from the previous February examination. Scores from tests taken more than four years prior to the current admissions year will not be considered. More information can be obtained from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).
  • A required personal statement gives the committee a view into the non-academic world of the applicant and serves as the interview. This is critical in our ability to enroll a diverse class. We ask that you keep your personal statement to no more than two pages, typed, double spaced.
  • Letters of recommendation play an equally important role in this process as they can reveal the strengths of the academic achievements of the applicant. We recommend three letters, although none are required. Letters should be submitted through the LSAC letter of recommendation service.
  • We encourage applicants to submit a Resume, as they highlight for the admissions committee a broader view of your achievements.
  • In addition to a bar examination, there are character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to the bar in every U.S. jurisdiction.  Applicants are encouraged to determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission by contacting the jurisdiction.  Addresses for all relevant agencies are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

In order to graduate, a student pursuing a JD must complete 88 credits, including the following:

  • A prescribed first-year curriculum, as follows: Contracts, Criminal Law, Legislation and Regulation, Torts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Property, and Legal Analysis and Writing, as well as attendance at a minimum of five programs (for students entering Fall 2019 or later) or six programs (for students entering before Fall 2019) in the Pitt Law Academy speaker series
  • The upper-level writing requirement
  • A course in Legal Profession
  • Six credits in a course designated as satisfying the professional skills requirement
  • The one-credit Foundations of Legal Research course
  • A course designated as satisfying the international/comparative law requirement
  • A course designated as satisfying the writing (“W”) requirement

Additional graduation requirements apply for those students whose grade point averages place them in the bottom 15% of their class at the end of their first or second year. The upper-level writing requirement and other academic requirements are described in the Academic Rules and Graduation sections of the School of Law’s web site.


For detailed term-specific course descriptions, please go to the Schedule of Classes Course Lists on the Law School web site.

First-Year Curriculum

The first-year curriculum is comprised of the following required courses, as well as attendance at a minimum of five programs (for students entering Fall 2019 or later) or six programs (for students entering before Fall 2019) in the Pitt Law Academy:

John P. Gismondi Concentration in Civil Litigation (15-20 Credits)

Through its unique John P. Gismondi Concentration in Civil Litigation, PittLaw provides law students with a unique curriculum devoted exclusively to training the trial lawyers of tomorrow.

During the first year of law school, all students take the same courses. Those students who wish to register for the Gismondi Concentration in Civil Litigation, do so at the beginning of their second year of law school. During their second and third years, all students enrolled in the Concentration will take certain required foundational core courses, a clinic or practicum, as well as a number of specialized classes. The heart of the Gismondi program is a collection of specialized courses taught exclusively by a preeminent group of practicing trial attorneys whose insight and experience offer an invaluable perspective in the classroom. Together with our core courses, these select courses provide a level and depth of litigation training unlike that available at most any other law school.

In each of these specialized skills courses, class size is kept small so as to enrich the learning experience. Students not only are taught legal rules and principles in a typical lecture format, but more importantly, they are assigned to “role play” in a variety of real world litigation scenarios, each designed to develop specific skills which are essential to successful trial work.

Students complete their training by taking a required litigation skills clinic or practicum selected from this group of options: Elder Law Clinic, Health Law Clinic, Tax Clinic, Immigration Clinic,  Environmental Law Clinic,  Securities Arbitration Clinic,  PA Practice Practicum, Lawyering III Clinic, Criminal Prosecution Practicum, Criminal Defense Practicum or Family Law Clinic. In all of these clinics, students have the potential of representing real clients in actual court proceedings.

The students in the John P. Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program will complete their law school education having developed a set of skills which better prepares them to do courtroom work than traditional law school graduates, and that advantage, in turn, makes the Gismondi certificate students more attractive to law firms seeking to hire young and enthusiastic litigation associates.

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