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Credit Hours Policy

These policies identify the minimum times that students should spend on in-class, direct faculty instruction, and out-of-class work. Students and faculty should understand that these are estimated minimums; that these times will vary based on such factors as the course material, tasks involved, and student efficiency; and that students will likely spend significantly more hours than the minimums set forth below.

In addition, these minimums are designed to comply with the requirements of ABA Standard 310, which envisions 2 out-of-class hours for every credit hour over a 15-week semester. UMass Law’s Student Handbook § 4 recommends that students spend at least 3 out-of-class hours for every hour of class. Ultimately, each student must invest the time and energy necessary to excel at UMass Law.

Regularly scheduled doctrinal courses

For all regularly scheduled doctrinal courses at UMass Law School, 1 credit hour represents at least 50 minutes of classroom instruction and 120 minutes of out-of-class student work per week for 15 weeks (including 1 week for final examinations), or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time. In courses with a take-home exam, at least 60 minutes per credit shall be required to complete the exam.

Regularly scheduled simulation courses

For all regularly scheduled simulation courses at UMass Law, 1 credit hour represents at least 55 minutes of classroom or direct faculty instruction and 130 minutes of out-of-class student work per week for 14 weeks, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time. Direct faculty instruction includes faculty time spent observing or assessing simulations and meeting with students to discuss student work.

Legal Skills Sequence

For the Legal Skills I, II, and III sequence of courses, one credit hour represents at least 37.5 minutes of classroom instruction and 150 minutes of out-of-class student work per week for 14 weeks, plus 30 minutes of direct faculty instruction, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time. Direct faculty instruction includes faculty time spent observing or assessing simulations and meeting with students to discuss student work.

Paper courses

For courses and seminars that assess student performance in the form of research papers rather than a final examination, 1 credit hour represents at least 50 minutes of classroom instruction time and 135 minutes of out-of-class student work per week for 14 weeks, plus 30 minutes of direct faculty instruction in the form of meetings to discuss assignments and work product over the course of the semester, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time.

Clinics

For clinics, 3 credit hours represent at least 110 minutes of classroom time, at least 45 minutes of direct faculty instruction during regular clinic work, at least 7.25 additional hours of regular clinic work, and at least 30 minutes of out-of-class student work, per week, for 14 weeks, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time.

For clinics granting more than 3 credits, each additional credit represents at least 60 additional minutes of classroom time or direct faculty instruction and at least 120 additional minutes of regular clinic work or out-of-class student work, per week, for 14 weeks, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time.

Students enrolled in clinics must submit weekly time keeping records in accordance with established clinic policies. Credit may be withheld from any student who fails to comply with these obligations.

Immigration Litigation Clinic (6 credits)

For the Immigration Litigation Clinic, six credit hours represent at least 170 minutes of classroom time, 110 minutes of direct faculty instruction, 13-14 hours of clinic work, which may include client interaction, research on case-related issues, court hearings, and other client-based matters, and 6-7 hours of out-of-class work, per week, for fourteen weeks, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time.

Field placements

Regular field placement

For regular field placements, 3 credit hours represent at least 110 minutes of classroom time and 60 minutes of out-of-class student work per week, for 14 weeks, and at least 130 hours of field work over the course of the semester, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time. Students may earn 4 credits by completing at least 170 hours of field work over the course of the semester.

Co-curricular Immersion

Students enrolled in a doctrinal course may enroll in 1 or 2 additional credits for work completed in a field placement related to the subject matter of the doctrinal course. One credit hour of co-curricular immersion represents at least 45 hours of field work, 60 minutes of out-of-class work, and 60 minutes of direct faculty instruction, per semester, beyond the requirements of the doctrinal course itself, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time.

Two credit hours of co-curricular immersion represent at least 90 hours of field work, 60 minutes of out-of-class work, and 60 minutes of direct faculty instruction, per semester, beyond the requirements of the doctrinal course itself, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time.

Co-curricular competition teams

Students may receive academic credit for participation in Moot Court, Mock Trial, and other co-curricular competition teams, under the supervision of a faculty member. For students who participate in Moot Court, Mock Trial, or other co-curricular competitions for academic credit, one credit hour represents at least 190 minutes of out-of-class work each week for 14 weeks, and at least 60 minutes in competition per semester, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time.

Students shall submit detailed timesheets to their competition team faculty advisor once a week. Credit may be withheld from any student who fails to comply with these obligations.

Law Review

Students may receive academic credit for participation in the production of the Law Review, under the supervision of a faculty member. For students who earn academic credit for Law Review, one credit hour represents at least 180 minutes of out-of-class work each week for 15 weeks, or the equivalent amount of work over a different period of time.

Students shall submit detailed timesheets to the law review faculty advisor once a week. Credit may be withheld from any student who fails to comply with these obligations.

Independent Legal Research

Independent Legal Research (ILR) provides a student an opportunity to explore a legal topic in greater depth than is usually possible in a regular course. In an ILR, a student undertakes substantial and comprehensive research on a chosen topic under the close supervision of a faculty member. The research serves as the basis for a detailed examination of a legal topic in a research paper. For an ILR, 1 credit represents at least 30 minutes of direct faculty instruction, 2,700 minutes of out-of-class time in the form of research and writing, and 10 pages of final written work product.

Determining Time for Out-of-Class Student Work

As guidance for determining the length of time to complete out-of-class student work, faculty should rely upon the following minimum benchmarks as determined by the Curriculum Committee. These benchmarks, of course, will vary depending on the difficulty, format, and type of material assigned. For out-of-class student work not described below, faculty members are encouraged to set benchmarks based on their experience and the experience of colleagues who have assigned similar work.

  • 1L casebook reading: at least 6 pages per hour
  • Upper-level casebook reading: at least 8 pages per hour
  • Non-casebook reading: at least 15 pages per hour
  • Research papers: at least 6 hours per final written page (assuming double-spacing, 1-inch margins, Times New Roman, 12-point type)

As additional guidance for determining the out-of-class time required for a course, Section 4 of the Student Handbook codifies the UMass Law faculty’s expectation, based on its collective experience, that our students should spend at least 3 out-of-class hours per week per unit of credit. In addition to the tasks identified above, out-of-class time will include, but will not be limited to, reading supplemental course materials such as treatises, case studies, supplements, and other course-related material, course outlining, practice questions and examinations, and participation in study groups and review sessions.

Documenting Compliance

Syllabi Submission and Certification

Faculty members shall list all readings and other assignments on their course syllabi. Faculty members shall submit their course syllabi to the Associate Dean at the start of each semester. By so doing, a course instructor certifies that outside work for the course meets the requirements of this Credit Hours Policy.

The Associate Dean shall keep all course syllabi on file and review them on a regular basis to determine whether assignments of outside work comply with Standard 310(b)(1).

Course Approvals and Modifications

All proposals for new courses and all proposals to modify course descriptions must include a paragraph justifying the number of units of credit to be awarded. The Law Enrollment Center will keep these justifications on file. In approving new courses, the Curriculum Committee and Faculty will determine whether the number of units of credit to be awarded complies with Standard 310(b).

Distance Learning Courses

Students may receive credit to the extent allowed by ABA Standards for distance learning courses that are in compliance with ABA Standards.

Distance learning courses for which UMass Law students receive credit, whether offered in synchronous or asynchronous format, or a combination, shall require at least 42.5 hours of student work per unit of credit.

The Associate Dean shall collect and review distance learning course syllabi and course building templates on a regular basis to determine whether such courses comply with Standard 310(b).

Joint Degree Program Courses

For non-law courses within any joint degree program authorized by UMass Law for which students will receive credit toward the J.D. degree, the Associate Dean shall obtain the syllabi of such courses and determine whether the courses comply with Standard 310(b).

Transfer Credits

As a condition of approval of transfer credits from a law school not accredited by the American Bar Association, the student seeking transfer credits must provide the Associate Dean with syllabi for all courses, and the Associate Dean will review the syllabi and determine whether the courses comply with Standard 310(b).

More information

Student handbook

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