This Policy Statement covers the application of WCL Residency Requirements to a student's course of study. In formulating these residency requirements, the ABA policies governing our accreditation have been used as basic standards onto which WCL standards have been engrafted. These residency requirements determine how the total number of hours needed to obtain a degree are distributed across the years a student spends in law school.
Residency is based upon the number of credits taken and earned over a certain number of semesters.
a. To graduate with a JD degree a student must satisfactorily complete 86 credit hours with a cumulative GPA of 2.0. To obtain a degree as a full-time student, these hours must be earned in no fewer than 6 semesters of 12 or more hours per semester. A part-time student must earn them in no fewer than 8 semesters of 8 or more hours per semester.
b. A resident semester is an academic term of 70 class days. Class days are defined as days during which classes are offered (students do not have to have classes every day). This definition of a semester limits the use of summer sessions as a device to accelerate completion of the JD program. It is not possible for a full-time student to graduate any earlier than 2 1/2 years, and a part-time student to graduate any sooner than 3 1/2 years. Thus, a full-time student cannot take heavy loads in two summer sessions and graduate at the end of four semesters and the second summer session, but s/he may complete 5 semesters and two summer sessions and graduate a semester early. By the same analysis, a part-time student cannot take heavy loads in three summer sessions and graduate at the end of 6 semesters and the third summer session, but s/he may complete 7 semesters and three summer sessions and graduate a semester early.
c. Summer sessions are not and cannot stand alone as resident semesters. Summer abroad programs never have enough class days to be considered one-half a resident semester. Summer abroad program credits may be added to a full semester, i.e., fall or spring, to create an equivalent full- or part-time semester.
- Full-time example: 6 summer abroad credits added to 6 fall credits=12 credits=1 full-time resident semester
- Part-time example: 4 summer abroad credits added to 4 fall credits=8 credits=1 part-time resident semester
Some summer session programs, WCL included, do have enough class days (36) to be considered one-half a resident semester.
- Full-time example: 7 credits between 1st and 2d years + 7 credits between 2d and 3d years=14 credits and 72 class days=1 full-time resident semester.
- Part-time example: 4 credits between 1st and 2d years + 4 credits between 2d and 3d years=8 credits and 72 class days =1 part-time resident semester.
All credits for which students are registered during the term count toward residency.
The WCL Residency Requirements prescribe the minimum amount of time a student must take to complete their degree requirements as measured in semesters and credit hours. There are also ABA regulations governing the maximum amount of time a student may take to complete their degree requirements. Generally, full-time students should complete their degree requirements in 5 academic years and part-time students in 6 academic years. These rules are not inflexible and non-volitional reasons for exceeding them will be considered by the law school on a case by case basis when asked to decide if a student can either continue their studies or be awarded a degree.
General: Students in this situation must satisfy the WCL Residency Requirements of the division in which they have first completed at least one-half of the required number of resident semesters. In most of these cases, students will make only one divisional shift. However, students who shift divisions more than once throughout their law school careers are still covered by this rule. Students who shift back and forth between divisions are urged to make themselves familiar with the operation of this rule before engaging in repeated divisional shifts.
These solutions require a good deal of advance planning and you may not know early enough what future circumstances will require a shift in divisions. But, if you do know early enough in your law school career that you either can (as a matter of discretion), or will have to (unchangeable circumstances) make such divisional shifts, these examples should underline both what needs to be done to remain in compliance with residency requirements, and the need for planning as early as possible.