Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Student Handbook: Academic Rules

Rule 1

The degree of Juris Doctor (J.D.) will be awarded to candidates who have successfully completed three consecutive academic years of law study, have met the course requirements and have successfully completed 91 semester hours of credit and all other requirements.

Rule 2

After the first year, a student may not take fewer than 12 or more than 18 credit hours of courses during a semester. Different rules may apply to the joint degree programs, see Joint Programs under the Academic Policies tab of this Handbook.

Rule 3

(a)  Regular attendance is required in all courses. Failure to maintain regular attendance may be grounds for exclusion from a course. A student who misses class in a single course more than twice the number of times per week that the course meets will be referred to the Assistant Dean of Students and Academic Success, who may impose the sanction of exclusion from the course. Regardless of the Assistant Dean’s decision to impose such sanction, a faculty member retains the discretion, consistent with his or her individual policy, to factor attendance into a student’s grade consistent with paragraph (d) of this Rule. This rule includes all classes, both on-campus or online/virtual sessions. See Academic Policy below for further details, including excusable absences.

(b)  Conformity to standards of professional responsibility, civility, and respectful behavior and to any rules published by the instructor concerning student conduct in connection with the course is required in all courses. A student whose behavior in a course does not meet such standards or the published rules for the course may be excluded from the course.

(c)  In trial advocacy, appellate advocacy, seminar, practical writing courses, clinics, or in any course in which students are informed that part of the grade will be based on student participation, a student who interferes with the academic process by either frequently declining to participate or by unsatisfactory participation may be excluded from the course.

(d)  A faculty member assigning a grade in any course may factor into the student’s grade attendance, class preparation and participation, and conformity with published rules for the course (i) by increasing or decreasing by one step what would otherwise be a student’s grade; or (ii) in a course in which the grade is not otherwise based entirely on an exam, by adjusting a student’s grade according to the professor’s individual published policy. The faculty and Dean when deciding honors, awards, scholarships, and similar matters also may take into account a student’s record of attendance, class preparation and participation, and conformity with published course rules.

Rule 4

A student may enter or withdraw from an elective course during the first week of the semester. In the event a course does not meet during the first week of the semester, a student may withdraw within two class days of the first meeting and may enter another elective course within such two-day period, after which a student may not drop or add a course under any other circumstances without permission from the Professor and the Office of Academic Affairs. A student may not withdraw from a class after the final class meeting for the semester.

Rule 5

The Law School applies the following grading system:

Grade   Quality Points                                      

A                      4.00                                                     

A–                    3.67                             

B+                    3.33                                                     

B                      3.00                                                     

B–                    2.67                                                     

C+                    2.33                                                     

C                      2.00

C–                    1.67 – minimally acceptable work

D                      1.00 – unsatisfactory work

F                       0 – work not acceptable for academic credit

The faculty adopted a recommended grade distribution policy. The policy applies only to classes in which an examination is given and that have an enrollment of 30 or more students. It is a recommended distribution pattern only, and reflects the general consensus of grading patterns at the Law School over the past several years. It is not designed either to raise or lower the GPA. The recommended distribution of grades is:

A                      10%

A–                    15%

B+                    15%

B                      25%

B–                    15%

C+                    10%

C                      5%

C–, D, F           0 to 5%

The recommended distribution contemplates variations of plus or minus two percentage points at any grade level, and provides for rounding up or down at the faculty member’s discretion. It specifically does not recommend that any grades below C be awarded in any class to be consistent with the grade distribution, but it is the consensus of the faculty that the grades of C–, D and F should be assigned for work that does not meet acceptable academic or professional standards.

Rule 6

An average, weighted in proportion to the credits earned in each course, will be computed for courses taken in each year.

Rule 7

A cumulative weighted average, calculated by weighting the average for all courses taken at the Law School, is used for determining class rank and any matters dependent upon class rank.

Rule 8

At the end of the first year, a student must achieve a weighted average of 2.00. Failure to meet this GPA benchmark will result in exclusion.

Rule 9

At the end of the second year, a student must achieve a cumulative weighted average and an annual weighted average of 2.00. Failure to meet either GPA benchmark will result in exclusion.

Rule 10

At the end of the third year, a student must achieve both a cumulative weighted average and an annual weighted average of 2.00. Failure to meet either GPA benchmark will result in exclusion and the student will not be eligible for graduation.

Rule 11

No student who has been excluded under Rules 8, 9 or 10, or for any other reason may be reinstated except upon favorable action on a petition to the Dean stating and fully documenting reasons in support of such petition. Such petitions will be granted only in the most extraordinary circumstances. [See Readmission After Exclusion under the Academic Policies tab of this Handbook.]

Rule 12

A student who fails to take a final examination because of illness or other imperative cause, promptly and properly substantiated, may request permission to take a make-up examination.

Rule 13

A student who fails a required course but is otherwise eligible to continue in the Law School must retake the class the next time it is offered and achieve a grade of “C” or better in the class. The “F” will show on the transcript, and will calculate into the weighted average (GPA). If the student attains a “C” or better on the re-examination, the student will receive credit for the course, which will show as a “pass” (“P”) for the course on the transcript.

Rule 14

A student who fails Legal Analysis, Writing and Oral Advocacy I (Legal Writing) shall not be permitted to continue in Legal Writing II or take Legal Writing III. Instead, the student must successfully complete the Legal Writing Remediation Program during the spring semester of the student’s first year. Upon successful completion of the Remediation Program the student must retake Legal Writing I in the fall of the student’s second year, take Legal Writing II in the spring of the student’s second year, and take Legal Writing III in the fall of the student’s third year. A student who fails Legal Writing II must retake it in the spring of the student’s second year. Instead of continuing in Legal Writing III during the student’s 2L year, a student who earns a grade of F in Legal Writing II must successfully complete the Legal Writing II Remediation Program in the fall term of the student’s second year.  Upon successful completion of the Remediation Program, the student will then repeat Legal Writing II during the spring term of the student’s second year. If the student successfully completes Legal Writing II, the student will take Legal Writing III during the student’s third year. When retaking either Legal Writing I or Legal Writing II, the student must earn a “C” or better in the repeated course to earn credit and satisfy the requirement (consistent with Rule 13), and if the student does so, a “P” will show on the retake. The “F” will remain on the transcript and will calculate into the student’s GPA. A student is not eligible for Journal membership or to participate in the Reimel Competition until the student has successfully completed both Legal Writing I and II. Legal Writing I and II are not prerequisites for either the practical writing or research paper courses; therefore, students who fail either Legal Writing I or II are permitted to take practical writing and research paper courses at any time during their second or third year of law school. A student who does not pass either Legal Writing I or II on the second attempt will be excluded from the Law School.

Rule 15

General Rule. Any student whose cumulative grade point average places them in the bottom twenty (20) percent of the class at the end of the first, second, third, or fourth semester of law school will be required to participate in programming administered by the Academic Success Program for the following semester.

Programming under this rule shall be administered by the Assistant Dean of Students and Academic Success, who will establish mandatory counseling and support programs. All students to whom this rule apples must comply with all requirements established by the Assistant Dean.

Strategic Legal Analysis.  Any student whose cumulative grade point average places them in the bottom twenty (20) percent of the class at the end of the third, fourth, or fifth semester of law school must register for and successfully complete the Strategic Legal Analysis course during the third year of law school. 

Compliance. At the end of each semester, each student to whom this rule applies shall complete a report that certifies compliance with all program requirements and submit it to the Assistant Dean of Students and Academic Success for signature and submission to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. If the Associate Dean determines, in his or her sole discretion, that the program requirements have not been met, additional measures may be taken, including inclusion of a record of the student’s lack of compliance in the student’s academic file.

Course Selection Approval. All students to whom this rule applies should have their course registration proposal preapproved by the Assistant Dean of Students and Academic Success or their faculty advisor.

Ineligibility for concentrations and joint degree programs. Any student whose cumulative grade point average places them in the bottom twenty (20) percent of the class at the end of the second semester of law school will be ineligible for concentrations and joint degree programs. However, if the student’s cumulative grade point average places them above the bottom twenty (20) percent of the class at the end of the student’s fourth semester of law school, this ineligibility will be lifted.

Rule 16

A student admitted with advanced standing (transfer students) will not be given a class rank based on cumulative weighted average and will not be eligible for prizes or awards based thereon. Transfer students will be eligible for summa, magna and cum laude honors at graduation, applying a formula that compares the lower of either the student’s three year GPA (original school plus Villanova Law) or the student’s two year GPA (only the Villanova GPA) to the cut off GPA of cumulative ranked students awarded honors.