The JD standard course structure is three years. There is allowance for accelerating the JD to two and a half years in certain circumstances, but it is always subject to approval by the Law School. Students are not permitted to overload within semester, for example by undertaking five subjects, without the prior permission of the Assistant Dean (Teaching & Learning). Whether permission is granted depends upon a number of factors including the strength of the students' academic record to date and their reasons for undertaking the proposed overload.
A slightly different scenario is load-spreading. JD students have often made use of the summer and winter periods to complete JD subjects intensively. This is usually done to spread their study load, or to fit it in around important extra-curricular commitments (eg carer responsibilities, paid work, internships or volunteering), rather than to accelerate the degree overall. In most cases, students engaging in this kind of course-planning complete the degree during their sixth semester, albeit sometimes on a reduced loading for their final semester. This course-planning does not raise the same issues as 'accelerating' the degree to less than six semesters.
JD students must take considered course and career planning advice, and obtain prior approval from the Assistant Dean (Teaching & Learning), prior to accelerating the degree to less than six semesters (this includes those completing in the winter vacation period of their third year) for the following reasons:
- Accelerating the JD can impact adversely on some students' learning experience, grades and wellbeing. Accelerating the degree also means there is less time to undertake important activities during the summer and winter vacation periods such as internships, clerkships and volunteering. These factors can have a combined negative effect on students' overall JD experience and their employment and future study prospects.
- Foreign admissions, employer and scholarships bodies are increasingly seeking clarification of the quality of accelerated JD degrees from the Law School and, in particular, reassurance that they are of equivalent quality to the standard three year degree. Whilst the Law School has been pleased to provide that confirmation, and to date those reassurances have been accepted fully, these requests suggest that accelerating the JD may have the potential to affect students' general marketability and mobility adversely in some sectors.
- Whilst the above points have often been highly variable depending on the particular student, the Council of Legal Education (COLE) has adopted a recommendation by the Law Admissions Consultative Committee that applicants for admission be required to have completed an accredited course of three years or the 'equivalent' of a three year course. The JD is an accredited degree for admission to practice and was approved by COLE on the basis that it could be accelerated subject to approval by the Law School.
- Whilst MLS is confident that the intensive subjects that enable JD students to accelerate are fully equivalent to semester long subjects, JD students must ensure that their course structure has been approved if they plan to complete in less than six semesters. An approval form should be submitted, with the required supporting documentation, prior to commencing an accelerated course plan.
It is important that JD students who are seeking to accelerate their degree acknowledge and accept that they take a risk that their degree recognition or acceptance by admissions, scholarships and other relevant bodies (such as employer groups) may be adversely affected.