Credit Hour Policies and Procedures

Pursuant to ABA Standard 310(a), this document outlines the University at Buffalo School of Law’s policies and procedures for determining the credit hours to be awarded for all proposed courses.

ABA Standard 310(b) provides that a credit hour is an amount of work that reasonably approximates:

  1. Not less than one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and two hours of out-of-class student work per week for fifteen weeks, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
  2. At least an equivalent amount of work…for academic activities as established by the institution, including simulation, field placement, clinical, co-curricular, or other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

Interpretation 310-1 states that “fifty minutes suffices for one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction.” Interpretation 310-2 further clarifies that credit hours for coursework may extend over any period of time “if the coursework entails no less than the minimum total amounts of classroom or direct faculty instruction and of out-of-class student work specified in Standard 310(b).”

The academic calendar at the Law School consists of seven “blocks” that span the Fall, Bridge and Spring semesters.  Most courses are taught across three blocks in the Fall (Blocks 1-3) or Spring (Blocks 5-7) semesters, and classes typically run for 60 minutes per credit hour. Other courses, however, may be taught during only one or two blocks, with class hours adjusted to bring the total amount of in-class time to no less than the minimum required by Standard 310(b). These blocks are designed to maximize flexibility in scheduling and ensure that professors have ample opportunities for structuring their classes to satisfy Standard 310(b).

The faculty member or members assigned to teach any course must (a) teach a sufficient number of hours in class, in individual instruction or taking any exam (collectively, “IC”) and (b) assign adequate out-of-class student work (“OOC”) to meet or exceed the minimum credit hour policy outlined in ABA Standard 310(b). OOC may include any time required to prepare for class or exams, research and draft any papers, or other work required to complete the course.

For a typical three-block doctrinal course with a final exam, the schedule provides for 780 minutes of IC time per credit hour (60 minutes of instruction for 12 weeks (720 minutes) plus 60 minutes of exam), which exceeds the IC time contemplated by the standard (750 minutes). Professors in these courses shall design the course such that students will be expected to devote no less than 30 hours (approximately 2.5 hours per week) of OOC time per credit hour over the course of the semester, which equals the minimum OOC time contemplated by the standard.

Any reduction in the IC time required for a course shall be offset by an increase in the OOC time required. Specifically, professors should allocate 120 minutes of OOC requirements for every 50 minutes of IC work. For example, seminars and other courses that do not have a final exam must be designed to offset the exclusion of the final exam from the calculation of IC hours. In these courses, the schedule provides for 720 minutes of instruction per credit hour. Professors in these courses shall design the OOC requirements (work devoted to the paper or other tests) to no less than 31 hours per credit hour over the course of the semester. This is ordinarily not an issue in seminars, which typically require far more than 31 hours of research and writing necessary to satisfy the paper requirement.

Students in certain types of courses, such as externships and clinics, may have additional credit-hour requirements. Please refer to those specific policies for detailed requirements.

The Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, with the assistance of the law school registrar, is responsible for interpreting this Policy to ensure compliance with ABA standards.

A. New Courses. Beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, all new course proposals must include a certification that the course complies with the policy outlined in Part I. The Vice Dean shall review each new course proposal and, where necessary, work with the faculty member to ensure that the cumulative IC and OOC hours for the course are sufficient prior to approving the course.

B. Existing Courses. The Academic Programs and Planning Committee will review the syllabi of a random sample of existing courses every three academic years to verify that the cumulative IC and OOC hours for these courses comply with ABA standards. This random sample shall include a combination of doctrinal, clinical and other experiential courses.

Clinic, Externship and Clerkship Hours

Clinical courses have set meeting times and satisfy the same meeting time requirements as other in-class courses. Clinic students must perform and document 42.5 hours of clinic and client work per credit hour. Students enrolled in externships and judicial clerkships must complete at least forty (45) hours of field work for each credit hour earned. Therefore, a three-credit externship will require a minimum of 135 documented hours of field work, including time spent meeting with the faculty supervisor, or writing journals or other assignments for the faculty supervisor (see Externships & Judicial Clerkships: Fact Sheet for Students). Both clinic and externship students also use Clio, a case-management software, to track hours.