Law-Psychology Program

Program Requirements

Each student’s study and research plan is individual, and the courses taken and research topics examined may change over the course of a student’s career. Students are expected to meet the expectations of three programs: 1) the Law-Psychology Program, 2) the student’s Core Discipline program, and 3) the Law College. The requirements listed here are those expected by the Law-Psychology Program. While they likely overlap substantially with the requirements of the Core Discipline program, they are not intended to replace those requirements. Ultimately, a student’s doctoral supervisory committee (normally appointed near the end of the master’s equivalency research project) determines what coursework requirements are necessary for the student to complete the Program.

The Law and Psychology Program is a research-focused program of study. Students in all tracks must be involved in ongoing research from the time that they enter the program until the time that they finish their dissertations. Students may be involved in their mentor’s research, first year projects, master’s equivalency research, projects with other faculty members, projects with other students, or dissertation work. Students report on their research ideas, problems, and completed projects in the program biweekly brownbag meetings. Attendance at these meetings is mandatory for all students unless there is a course conflict or other professional conflict that cannot be overcome. Please consult the program director for more information on declaring conflicts unresolvable.

Most Psychology Department and Law College courses are available to students in all program tracks. However, there are exceptions; certain clinical psychology courses are open to clinical students only and some Law College courses are open to J.D. students only.

Interdisciplinary Courses

The core coursework for the Law-Psychology program consists of a series of Interdisciplinary Courses. The following cross-listed courses are available to dual degree students and credits in these courses count toward degrees in both programs. For M.L.S. students, 12 credits can count toward both degrees; for J.D. students, 18 credits can count toward both degrees.

Law and Behavioral Science (3 credits). General issues in the interaction between law and behavioral sciences; discussion of the use/misuse/nonuse of behavioral sciences in the law, with attention to ways of making behavioral science input most useful; evaluation of the contribution of theory and research in psychology to the policy formulation process.

Topics in Law and Psychology (3 credits – may be taken twice for dual credit and a third time for psychology credit only). In-depth analysis of specific psycholegal topics. Previous courses have included: Legal Decision Making, Eyewitness Memory, and Damages.

Mental Health Law (3 credits). Critical review of the mental health laws throughout the nation and their psychological foundations. Emphasis is placed on research that illuminates problems encountered by the mental health system and the relevant law. Topics include the insanity defense, competency to stand trial, guardianship/conservatorship and civil commitment. This course can fulfill the seminar requirement for J.D. students.

Psycholegal Research (3 credits – may be taken twice). A substantial research and writing project on a psycholegal topic generally including a law review quality legal analysis, an empirical study, and their integration. The research is supervised and approved by a faculty member in the Law-Psychology Program with joint appointments in both the Law College and the Psychology Department (currently Bornstein, Brank, Schopp, or Wiener). These credits are typically used to complete the requirements for the MERP. Note that no credit will be awarded for projects undertaken for 6 credits until the entire project has been completed.


Students may participate in a practicum for up to 2 semesters (6 credits). The purposes of the practicum are as follows:

  • To familiarize students with real-world settings, in order to generate research questions of applied significance.
  • To give students experience in working in organizations to build an appreciation of the practical problems of field research, knowledge diffusion, and application.
  • These placements are pursuant to contracts with state and community agencies. Previous placements have included: Courts, Governor’s Office, Health and Human Services, Department of Public Institutions, Nebraska Mental Health Association, Department of Social Services, the legislature’s Health and Social Services Committee, and Lancaster County Public Defender’s Office. Placements should be multidisciplinary and educational. The nature of the practicum training must be consistent with the focus of the Program. Agency staff and Law-Psychology faculty provide student supervision.


A total of 36 credits are requires for the M.A. The following courses are required, unless otherwise noted.

3 Interdisciplinary Law-Psychology Courses

Law and Behavioral Sciences: Required for all students 

Mental Health Law: Strongly recommended but not required, consult with advisor 

Topics in Law and Psychology: Several “Topics” courses are offered, including Legal Decision-Making, Damages, and Eyewitness Memory.

3 Proseminars
Social Proseminar
Cognitive Proseminar
Elective Proseminar: The student’s Core Discipline may dictate this choice. For example, developmental law-psychology students must take both Developmental Proseminars. 

2 Statistics Courses
Psychology 941
Psychology 942
Note that most students opt to take additional statistics courses, and most advisors and doctoral committees may require it as part of the student’s Program of Courses

Psycholegal Research (6 credits)

Electives (6 credits)
Chosen based on students’ interests and Core Discipline Program requirements. Common choices include:

  • Social Cognition
  • Emotion and Motivation
  • Group Dynamics
  • Social Psychology Research Methods
  • Questionnaire Design
  • Program Evaluation
  • “Topics” Courses
  • “Readings” Courses: These are designed with an advisor based on topics of mutual interest. Students register for Psych Lit I or II.


A minimum of 90 credit hours are required for a Ph.D. The following are required unless otherwise noted. Note that these requirements overlap with the M.A. requirements, and courses taken in pursuit of the M.A. also count toward the Ph.D.

Four Interdisciplinary Law-Psychology courses (18 credits)

Many of these courses will count toward both the law degree and the psychology degree. M.L.S. students can only get dual credit for 12 Interdisciplinary credits, and the law school counts Psycholegal Research in this category. Therefore, M.L.S. students CANNOT take all of these courses for dual credit.

Law and Behavioral Sciences
Topics in Law-Psychology
Topics in Law-Psychology
Mental Health Law

Four Proseminars (12 credits)

Social Proseminar
Cognitive Proseminar
Elective Proseminar
Elective Proseminar

Note that the Electives may be dictated by the student’s Core Discipline requirements, advisor, or supervisory committee. Elective options include: History and Philosophy of Psychology, Developmental, Sensation and Perception, Sensation and Perception, and Psychopathology.

Statistics (9 credits)

Psychology 941 (3 credits)
Psychology 942 (3 credits)
Electives. Options include: Multilevel Modeling, Structural Equation Modeling, Qualitative Methods, Program Evaluation, and one-credit summer courses on varying topics. Students are often encouraged to take a statistics class outside of the Psychology Department.

Completion of these credits satisfies the Graduate Studies language/research tool requirement.

Statistics “minor”: Students may pursue a concentration in statistics. Those interested should consult with their advisor and Professor Cal Garbin, director of the concentration. The minor requires 18 credits.

Ethics (2 credits)

Introduction to Professional Ethics for Psychologists OR the Graduate Studies course on Responsible Conduct in Research (1 credit)
Advanced Professional Ethics for Psychologists, Law-Psychology (1 credit)
Teaching Methods in Psychology (1 credit)

Students must consult their Core Discipline Program requirements to ensure that they have successfully met those expectations. Beyond that, students are encouraged to choose electives based on their career goals and interests.

Readings Courses: Students may set up Readings classes with individual professors on topics of mutual interest and register for these classes as Psych Lit I or Psych Lit II.

Research Credits: The Department and Program offer a number of course listings for research credits. These include Psych Lit, Psycholegal Research, Research Other Than Thesis (ROTT), and Dissertation Credits. Typically, students take certain credits for certain projects. For example, students typically take ROTT credits for their first-year research project and Psycholegal Research credits to work on their Master’s-equivalent project (MERP). Dissertation credits are reserved for work on dissertation projects. Students should seek help from their advisor or fellow students if confused about which credits to take.

Brownbag (1 credit): Students in the Law-Psychology Program are required to attend “Brownbag” sessions while they are in residence at UNL. At some time during their program of study, students can register for 1 credit of Psych Lit I as a result of participation in the “Brownbag” series.

Practicum (6 credits maximum)

Note: You must be registered for at least one credit until you graduate.


The requirements set out below are intended to provide a general overview of the requirements for the J.D. All law students should consult the Law Student Handbook for a list of the official requirements for their class. If you have questions, contact the Dean’s Office at the Law School. A total of 93 credit hours are required for a J.D., including the following:

First Year Curriculum (30 credits)

Upper-Level Courses (63 credits)


Good foundational courses include but are not limited to: Corporations, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Remedies, Wills and Trusts and a statutory course (Tax, Environmental Law, a course examining the Uniform Commercial Code, etc.)

Electives commonly chosen include but are not limited to: Administrative Law, Employment Law, Family Law, Juvenile Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Negotiations, Mediation, Law and Economics, Law and Medicine, Legislation Seminar and Trial Advocacy.


Additional information about the Law-Psychology Joint Degree program can be found on the Psychology Department website.