Course Selection Help
What are the roles of the student advisors and faculty contacts?
Students often ask what the roles of the student advisors and faculty contacts are in helping advisees choose courses after first year and in offering other academic advice. The advisors' primary roles are to acclimate advisees to law school and to provide support. Dean Marx's office also asks the student advisors and faculty contacts to arrange time in April (after course selection materials come out) to discuss course selection with their advisees. It is not mandatory to meet with your advisors about course selection, but we strongly encourage you to seek them out for advice.
It is not always possible to match 1Ls with faculty contacts and student advisors who are familiar with a substantive area that 1Ls may be interested in. Also, it is difficult for student advisors and faculty contacts to be able to answer all questions about course selection, clinics, journals, job search, etc. Thus, the advisors' role is different than, e.g., a thesis advisor in graduate school, or an advisor in a particular school or college who is familiar with your major. In addition, as you take classes and meet other students, you may feel more of a connection with a faculty member other than your faculty contact, or with another upper-class student who is not your student advisor.
Law students also often change their interests once they take classes and learn about different areas of the law. Thus, it is common for students to seek out other students, faculty and administrators who share similar substantive interests or career goals, or have expertise in, e.g., job search strategies. And getting advice from many sources is wise, since there is no "right" way to do law school and no course of study that fits everyone.
Course Selection and Course Credit
- How many courses do students take each semester?
- How do I choose courses for second and third years?
- Is there a timeline I can follow to know when to take certain courses, begin courses for a concentration or dual-degree program, etc.?
- Typically between three and five but it depends on the number of credits for each course and if you are receiving credit for journal participation as well
- Most basic law courses, such as Evidence or Federal Taxation, are four credits.
- Most seminars, which are smaller classes and usually have a paper requirement instead of a final exam, and most specialized courses, are three credits.
- There are a very limited number of two credit courses available.
When choosing courses, remember the minimum semester and yearly credit requirements required by the Academic Regulations.
In deciding how many credits to take in a given semester, think about what else you have going on that semester. For example, many 2Ls are very busy in the fall of second year with the summer job search, journal responsibilities, moot court competitions, etc. Thus, 2Ls often take a lighter load first semester of second year. However, increasingly the job search extends throughout the entire year, so this may argue in favor of spreading out credits over both semesters.
The only requirements after first year are Professional Responsibility, the Upper-class Writing Requirement, and students must take at least one class identified as satisfying the ABA's and law school's professional skills requirement. (The courses will indicate which ones satisfy the professional skills requirement).
Three basic considerations in choosing courses are:
- How to achieve a well-rounded legal education
- How to prepare for the bar exam
- Whether to concentrate in a particular substantive area of law.
Achieving A Well-Rounded Education
Generally, legal employers want students to have a strong foundation in basic areas of the law. Our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs compiled a list of recommended courses that students might take to achieve this goal. These are:
- Administrative Law
- Commercial Code
- Introduction to Federal Income Taxation
If you don't have a strong view about what practice area you want to pursue, consider taking some of the basic survey courses from this list
- Criminal Procedure
- Employment Discrimination and Employment Law
- Environmental Law
- Family Law
- Health Law
- Intellectual Property
- International Law
- Trusts, Wills & Basic Estate Planning
Is there a timeline I can follow to know when to take certain courses, begin courses for a concentration or dual-degree program, etc.?
There is no set way to choose courses and no prescribed upper-class program. When you take courses, participate in a clinic, start a concentration, etc. depends on many factors.
- Some courses, such as Corporations, are basic courses. Basic courses should be taken early, especially if you plan on taking related courses that may assume a basic knowledge of the area. Also, some advanced courses or seminars have prerequisites; that will be indicated in the course selection materials.
- If you are doing a concentration, you should start taking courses that fulfill the concentration requirements early in your second year, so that you have enough time to satisfy the concentration requirements and also to discover if you actually are interested in the concentration area. Courses and seminars can change from semester to semester or year to year, and you can't always be guaranteed to get into a given course or seminar. Thus, if you start early on your concentration requirements, you will have more flexibility in course selection in subsequent semesters.
- You don't need to load up on concentration courses in a given semester; those can be spread out over your upper-class years.
- If you are in a dual-degree program, you get the most benefit of the program if you start taking master's degree classes first semester of your second year.
- If you are interested in a clinical or externship program, you should talk to the clinic or externship advisor about the pros and cons of doing a clinic or externship program second year versus third year.