If you are a first-year student, your law school courses have probably been laid out for you, and this a good thing because the basics like Contracts, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Torts, Property, and Civil Procedure will lay the foundation for the rest of your law school career. One or more of these courses may appeal to you so much that you decide right then and there that you simply must take every related course over the next two years.
But what if you’re nearing the end of your second semester of law school and you find that you have no idea what courses you should take next?
When it’s time for registration, here are three pieces of advice on selecting your law school courses:
Forget About the Bar Exam
You will hear a lot of people, including advisors and professors, tell you to take the “bar courses,” i.e., those subjects that are covered on most, if not all, state bar exams. I agree with that—so long as you have an underlying interest in, say, business associations or contract remedies.
But most “bar courses” are included in your first-year requirements anyway; for those subjects that aren’t covered, you will learn what you need to know for the bar exam from bar review materials and classes.
This probably sounds strange, but it’s true: you will learn all the law you need to know for the bar exam in the two months preceding it. The best thing to do is to forget about the bar now while you’re in school and follow the next two pieces of advice in choosing your second and third year courses and clinics.
Select Topics That Interest You
You may never have an opportunity to study certain subjects again, so if you’ve always wanted to learn more about white collar and organized crime, have at it.
If you have an underlying interest in environmental law, even if you don’t think you’ll make a career out of it, why not give the course a try? Literature and the law? No, it’s not on the bar exam, but you might actually enjoy it.
If the courses you select are making you think and analyze (and all courses in law school will), they are preparing you for the bar exam and for a promising legal career. Two other potential bonuses:
- You just might get higher grades because you’re engaged in the course material, which will be looked upon kindly by future employers.
- You may even find yourself a new, exciting career path.
Choose Great Professors
Professors’ reputations are generally well-known in their schools, so seek out those “can’t miss” instructors, even if they’re teaching classes you otherwise wouldn’t be interested in. This goes slightly against the tip above, but if generations of law students have raved about a particular professor, you probably want to take a class with that professor no matter what it is.
Great professors can make even the dullest subjects interesting and get you excited to go to class. Some of my favorite classes (and, incidentally, the ones I did the best in) were Property, Taxation, and Estate and Gift Tax. Because of the subject matter? Hardly.
Remember that this is your law school education—not your advisor’s, not your professors’, and certainly not your parents’. You’ll never get these three years back, so make sure that you make the most out of your law school experience, something that begins with choosing the right classes for you. With careful course selection, you can enjoy three years that are not only intellectually stimulating and challenging, but also fun. Choose wisely!