Choosing the Best Elective Courses in Law School

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Several students recently offered their thoughts about the elective courses they've taken in law school that were either unusually interesting or likely to improve their daily practice skills in the future.

Sara McCuistion, a second-year student at the University of Texas Law School, said she found her elective course Comparative Constitutional Law to be particularly interesting and rewarding. Taught by a visiting German professor, the course examined the ''comparative method'' and introduced students to the debate as to whether it's possible to meaningfully compare and contrast the constitutions of countries with highly varied histories and cultural climates. Ms. McCuistion said the class spent most of its time examining the differences between the constitutions of France, Germany, South Africa, and England. In addition to broadening her ''world view,'' Ms. McCuistion said the class provided a ''great exercise in applying international law using constitutional law instead of case law.'' She said she also gained new insights into other countries' unique challenges by taking this course.

Carrey Wong, a third-year student at the University of California's Hastings College of Law and one of the editors of the school's Hastings Women's Law Journal, said her elective courses in Trial Advocacy, Negotiation and Settlement, and Pre-Trial Practice have been her favorite elective classes. She said she appreciated the chance to learn more about making opening and closing statements and handling jury selection in her Trial Advocacy class. Ms. Wong's Negotiation and Settlement class helped her ''learn more about how people think'' and now has a better understanding of how ''opposing counsel and their clients, as well as judges,'' view various issues in cases. Finally, Ms. Wong's Pre-Trial Practice class provided her with helpful knowledge about how to draft demand letters, motions for summary judgment, and conduct depositions. Regarding the time when a court reporter was called in to make the deposition exercise more realistic, Ms. Wong said, ''I found that part of the course particularly helpful since I would never have otherwise gained that kind of experience until one day preparing a case for trial after graduation.''

Chris Baird, a third-year student and editor-in-chief of The Duke Law Journal, agreed with Ms. McCuistion when he named his Comparative Constitutional Design class as one of his more interesting and possibly useful courses. Due to his professor's specialized experience in this field, Mr. Baird and his classmates primarily studied the constitutions of such countries as Fiji, Malaysia, Indonesia, Northern Ireland, and Nigeria. Mr. Baird said his class spent most of its time studying ''conflict-reducing strategies for ethnically divided societies.'' He said the class also provided a good review of how different countries elect their leaders and how other countries approach and handle controversial topics.

Tyler Green, a third-year student and editor of The Utah Law Review, said he found the elective courses Evidence and Criminal Procedure to be especially interesting and useful. He believes every student should take the latter class because ''it clearly teaches you a basic understanding of Fourth Amendment rights.'' As for his Evidence course, Mr. Green said that class should prove ''applicable to just about every area of law a student might later practice.''

So, whatever a student's goal-be it gaining practical legal skills or pushing the boundaries of legal theory-he or she should dig into the course catalog and find the electives in their areas of interest. And, even if a student does not have a distinct goal in mind, electives are great ways to stimulate a student's legal reasoning and deepen his or her legal skills.

University of Texas School of Law


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