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Choosing Perfect Law Classes for You

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Thanks to the renowned creativity of the legal profession, you'll be taking the same first-year courses as Atticus Finch and Bill Clinton. And you won't have a choice, except for maybe one elective.

Your first-year schedule will consist of the following courses, with little exception:
  • Civil Procedure
  • Contracts
  • Criminal Law/Criminal Procedure
  • Property
  • Torts
Some schools will also require Constitutional Law and a legal research and writing course. But that's usually it.

If your school does allow you to choose an elective, here are a few tips. (Please use these tips in conjunction with the more general tips in the following section on choosing second- and third-year courses.) First, if you have not already taken a legal research and writing course, now may be a good time, especially if you're planning to work in law over your first summer. Legal writing is different from normal-person writing. That's why a lot of laypeople hate lawyers. Legal research is also difficult to learn by yourself. School is a better place to learn the ins and outs of legal research and writing than on the job.

Second, think about getting rid of a second-year requirement. For example, some schools require that you take Constitutional Law, but not necessarily in the first year. If the other choices do not interest you, sign up for a required course now.

Third, pursue a passion. You may not have a legal passion yet. Even if you do, law school has a funny way of beating the passion out of you. (Side note: Don't let it!) If you do have a passion (i.e., environmental law, labor law, entertainment law), or even think you might be passionate about a certain area (i.e., litigation, transactional law), think about using your one elective to fuel (or douse) the flames.


Law school is a lot like joining the military or a cult. In the first year, the powers-that-be (don't ask who the powers-that-be are; just know that they're there) beat you up. Then they indoctrinate you.

(Believe it, you are going to be talking with your law school friends about the fascinating differences between offensive non-mutual collateral estoppel and defensive non-mutual collateral estoppel. What?) After the indoctrination of the first year, however, the shackles are unhooked, and you're actually free to choose among a bevy of courses. Although most of this book focuses on your first year, here are a few pieces of advice to pull out once you've earned your freedom.

  • Constitutional Law*
  • Federal Courts*
  • Administrative Law*
  • Local Government Law
  • Discrimination courses, such as Employment Discrimination
  • Personal liberties courses, such as Immigration Law
  • Economic and social rights courses, such as Poverty Law
  • Constitutional theory courses
  • Legal history courses, especially those dealing with the Warren Court
  • Corporations*
  • Corporate Finance
  • Securities Regulation
  • Secured Transactions
  • Business Planning
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Corporate Restructuring
  • Accounting
  • Taxation: Tax and Corporate Tax
  • Venture Capital
  • Regulatory courses, such as Financial Institutions
  • Bankruptcy
  • Criminal Law*
  • Criminal Procedure*
  • Evidence*
  • Advanced Criminal Procedure
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Prison Law
  • Capital Punishment
  • Trial Advocacy
  • Clinicals dealing with criminal justice
  • Copyright*
  • Intellectual Property*
  • Theory of Intellectual Property
  • Law of Patent and Trademark
  • International Law
  • Transactional Legal Problems
  • Conflict of Laws
  • International Litigation
  • Comparative and Foreign Law
  • East Asian Legal Studies
  • European Legal Studies
  • Islamic Legal Studies
  • International Human Rights
  • Jurisprudence
  • Constitutional Jurisprudence
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Feminist Legal Theory
  • Comparative Legal Theoiy
  • Other theory courses
  • Theory of Intellectual Property
  • Law of Patent and Trademark
  • Administrative Law
  • Antitrust Law
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Copyright and Intellectual Property
  • Employment Law
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Family Law
  • Federal Courts
  • Immigration Law
  • Legal Profession
  • Mediation
  • Securities Regulation
  • Administrative Law*
  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking Regulation
  • Employment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Financial Institutions Regulation
  • Food and Drug Law
  • Health Care Law
  • International Trade
  • Labor Law
  • Pension Law
  • Securities Regulation
  • Basic Tax*
  • Comparative Tax
  • Corporate Tax
  • Gift and Estate Tax
  • Partnership Tax
  • Foreign Tax
  • State and Local Taxes
Other Possible Concentrations: Antitrust LawT Constitutional Theory, Cyberspace Law, Employment and Labor Law, Environmental Law, Family Law, Federal Law and Federalism, Financial Institutions, Gender and the Law, Health Law, Law and Economics, Legal History, Legal Profession/Ethics, Legal Services/Poverty Law, Local Government Law, Negotiation, Advanced Property, and Race and Race Relations

" signifies basic courses in each concentration


Are you a morning person? Do you have a boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiance who you want to spend long weekends with out of state? These are important questions when determining your schedule.

If you know you won't ever make it up for a 7:30 A.M. class, don't sign up for one-it's your money. If being with a loved one on Fridays is more important than a particular law school class, schedule courses that only meet Monday through Thursday. One of the beauties of law school in the second and third years is flexibility.

Also, try to take courses that are reasonably close together during the day. When you have an early morning class and then one in the late afternoon, you may find that you waste most of the time in between, unless you're extremely diligent. If it makes sense, line up your courses as close together as possible without overlapping them.


I know one student at Harvard who thinks he's a martyr. He takes all the hardest classes and then complains when other students with better grades get the jobs he wants. If his goal was to get those jobs, then he should have accounted for that when he was making his schedule. -TRUDY DEUTCH, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL

Make no mistake, grades are important for jobs. Don't overburden yourself with too many classes or too many outside activities if such actions will negatively affect your grades. Don't take all your hardest classes in one semester. For example, Tax, Constitutional Law, and Federal Courts are three of the more difficult courses; taking them all in the same semester may spell trouble.

While grades are important, don't make the mistake of concentrating too much on grades. A sincere interest or special training in a particular area (i.e., environmental law) often compensates for average grades in the eyes of some employers. Moreover, just because others do not perform well in certain classes, or find some courses difficult, does not mean that you will, too. Some people have a knack for courses like Tax and others for classes like Constitutional Law Your job in law school is to find your own niche. Remember that law school is ultimately a professional school (where you are supposed to be learning a trade), not just another notch for your resume.

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Harvard Law School.


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