The selection process for law school classes is much more complex than the course enrollment period you experienced for your undergraduate classes. Although they share certain similarities such as, class times cannot overlap and lottery systems vary by institution (e.g. first come first served, GPA ranking, and arbitrarily assigned numbers), there are many other factors you must consider when creating your law school class schedule for the semester. Use our checklist below as an initial guide to help you generate a potential course list, or as a final reminder to review and keep track of important items when choosing your courses for each semester.
Law school student bodies are typically smaller than the average undergraduate class at a university. Compared to undergraduate, time blocks for your core law courses will seem very limited and they are. For instance, every 1L must take Torts to graduate. Though your 1L class may consist of 300 students, the school might only schedule three time slots for when Torts is held and increase the number of students allotted to enroll in those Tort sessions. This means you may be forced to choose between three different class times, all of which you oppose. Before grumbling and selecting haphazardly, reflect on the study habits from your college career and try asking yourself some of these questions: What time of day do you function better for class – morning or afternoon? Would you rather do homework earlier or later in the day? Are there blank time slots you could squeeze a class into instead of leaving gaps scattered throughout your day? Is there a way in which to organize your schedule, so that you are left with a day off?
If your school has already posted your finals schedule, look at that as well to help you determine optimal times. You may be able to avoid scheduling back-to-back finals by selecting different courses. You should also account for more abstract reasons like: Does a particular class time cause you to have to commute during rush hours? Or if you need complete silence to focus, are there specific hours in a day when your roommate(s) are usually out? Lastly, plan ahead. If you can view the course schedules for both semesters and the same class you want to take is being offered at a better time during the spring than the fall, then wait until the following semester to sign-up for it.
The ABA has set standards that every law school in the country must obey. Some of these regulations include adopting core law classes as a mandatory part of their curriculums (e.g. contracts and criminal law), and ensuring that each student has met the minimum amount of credit hours (83) required to sit for the bar. However, law schools may also establish some of their own prerequisites to graduate.
Consult your law school handbook first. Then make a list containing every mandatory class for both graduation and your legal concentration. Finally, depending on what scheduling resources your law school has provided you with, map out a tentative plan for what you think is the ideal way to arrange your courses over the next two years. Factor in strategies such as, using your final semester for the core classes tested on the bar, or how a class may better complement your internship for that semester.
3. Law Professors
Look for classes with a professor whose teaching style is compatible with your learning style. Did you enjoy having a particular professor for a previous course? Attempt to take another class from them. Do all of your classmates rave about one specific instructor for reasons parallel to your own interests? Search for those classes being taught by them too. Finally, try scoping them out on Rate My Professors.
Talk to older colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. Do you share similar legal aspirations with any of them? What about your 1L study group? Do you wish that you could link up with one or two of them again for future study sessions? Ask them about their class schedule and see if they want to register for a class together. Alternatively, maybe you can suggest that you take the same classes, but during opposite semesters. This way you can save money by swapping textbooks, trading each other’s outlines, and receiving a substantive review for what it is actually like to experience a certain course or professor.
5. Jobs and/or School Activities
While internships, externships, jobs, and extracurriculars can all be categorized as a timing issue, we separated them into their own category so that you do not forget to account for them. As another option, try placing them on a calendar first and basing the classes you select around their time slots instead. If you belong to a law society that you know only holds events in the afternoon, then do not schedule early classes (unless you plan on doing work after) because it will cost you extra time waiting around for the events to begin. Also, consider your commuting route. Is there a linear way to travel from your class to your internship? What about location? Is one closer to your home than the other? Then you might want to schedule the one that is closest to your house at the end of the day, or the one that will cause the least amount of problems for your commuting time.
As you already know, your time is precious; especially in law school. Spending a few extra minutes researching professors and designing a practical schedule, for both your current and future semesters, is a valuable task to dedicate time to because it will make your life that much easier in the long run.
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