In the first installment, we talked about two categories of classes that may help lay some doctrinal foundations for you professionally and academically – classes that can help you build the so-called ‘minimum competency’ that gets tested on the bar exam, and the classes that might align with your work goals. But, there’s more to you than bar exams and job interviews, so let’s get into the next set of classes that will go a long way in enhancing your law school experience and rounding you out as you prepare to be a practicing attorney:
Pursue Your Passion
Okay, so, some of you may not necessarily have gone to law school for passion-related reasons, but there may at least be offerings once you get past 1L year that align with your interests and values. The remaining two years of law school generally allow for more nuanced approaches to doctrine, including seminar-style classes where you have space to explore not just the black letter law, but the broader context within which it operates.
If there is a class that has the potential to make law school feel more interesting to you, then take the class. Your engagement with material in a deep and enthusiastic way will not only benefit you academically, but may also boost your general wellbeing, giving you a more positive law school experience overall. Taking these classes can also be a great way to connect you with students outside of your section who share your interests, giving you a solid starting place for finding your people and building lasting friendships.
Additionally, you never know how your classes may relate to your future practice. Even if a class feels more self-indulgent than practical, it could help you frame your thinking in a way that applies to the work that you do, or it could spark an idea for a note you want to publish, or it could just give you some fun legal facts to drop at the office holiday party.
Finally, taking a class where you would feel eager to contribute can restore some confidence that may have been lost during your first year of law school. Many students report a diminished sense of self during 1L, and experience classes in a way that is silencing and marginalizing. Taking a class that reminds you who you were and what you cared about before becoming a law student can reconnect you with the reasons you chose to go to school in the first place.
The takeaway here is that law school can be hard, and if there is a class that gets you fired up in the midst of a long list of “shoulds” and “musts,” then go for it!
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
While it’s helpful to take classes that relate directly to the law you anticipate practicing, being a student is also a rare opportunity to experiment and extend your learning beyond the areas in which you already feel comfy. While taking every possible class related to Administrative Law may be on brand for you, it can be a worthwhile exercise to see what else is out there.
For example, if you are a civil litigation fanatic who camped out overnight in order to be first in line for the grand opening of the American Museum of Tort Law, you still may want to take a peek behind the Constitutional Law curtain and take that First Amendment class just for the sake of learning about something new – don’t worry, you have the rest of your life to be surrounded by torts. And while taking classes that align with your interests can help you connect with like-minded folks, taking classes that stretch you beyond your comfort zone can help you build friendships with people you may not have met otherwise.
Yes, I saved the best for last. Whether you’re doing a clinic, an externship, or some other community-based work, the only antidote to the gripe that law school does not teach you how to be a lawyer is to do some lawyering! Plus, you typically get to do some good while you’re at it.
Clinics are an essential part of a law school curriculum. Even if you feel you are bound for work in which clinics don’t feel relevant, they offer tools and skills that can benefit you in any job you encounter.
So much of lawyering is not just about knowing the law (you can always look it up), but about the mechanics of practice. What is a motion and how do you write it? Once it’s written, where and how do you file it? How can you interact confidently with judges and, more importantly, the gatekeeping clerks, in order to get what you want? How can you effectively partner with and advocate for your clients so that they feel heard and supported? And don’t even get me started on notice requirements.
Working in clinics can give you the confidence you need to get through those first few years of lawyering. And, more importantly for some, they offer a necessary reprieve from the law school bubble by getting you out of the classroom and into the community. Nothing puts things like grades into a healthier perspective than helping someone avoid homelessness, working with a family to secure asylum, or advocating for someone to earn their freedom through a long-awaited parole.
We hope this gives you some guidance the next time summer winds down. If you still want help navigating the obstacle course of class options, don’t hesitate to reach out to schoolmates, alumni, your law school advising office, the professors themselves, or one of our Law School Toolbox tutors!
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