Before you graduate law school, it is important to know what kind of law you want to practice. However, it can be difficult to figure out the type of law you want to learn. There are numerous kinds of law, countless claims, and an endless array of clientele. You also only get three years in law school to figure out what you might be interested in pursuing. This is further complicated when you have to meet certain requirements to graduate and you take certain classes in preparation for the bar. So what is law student supposed to do? Once you are finished learning the basics of the law in your 1L year, you have the chance to get your feet wet in other specific types of law. In your upperclassmen years, you get to choose electives that fit your interests so that you can learn about a type of law that you may want to practice. One kind of upperclassmen class you can take are called seminars. Here is a quick guide to these kinds of courses so you have a general understanding of them before you elect to take one.
What are Seminars?
Each law school chooses what classes are available to students. Many schools have classes that are known as “seminars.” These courses can touch on a wide variety of topics and can look very different depending on the school and professor’s preferences. Typically, these courses either dive deep into one specific type of law (e.g. employment law) or they may touch on a “special interest” type of law (e.g. environment law). Ultimately, these classes give you a chance to gain a more expansive understanding of the law.
Why should I take a Seminar?
Seminars have numerous benefits for students. First, seminars typically do not have exams. Instead, they have some sort of practical experience that allows students to gain useful knowledge on the particular type of law. Also, seminars typically have smaller class sizes that meet less frequently during the week. Thus, you have more professor-student interaction on an individual level without taking up too much of your week for the meetings. Finally, seminars tend to be more interesting and in depth. You are able to learn more about a type of law by engaging with the material in a compelling way. Ultimately, seminars are a lot of fun and a nice break from the traditional lecture-based, casebook-driven law class.
What I liked About my Seminars
At my law school, you can only take one seminar a semester. Thus, I have taken two seminars in my law school career. The first seminar I took was called Legal Change. I decided to take it because my favorite 1L professor (Civ Pro) was teaching the class. This was the first seminar class I took so I was not sure what to expect, but I ended up really liking it. The class was a hybrid of a law class and a doctoral political science class. As such, we had political science PhD candidates as classmates. I received my bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations so it seemed like a great seminar to take. This course was a lot more philosophical than I expected, but it helped me understand law in a deeper way. Also, I did not have a final exam and instead we had to facilitate a class and write a paper analyzing a legal change movement in history. The other seminar that I am currently taking is a labor law seminar focusing on current issues. The professor who is teaching this course taught the general labor law class I took last semester, and I am interested in that area of law. This class is nice because we meet briefly once a week and have looked at particular labor disputes in Detroit (our area). We even met some Detroit newspaper strikers and were able to gain a deeper understanding of why strikes happen and the consequences from them. This seminar also does not have any exams. Instead, we were divided into groups of two, were given a case to research, and had to choose the union or employer side. Our grade is based on the trial brief we compose and an oral argument in front of the court on appeal of the case. I already finished my oral argument and it gave me a good look at what it would be like to be a practicing labor law attorney.
This was a quick guide based on my experience in seminar classes. Each professor has their own way of teaching seminars and some universities may organize the course differently. However, this snapshot should give you a general understanding on what to expect from a seminar-style course. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to successfully navigate through this upperclassmen course.
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