One of the most exciting parts of moving past 1L year is the ability to make your own schedule after a rigorous year of mandatory courses. While it is relieving to many students to finally have this opportunity, the process can also be overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin. Below are some things to consider when choosing courses to help you get the most out of your last two years of law school.
Be Aware of Your Graduation Requirements
First things first, be sure to check what courses you need to graduate. This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to get caught up in the elective course list and forget that your school likely has a fair number of required courses. Be sure to look at your graduation requirements early on so you can space them out during your remaining semesters, and avoid needing to satisfy them all at the last minute.
Check If Any Courses Require Prerequisites
Another thing you should be aware of as early as possible is whether any courses that you need or want to take require prerequisites. Many upper-level classes focusing on narrow areas of the law may require you to take a more general survey course prior to or concurrent with enrollment. The last thing you want is to realize that you can’t take a course because you didn’t take the prerequisite early enough, so be sure to look into this early so you can get these out of the way.
Consider Taking Bar Subjects
For the majority of law students, the whole point of going to law school is to pass the bar and practice law. Therefore, taking courses that cover bar subjects while in law school is another thing you should consider when choosing your courses. While you don’t need to take a course on every single subject that will be covered on the bar exam, it is probably a good idea to take courses covering most of them. This will prevent you from having to learn too many entire areas of the law during bar prep. Nearly all of your 1L courses cover bar subjects, but there are still many subjects tested on the bar that can be taken during 2L or 3L. Be sure to check which subjects your state’s bar exam tests, and try to take many of them during law school.
Balance Exams With Papers
Many students have a large number of courses requiring a heavily-weighted final exam during 1L. That makes one of the most appealing things about choosing your own courses during 2L and 3L the ability to balance your course load to avoid having four or five exams in a single semester. Even if you tend to do very well on exams, it will likely make for a far less stressful semester if you choose courses that vary in their assessment requirements. Try to sign up for a balance of courses that require a paper or project and courses that require exams.
Be Sure to Take Plenty of Writing Courses
Some of the most important skills to develop as a law student and lawyer are effective writing skills. The best way to improve your writing skills is to practice, and get valuable feedback. A great way to do that during law school is to take as many diverse writing courses as possible. Regardless of whether you intend to pursue litigation or transactional work, you can benefit from honing your writing skills, and most schools will offer writing courses that focus on either litigation or transactional writing. Take advantage of this opportunity for practice and feedback before you start working!
Take Advantage of Experiential Learning
Something that no student should overlook is the opportunity for experiential learning that is provided (and likely even required) at most law schools. Experiential learning can provide you with a valuable look into what different legal positions really entail while allowing you to hone many valuable skills like research, writing and, in some instances, even client interaction. While these are fantastic experiences, you should also be mindful that depending on the exact nature of the clinic or externship, it may be a larger time commitment than a regular class. Therefore, it is in your best interest to carefully consider your course workload for semesters where you will also be enrolled in an experiential learning opportunity.
Talk To An Academic Advisor
If you’re unsure which courses you should choose, when you should take them, or which courses you should take at the same time, consider talking to your academic advisor or another faculty member at your school. Sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly what different courses require and how heavy a workload they will be. Often an advisor will have some insight into this, and be able to advise you on what courses you may want to take in which semester.
Choosing courses for your final two years of law school can be overwhelming. Fortunately, with some careful planning you can create a schedule that will best serve your needs.
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