Thursday, October 5, 2017

Upper Level Courses -- WHICH DO I PICK?!


Yesterday the course offerings for the Spring semester were released. I had a tentative schedule already in mind based off of what was offered last spring. In fact I used last spring and this falls offerings to basically plan out my next 3 semesters (I seriously cannot believe i only have 3 left). It's safe to say that my plan was twisted.

Before I get into what courses I am hoping to take I think its important to discuss what courses I am REQUIRED to take in order to graduate. Unlike undergrad, I don't have an academic advisor who is also keeping track of which courses I am taking to make sure I complete all the required ones for my degree. In law school, you are in charge of keeping track of your required courses, pro bono hours, bar prep, etc. etc. So stay on top of it. I created a simple checklist in word listing all the required courses - when I took them - the grade I got so I can just keep track of what I've done and how well I have done. The best way to find out which courses are required is to go to your academic handbook --

REQUIRED COURSES
  • First-Year Courses 
    • all first year courses must be completed with a passing grade (A passing grade is a grade of “D-” or higher for all first year courses and all upper level required courses)
  • Constitutional Law II, Professional Responsibility and Legal Communication and Research III
    • You have to take these courses during your second year or the summer semester between the first and second year. Successful completion of this required course means receiving a grade of “D-” or higher.
  • Writing Requirement
    • To satisfy the upper level writing requirement you have to complete a  25 page, double spaced, paper under the supervision of a faculty member and approved by the Associate Dean. The paper must demonstrate substantial in depth analysis, reflection, and revision.
  • Administrative Law or Statutory/Legislative Course
    • During your second or third year, you have to take either Administrative Law or a course on legislative/statutory interpretation or a course that covers the fundamentals of administrative law and/or statutory interpretation.
BAR COURSES
On top of the required courses there are bar courses which cover topics that will be on the bar. Now everyone is different when it comes to their approach with bar courses. Different states hone in on different topics so some might take family law because their state tests heavily on it where other states not so much. The best way to find out is to talk with a faculty member or someone from the state bar.

In addition to the required first year courses (which are bar courses) some of the bar courses are
  • Business Associations
  • Conflicts of Law
  • Commercial Transactions
  • Constitutional Criminal Procedure- Investigative
  • Constitutional Criminal Procedure- Adjudicative
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Federal Courts
  • Foundational Skills for Attorney Licensing
  • Real Estate Transactions 
  • Wills and Trust
Keep in mind that you might not be able to take all of the bar courses that are offered at your school. It really all depends on your law school plan but you should take the major ones like Evidence, Wills & Trust, Con Crim Pro just because there is no way that you will be able to teach yourself those courses during your bar prep.

ELECTIVE COURSES / CLINICS / EXTERNSHIPS
On top of your required courses and bar prep courses you are probably going to take courses in an area of law that interests you or an area of law that you plan to practice in. I have an interest in Real Estate, Wills & Trust, and Estate Planning -- below are some of the courses that my school offers in these areas. 


It is my goal to take as many of these courses as I can possibly fit into my schedule while also keeping up with all the required / bar prep courses. 

On top of these elective courses, many schools offer different clinics and experiential learning opportunities. If this is something you are interested in doing, you need to plan for it as well. Talk to the professor in charge of the clinic, find out how many hours are required, if it is a full year or just a semester long, how many credits it is, what you'll be doing, etc etc. The same thing goes with externships. These are things you NEED to factor in considering they take the place of a course and sometimes two.

The best advice that I can give you is to attempt to map out your 2L and 3L year. Make a list of which courses you want to take and see how they will fit in with your other requirement. I began mapping mine over the summer (only because I knew I was going to be in DC for a semester and wouldn't be taking classes or else I would have done it during my spring semester of 1L). I suggest that you go back to your list every semester and make the changes you need to make. Here is my tentative Spring Semester schedule:


So originally, I was hoping to take Estate Planning during the Fall semester of 3L year. But I don't think it is going to work out based on when the course is offered. Estate Planning has two pre-req courses - Wills & Trust and Estate & Gift Tax which are only being offered in the Fall of my 3L year. So I had to readjust my Spring semester schedule and figure out where I want to head for my final semesters in law school. Unfortunately, I was informed this morning that the admin. office didn't confirm all the offered courses with professors, sooooo the course offerings for the spring might change... which I'm really hoping it doesn't because as of now I like how my schedule is looking / laid out in terms of balancing the course load (and who could be mad about having Fridays off?)

FINAL TIPS:
  1. Write down the course section and ID number for all the courses you plan to take on to a piece of paper and have that paper with you. This way you can just quickly plug in all the course id numbers and hit register rather than having to go searching for them all. Some schools allow you to put all the courses you intend to register for into your "cart" before hand and then when it comes time to just register, if this is something your school allows again, I recommend doing it. it saves you time and the stress of having to search for the courses. 
  2. HAVE BACK UPS PREPARED. You know the drill, in undergrad there was always that one course that you weren't sure if you were going to get into so you had to have a few back ups in case. I highly highly highly suggest doing the same for law school. Have at least two that you know will work with your schedule - be sure to check days, times, the number of CREDITS its worth - especially as a 1L choosing an elective. They fill up quick. My back ups will be:
    • Con. Crim Pro. Investigative
    • Writing for Trial and Appellate Judges
    • Foundational Skills -- Attorney Licensing
These courses either fulfill graduation requirements or are bar prep courses.

If you have any questions about course options or any additional tips you think are useful during this process, feel free to reach out!
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