So you’ve finished (or nearly finished) your 1L year of law school and you could not be more excited that you can finally choose your own classes. The only problem is that there are tons of classes to choose from and you have no idea where to begin.
Should you focus on Bar prep classes like Constitutional Law II, Corporations and Evidence, or can you explore with some unique niche classes like White Collar Crime or Tax Fraud?
What about course schedule, should you be picking classes to have an easily workable schedule or should scheduling be an afterthought?
Finally, what about professors, should your search for courses consider who is teaching the courses?
I had all of these questions and more when I was selecting my 2L classes. I had an awesome 2L year but I certainly made some mistakes in selecting my course schedule. I am sure that this article will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I faced in law school due to course selection mistakes my 2L year.
Don’t focus on Bar Classes
I get extremely annoyed when I hear counselors tell law students to focus on bar classes their 2L year. On its face the advice is solid, but when you scratch beneath the surface you realize that it’s ridiculous.
Why is it ridiculous to focus on bar classes? First literally everyone I know, regardless whether they took every bar class or not, enrolled in a bar review course (usually Barbri). What that means is that you are going to perform a complete review of the subjects tested on the bar right before the bar exam.
Second, if you are a spring semester 1L, how much of the details and cases of the fall semester can you remember? Let me guess, a lot less than you would hope for. How much of your 1L fall semester Torts class are you going to remember by the time you are a 3L? 5-10%? Anymore than that and you are probably lying or you have an outstanding memory.
The truth is that you do not need to take every bar class to do well on the bar exam. Everything you need to learn you will learn during your bar review course and outside studying prior to the exam.
On the other hand, I am certainly not asserting that taking a bar class will hurt your chances of doing well on the bar. I’m saying that the fact that Constitutional Law II, Evidence and Family Law are all tested on the bar exam does not mean that you should take those courses.
With that out of the way, I will mention that I did end up taking a ton of bar classes my 2L year. Why did I do that, when I just gave you that advice? Because a lot of bar classes happen to be prerequisites and/or foundational courses.
Uniquely Important Courses
I would like to mention a few courses that I have found to be exceptionally helpful in and out of law school.
1) Evidence. Yeah I know, it’s one of those bar courses I was bashing a minute ago. But guess what, it is an extremely helpful course in its own right. Evidence is a prerequisite for a variety of clinics and courses at my law school. If you plan on competing in upper-level Mock Trials Evidence can be extremely helpful, and if you are interested in interning at a District Attorney’s Office or a Public Defender’s, Evidence is a must.
2) Federal Income Tax. The biggest surprise of my law school career in terms of class expectations. I expected this class to feel like watching paint dry. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and interesting courses I have taken. Even more helpful, it gives the non-accountants among us a basic foundation understanding of how the tax system works.
3) Corporations. This was by far my least favorite class 2L year. I did not like the professor, and I hated the reading materials. I came in expecting this course to be extremely interesting, well it sucked. Why am I recommending it? Corporations is so foundational, it gives you a better footing in nearly any other course you take. Corporations is also a prerequisite for a variety of classes and clinics at my law school.
Consider A Skills Course
A skills course can be a clinic, mock trial, negotiations or any course that involves applying legal theory to a fundamental lawyer task. A certain number of skills credits are generally required now at every law school, and they are also extremely helpful in helping most students get an idea of what they want to do.
Get the MPRE Out of the Way
I always recommend that students take the professional ethics course and get the MPRE out of the way their 2L year. I took my professional ethics course in two weekends during the Spring semester of my 2L year. That’s right you heard that correctly, my law school (and many others) offers a condensed professional ethics course that spans two weekends.
I strongly recommend that you get this requirement out of the way to reduce the pressure your 3L year of wrapping up your requirements.
Choose Professors Wisely
I have had some of the very best professors in law school and I have had some of the very worst. My 2L year was a turning point for me because up until then I selected courses based on my interest level without strongly considering the professor reviews. BIG MISTAKE, a professor can make or break a class in law school, and you do not want a terrible professor ruining your interest in a subject.
I strongly recommend that you seriously consider student reviews of professors. If you have any upper-class friends you should quiz them on professors you are interested in.
If you had a professor you loved 1L year, take another course with that professor! I liked my Civil Procedure and Contracts professors so much I ended up taking several more courses with them.
Take Some Classes That Really Interest You
Trying to raise your grades after 1L year? Don’t make it any harder by filling up your schedule with “check the box classes” that you have no interest in. Trust me when I tell you that it’s a lot harder to get an A in a class when you can hardly keep your eyes open past five pages.
Regardless if you are trying to raise your grades, you should make some space for a few classes that you really are passionate about. I was really passionate about criminal law, so I took Criminal Procedure, White Collar Crime and International Money Laundering. It was a lot of fun and made my whole law school experience considerably more enjoyable.
As you can see there are tons of things to consider when determining a 2L course schedule. Follow these tips, take the time to create your schedule, and you will make the most out of your 2L courses!