From what I have seen so far, there appear to be two basic approaches people take to 2nd and 3rd year legal education. The first is to take a number of general ‘core’ classes first, such as Evidence; Criminal Procedure; Wills, Trusts & Estates; Corporations; Administrative Law; and Tax. After taking all or most of the core classes, students may spend a year or so taking courses to specialize in their area of interest. Proponents of this design of a legal education advocate for “legal literacy” and exploration before students choose and concentrate on one area of law.
The second approach is to specialize, and to do so early. Students interested in criminal law or litigation may never take Corporations or Tax, while students interested in business law may never take Criminal Procedure o Evidence. By taking less ‘core’ classes, these students take more specialized classes in their area of interest. They may well complete one of BU’s many concentration certificates as well. Proponents of this approach advocate for specialization & focus because these are now characteristics of a successful legal career; they claim choosing classes this way produces more marketable graduates.
At the beginning of this year I wasn’t sure which approach was right. When I initially chose my classes I focused on classes in transactional and business law. These were the classes that my interviewers in the OCI process saw, which conveyed a strong interest in transactional and tax law. I do think that schedule helped me ultimately get a summer associate position. This first semester is a business law heavy one for me: I’m taking Intro to Federal Income Taxation, Corporations, International Business Agreements, and Contract Drafting. While I clearly took the “depth” approach this semester, it hasn’t been clear to me that this is necessarily best way to proceed for the next three semesters.
I decided this semester to reach out to mentors, professors, and networking contacts to ask for their advice on how they would choose classes. To my surprise, so far everyone who has replied has urged me to take a little more of the “breadth” approach. Though I don’t think I’m particularly interested in litigation, and I was going to wait to take Evidence right before the bar exam, my sources have all insisted I take the class next semester. They also pointed out that Employment Law is a good general class, and is surprisingly helpful background knowledge to many practitioners.
My final source of advice for choosing classes has been my classmates. Just by posting questions about certain classes and teachers on Facebook, I’m able to get information about teachers’ classroom and exam styles. Fellow students are quick to share about their experiences, and I take 3Ls’ and recent graduates’ advice seriously when they advise me to take or not to take a class.
With all this information I have a lot to think about. There is still one more thing that I am taking into account before solidifying my schedule for next semester, though, and that’s balance. This semester I ended up taking 15 credits and I’ve felt stretched-thin. Next semester I’ll still have duties for the Health Law Association, plus I’ll be writing my note for the International Law Journal. I’ve decided this upcoming semester needs to be lighter in terms of which classes I’ll take, so I can focus on doing a good job on my note. Even though I’ve loved tax this semester, Taxation of Corporations and Shareholders (which is notoriously hard,) is going to have to wait.
At the moment, I’m leaning towards an all exam-class schedule, which will include Evidence, Employment Law, and Wills, Trusts & Estates. I’d really like to fit in Tax of Financial Instruments instead of Wills & Trusts, but then I would only have class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I’m not sure I would ever leave house the rest of the days of the week! Either way, I should have a good mix of classes to prepare me for the rotation schedule I’ll have this summer as a Summer Associate, plus enough time to write a note for ILJ that I can feel good about. Happy class hunting, everyone.