Critical Skills Begin in the First Year

Small Classes
Small classes emphasize critical skills.

The first year of law school challenges students to "think like a lawyer," analyze cases and statutes, and take part in ongoing classroom dialogue. As a student-centered law school, Washington University has created a first-year curriculum that assists students in meeting these challenges while fostering the intellectual excitement, supportive environment, and commitment to teaching excellence that our tradition values. 

Our first-year class sizes are among the smallest of the top law schools with half of first-year courses having about 45 students or less. As a result, our classes provide opportunities for participation in discussions and individualized teacher-student contact, while helping students get to know their classmates better.

Each semester our first-year students study only four courses, including Legal Research Methodologies and Legal Practice, rather than the five courses typically required at other law schools. Our approach allows students to explore more thoroughly each subject covered. The six substantive courses in our first-year curriculum are: Contracts, Property, Torts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Criminal Law. Each of these courses meets three or four days per week and earns four credit hours.

Additionally, Washington University is one of only a few law schools in the country to provide an introductory Negotiation course for all first-year students. Paving the way for upper-level Negotiation courses, the first-year Intersession course recognizes that lawyers must be skilled in negotiation, problem-solving, collaboration, creative conflict resolution, and dispute resolution to practice successfully in today’s world.

Flexible Upper-Level Curriculum, Professional Experiences

For upper-level students, we will work with you to blend the right mix of courses and tailored experiential and practice experiences to match your professional interests. With the exception of an upper-class writing requirement, and the required completion of an ethics and applied lawyering skills courses, students choose their own courses to fit their individual interests from a wide range of topics and practice areas.

With 16 distinct law clinics and externships, including programs based in Washington, D.C., New York City and operating internationally, law students also have unparalleled opportunities to hone their skills as future practitioners while helping to increase access to justice. Our school also guarantees every interested J.D. student at least one law clinic or externship experience during his or her second or third year of law school.