Handout - Additional Considerations

Course Selection

Additional Considerations
There are various approaches that a student may follow when selecting courses.  No one approach is right for everyone.  Set forth below are just a few considerations that you may wish to take into account.

  • Balance.  Law students often are advised to take a "balanced" program.  Balance can exist (or not) in a variety of different ways- e.g., between public and private law courses;  between code and common law courses; between "mainstream," "perspective," and specialized courses; between substantive and practical skills courses; between different kinds of practical skills courses; between paper and exam courses; etc.  Balance need not be your main objective, but it is definitely worth thinking about.
  • Skills.  Consider the skills that particular courses develop.  Some courses (e.g. tax and UCC courses) focus heavily on statutory interpretation and the interpretation of administrative regulations.  Other courses (e.g. seminars) emphasize writing skills and provide an opportunity to write a substantial paper, receive feedback from the instructor, and then submit a revised version that incorporates the instructor's comments.  Still other courses emphasize planning and drafting skills (e.g., Business Planning and Drafting, Civil Rights Litigation Theory and Practice), litigation skills (e.g. Trial Practice and Advanced Criminal Procedure), or negotiation and mediation skills (e.g. ADR, Negotiations).  Consider not only the substantive focus of the courses you select, but also the skills you will develop and refine.
  • Stretch Yourself.  Consider taking not only courses that are directly relevant to the type of legal work you expect to do, but also courses that will give you a broader perspective.  You are studying at a research university, not a trade school.  Take advantage of the opportunities offered here to stretch your horizons.  There are many kinds of courses that provide such opportunities.  These include: theory courses ( e.g., Jurisprudence, Conflict of Laws, and Theory of Property Rights ), courses involving other disciplines (e.g.,, American Legal History, Law and Social Work), and comparative law courses - both the basic Comparative Law course and the more specialized courses (e.g.,Socialist Law in Transition, andTransnational Litigation).  They also include courses that focus on some of the pressing issues facing our legal system and our society, such as Bioethics, CriminalJustice Administration, Immigration, International Human Rights, or Race Relations.
  • Bar Exam.  Students sometimes ask whether they should select courses to help them with passing the bar.  It is important to understand that law school courses are not designed for that purpose.  Nearly all law graduates take a commercial bar review course to prepare for the bar exam, and that is generally sufficient to introduce you to the subjects tested.  Still, there is a school of thought that encourages students to pick at least a few courses with a view toward the bar exam.  Some people find that they have an easier time cramming information about a subject into their heads (a sine qua non of bar exam preparation) if they have had some exposure to the material during law school.  This is especially true with UCC courses.  For information on what subjects are tested on a particular state's bar exam, go to www.barexam.org.
  • Your Other Time Constraints.  Keep in mind what else you will be doing in a given semester aside from school work and adjust your schedule accordingly.  For example, students seeking law firm jobs outside of St. Louis for the summer after their second year may need to do a lot of traveling during the preceding Fall semester and should consider taking a lighter load at that time.  On the other hand, students seeking public interest or government positions are likely to be more caught up in the job-seeking process in the Spring.
  • Faculty Mentoring & Recommendations.  Ask yourself whether you have developed a relationship with a member of the faculty (especially a small section and/or LRW professor) who has gotten to know you and your work well enough to be able to serve as a mentor and/or recommender.  If you have not done so, consider selecting courses in a way that will permit you to develop such relationships.  Faculty references are extremely important in the judicial clerkship selection process and can be very helpful in other contexts too.  They are most helpful if you can build these relationships early - if not as a 1L, then in the fall of your second year.  To do this, you will need to refrain from taking only big "building block" classes (e.g. Evidence, Corporations, Federal Income Tax, Legal Professions) in the fall of your second year.  You can get to know faculty in a variety of ways – by enrolling in smaller more specialized courses (including, but not limited to, seminars); doing a supervised research project or practicum; or being an unusually active participant in class discussions.  Also try to spend some time with the professor outside of class asking questions and discussing issues pertaining to the course and related areas.
  • Plan Ahead.  Always consider the "big picture" - i.e., the entire remainder of your time in law school - when planning your schedule.  Most courses are offered just once each year.  Some courses are offered only every other year.  If you think you may want to study abroad for a semester, or participate in the Congressional and Administrative Law Clinic (D.C. Clinic) in the spring of your third year, be sure to arrange your other semesters so that you have met all requirements for graduation at the time when you plan to graduate.
  • ASK, ASK, ASK.   Remember that the best way to get help is to ask for it! Solicit advice from the resources that are offered at this Law School.  That means consulting individual faculty or staff members, upper level students, the Assistant Directors of Student Services, the Associate Dean of Student Services and the staff in the Career Services Office.
Graduation and Other Course-Related Requirements

Perceptions and Perspectives

updated 4/11/06