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First Year Law Classes

Your first year law school schedule will be comprised of two different types of classes: core subject classes and legal research and writing classes. I had no idea what classes would be like going into law school, so I hope this helps preview what you're in for if you're applying or planning to apply.

Core Classes

All 1Ls are required to take the same core classes. At my schools, the required classes are: Criminal Law, Contracts, Tort Law, Property Law, and Civil Procedure. This is a pretty standard curriculum, although some classes may vary by school. I have a friend in school in Texas who had to take Constitutional Law her first year, for example.

You will be in class with the same people in all of your core classes. This group of people is called your section. At my school, there are four 1L sections of about 60-70 people each. Obviously this will vary from school to school depending on the incoming class size.

Core classes are mainly focused on learning rules by reading cases. Most core classes are taught using the socratic method. These classes are worth more units than the writing and research classes, so your grades will have more weight on your GPA.

Legal Research and Writing

Legal research and writing classes are smaller in number of students and much more hands on and interactive in class. At my school, each main section is divided into three smaller sub-sections of students that will be in your research and writing class. These can go by different names and be combined as one class or split into two. At my school, I have two different classes. My friend in law school in San Diego, however, has one class called "legal analysis."

These classes focus less on learning the law and more about using it how a lawyer uses it. You learn how to draft memos, predict outcomes of lawsuits, research law from statutes and previous cases, etc. Instead of one massive textbooks, legal writing has several smaller supplemental books on topics like how to do legal writing and mastering the Bluebook system of citations. In legal research, we learn how to use websites like Lexis and Westlaw to look up the law and apply it to a new set of facts.

While your grade in legal research and writing classes will have less of an impact on your GPA, it will likely be the first grade that potential employers look at. Having good research and writing skills is essential to being a successful lawyer.

The benefit of having such a standard 1L curriculum is the shared experience among law students all across the nation. Whether you love or hate these types of classes, they are essential to your learning and understanding of the law and your future success as a practicing lawyer.

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