michigan bar exam, civil procedure mbeWhat Classes Should I Take in Law School? If you are in your first year of law school, you will likely have a predetermined schedule. However, many students have a lot more leeway in determining their classes their second year of law school.

Students often ask us which classes they should take during law school.  The answer to this question is slightly complex, and we generally recommend selecting classes from the following four categories: classes that will prepare you for the bar, classes that will prepare you for your career, classes that interest you, and classes that help you achieve balance.  Below, we provide more detail on how you can structure your schedule using these concepts.

What Classes Should I take in Law School?

1. Classes that will Prepare you for the Bar

Taking classes that will prepare you to sit for the bar exam has a number of benefits.  First, the state in which you are sitting chooses the subjects it tests for a reason—many of the subjects, like Civil Procedure, for example, are fundamental to the practice of law.  Likewise, studying for the bar exam is a stressful time, but this preparation period can be made a lot less stressful when students are reviewing material instead of learning many new subjects.

The classes that will best prepare you for the bar exam will depend on where you are taking the bar.  If you are sitting for the exam in a UBE jurisdiction, some of the classes that are most helpful are the following:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts and Sales
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Civil Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Real Property
  • Torts

Other classes that will help you prepare for many state bar exams are:

  • Family Law
  • Trusts and Estates
  • Business Associations (also called Corporations or Business Entities)
  • Secured Transactions

To see an in-depth overview of which classes will prepare you for the bar exam, please see this post. (We also go into specific details regarding what classes will prepare you for the Uniform Bar Exam, if you are in a UBE state.)

If you are wondering which classes that will prepare you for the bar exam if you are in Michigan, please see this post.

Finally, some states test state specific law.  While your law school may not teach the law of the jurisdiction in which you are taking the bar, many courses that teach the majority rule will prepare you to more readily learn the law of your state.  The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Evidence, for example, both provide road maps to help students understand similar concepts in their state’s specific law.

2. Classes that will Prepare you for your Career.

Preparing for the bar is only one step in getting the most out of law school.  Another step is to ensure you are taking classes that will help you succeed in the practice of law.  Of course, many students do not know what area of law they will ultimately practice, but most students know whether they want to litigate or engage in transactional work.

Some of the classes and extra circular activities that prepare students for careers in litigation are:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution classes
  • Trial Advocacy classes
  • Moot Court or a similar program (which is often taken for credit)
  • Civil Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Clinics (i.e. patent law clinic, cancer clinic, disability clinic – your school may have a variety of these!)

Some of the classes that prepare students for transactional work are the following:

  • Contract Drafting courses
  • Intellectual Property
  • Business Associations
  • Negotiations
  • Secured Transactions

Also note that many of these courses will be helpful in preparing for a career in both litigation and transactional work, and this is not an exhaustive list.  Many schools offer unique courses that can prepare you for your desired area of practice.

Finally, you will see that clinics appear on the list. It is important to keep your writing skills sharp and gain practical experience while in law school.  Most schools offer clinics, which help students gain real world experience, and seminars, which often focus on writing or require a paper in lieu of a final exam.

3. Classes that Interest you

Ideally the classes that interest you will largely be the same classes that will prepare you for your career.  However, it is so important to ensure you are taking, at least some, classes that you enjoy.  Law school can be very stressful, but ensuring you aren’t dreading all of your classes can alleviate some of that stress.

4. Classes that Help you Achieve Balance

One of the goals of law school is to develop intellectuals for the practice of law or other professional fields. It is also a good idea to achieve balance with your schedule and take a variety of classes.  You will find it helpful to achieve balance if your classes vary in difficulty and assignments.

It is okay, and certainly advisable, to take some easier classes with your harder classes, like Evidence, Corporations, or Constitutional Law II, for example.  Taking a seminar, which often requires a paper in place of the final exam, is an excellent way to keep your writing skills fresh, while ensuring your schedule does not bombard you with back-to-back finals.  Or taking a class or clinic that focus more on practical experience and exercises can mix up your schedule so you are not preparing four to five outlines per semester.

Finally, when you select your courses, be mindful of the workload required and, if your school provides you with a schedule of the final exams when it releases the course list, attempt to ensure you are not choosing a schedule that results in consecutive finals at the end of the semester.

Selecting the right classes in law school can be nearly as stressful as preparing for the final exam.  However, if your focus on your interests, bar preparation, achieving balance and your career goals, it is possible to structure an enjoyable, balanced schedule that will leave you well prepared for the bar exam and your future career.