Should I Take Classes Outside of Law School?
If you attend a law school that is part of a larger university, you may have the opportunity to take classes in other departments. Many law schools offer formal dual degrees with joint JD and MBA, MSW, MD, and PhD programs, among many other options. However, if you don’t want to commit to a formal joint program, you can still take advantage of non-law school classes that count towards earning your JD. Taking classes outside of the law school is a great way to become a more well-rounded attorney.
In this blog post, we will explore discuss three tips for taking classes in other departments.
Should I Take Classes Outside of Law School?
1. Consider the benefits of taking classes in other departments.
Taking classes in other departments can broaden your skillset. You can take classes that teach skills that law school doesn’t emphasize, such as quantitative analysis or negotiation. You can also explore foreign language classes that may help you in your career, particularly if you plan on working with clients who don’t speak English as a native language.
Another benefit is that you will expand your perspective. Different disciplines have different philosophies and priorities, and learning from them would help you become a better lawyer. The practice of law often involves working with many different fields, such as business or public health or psychology. Taking classes in other departments will give you a better sense of how other disciplines work.
A third benefit is that you will connect with non-law students. As a lawyer, your clients will most likely be non-lawyers. These classes are a great way to connect with other students in your university and build your professional network.
2. Decide what types of classes to take.
Depending on your university, you may have a lot of choice in terms of what classes you can take, or you may be limited. We’ve listed below some common non-law school choices for law students:
Business school is a natural fit for many law students. Classes like accounting, business strategy, and corporate finance can help you understand the language of your business clients. If you plan on opening your own firm after law school, these classes can also help you with the business side of things.
If you are more interested in the public interest route, look at classes in the public policy school. You can take classes in program evaluation, nonprofit management, and statistics. Public policy classes are great if you are interested in exploring the larger social trends that inform the development of law. Public policy classes can also be data-intensive, so make sure that you’re comfortable working with numbers before you enroll!
If your university has an English department, consider signing up for an Academic Writing class. Most law schools, unfortunately, don’t do a great job of teaching clear and compelling writing. Law students read countless old appellate cases, and they leave law school writing in a similarly dense and formal tone. A lawyer works with words; taking an Academic Writing class can make you a stronger writer, and consequently a more effective lawyer.
Most of the classes that you can take will likely be graduate-level classes, but foreign language classes may be the lone exception. If you’ve always wanted to learn some French, Chinese, or another language, law school may be a good time for it! Foreign language classes can be a lot of work, and some classes meet every day, but many students find the challenge worthwhile. While you will likely not become fluent with just a few classes, you can get a head start to continue learning after law school.
Other specialized areas
This list is definitely not exhaustive. Depending on your career goals, there are plenty of other departments that you should consider, such as social work, city planning, and public health.
3. Understand the logistics of taking a class in another department.
Before you sign up for a class in another department, make sure to check in with your school’s administration. Ask these questions:
- Does the law school allow students to take classes in other departments at all?
- Is there a list of approved classes that will ensure you earn class credit towards your JD?
- Is there a limit to how many classes I can take in other departments?
- Where are those other departments located? Some departments are located on a different campus than the main university. This includes the law school, too; you may find that the rest of the university is too far away to attend classes there regularly.
- How will the non-law classes affect your GPA and class rank? Some law schools don’t use the non-law class in calculating your final law school GPA and class rank.
- Is the law school on a different schedule than the rest of the university? There’s nothing worse than starting a class in a different department, only to realize that after your law school finals are over, you still have another class to finish.
We hope that you find these tips helpful and that you will consider taking a class outside of your law school!