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Reflections from a former 1L: 3 tips for law school course selection and registration time

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Fear not.  You have no “wrong” course options.  (Perhaps with the exception of taking on more than 20 credits per semester!)

Every class will offer great opportunities.

Life does not happen in tidy, discreet, doctrinal categories.  So do not be too narrow in your course selection.  Every M&A deal has tax consequences.  Every contractual transaction is a potential future lawsuit.  Every family law dispute contemplates some property.  Every criminal law matter has Constitutional implications.  Every evidentiary question exists within a civil procedural context.  You get the point.  Great lawyers, even great sub-specialists, can see and analyze their clients’ needs from the clients’ three dimensional world of facts and law.  On the other hand, lawyers of limited value and tunneled vision get caught unprepared.  Which kind of lawyer do you want to become?

Learning about a different area of law will make you more well-rounded.  Then, you can better serve your clients, your community, and yourself.  (The value of exposure to a new area may not become apparent until years after that introduction in law school.  That is the fun part.  Like finding a $100 bill in an old pair of pants.)

If that is not enough, through the class, you will get to learn from a different configuration of smart classmates who bring a variety of lived experiences.

At least once during 2L: Take a class you know next to nothing about.

I took two during 2L– a tax class and a law clinic.  That first tax class turned out to be my “gateway drug.”  I took a tax credits class on a whim.  I knew that I love mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and economic development; tax credits often touch all three.  I did not know that I would do great in the class and discover puzzles that I find fascinating.  Several years later, I am about six weeks away from completing an LL.M. in what?  Taxation!

In my other “unknown” class, the law clinic, I was assigned to help counsel and help represent home mortgage borrowers at risk of foreclosure.  Really, I only did it because I would get to work with a wonderful professor and do something interesting.  (See Item 3, below.)

That clinic turned out to be one of my most formative law school experiences.  In addition, I found unanticipated benefits.

  • (a) I actually helped people!
  • (b) The work sharpened my empathetic client skills.
  • (c) I gained a clearer understanding of the intersection of financial distress, seniority among creditors, how lenders evaluate the costs and benefits of negotiating with debtors, and the regulatory backdrop.

Here is a secret.  After you graduate, the opportunities to take an arbitrary law class for 13 weeks “just because” will be rare indeed.

EVERY semester: Take one course just because it interests you.

Do this …

  • (a) irrespective of what you [think you] want to do professionally after law school,
  • (b) irrespective of how much or how little you think it will impress your next OCI interviewer, and
  • (c) without regard to the bar exam.  Your GPA and your professor will love you for it.

Life is short.  Law school is even shorter.  Live a little.

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Rene Morency Rene Morency is a former ABA Law Student Division Delegate to the House of Delegates. This semester, he completes his education, including a J.D., an M.B.A., and an LL.M.