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Law School Course Selection Advice

Students often ask me what courses I recommend they take.  Here’s a list, in no particular order, subject to two caveats.

First Caveat: Who teaches it is usually more important that what it is.  Make sure to take courses from a variety of people and teaching styles.  Keep an eye out for courses taught by visiting big name faculty (and repeat big name visitors such as William Twining…).  Also, make sure to have variety in each semester.  I advise you to include at least one “fun” course in each semester to keep your sanity.

Second Caveat: The list that follows is only intended as a set of basic default choices, not as a list of the most interesting courses in law school.  There are lots of fun and interesting seminars and advanced courses, and you should take some.  I’d say that everyone who graduates from law school should take the courses on the basic list unless they have a good reason not to (such as a schedule conflict) as they provide a good foundation for advanced courses, for practice, and introduce you to a wide variety of legal styles and materials.

Froomkin’s basic courses (in no particular order)

  • Administrative Law
  • Business Associations
  • Evidence
  • Federal Income Tax
  • One public international law (e.g. International law or International human rights or European Union Law)
  • One private international law (e.g. ‘IBT’ or International Finance)
  • Two (but not three) of these three classes
    •  Civ Pro II
    •  Federal Jurisdiction/Federal Courts
    •  Conflicts of Law — I particularly recommend Prof. Oxman’s version of this
  • Professional Responsibility or Ethics
  • Substantive Criminal Law
  • One course that teaches the UCC (e.g. Commercial Law I or Secured Transactions)

Four more bar review or practice oriented courses that students often say are useful

  • Adv. Legal Research
  • Family Law
  • Intro. to Financial Accounting
  • Trust & Estates

When picking courses in your second year, and even more so in the Fall semester of your second year, you should also keep in mind that certain courses are unofficial ‘gateway’ courses. If you are thinking seriously of a career in a particular area, it makes a great deal of sense to take the ‘gateway’ course as early as possible in order to give yourself more scope for (and choice among) the advanced courses in your area. Note that most advanced courses don’t officially have prerequisites…but there is a good chance that they will be easier, or that you might get much more out of them, if you have taken the foundational course first.

  • Administrative Law is the gateway to anything involving a regulated industry or a government agency. I’d include everything from Labor to SEC, from Communications to Environmental Law on that list. And Immigration too. It’s also important for people interested in corporate/transactional work (what company doesn’t have to deal with government regulations?) but it’s not a gateway for that — you can take it later in your second year, or in your third year, if you want to.
  • Business Associations is the gateway to most business/transactional law (Commercial Law I is also an important prerequisite to some business law, such as Bankruptcy).
  • Evidence is the gateway course to much litigation.
  • I think International Law, the basic course in public international law, remains the gateway to almost all international law, both public and private, but I know that some private international law scholars might not agree.
  • Unsurprisingly, if you want to be a tax lawyer, you had better take the basic course, Federal Income Tax, as soon as you can.

Last modified: Sept 5, 2013