Law schools classes are quite different than the classes I took in undergrad for one very specific reason—I really had no idea how I was doing in the class until my grade came at the end of the semester. This made the “toughness” of classes impacted significantly by what the syllabus looked like and simply what interested me.
Over time, I created a system for myself to guide my class selection. Some helpful guidelines:
Analyzing a solid syllabus
When beginning law school I struggled with knowing what and how I was being graded until it was too late to make an adjustment. For example, some professors will give you a case file and ask you to analyze that rather than emphasizing the same laws that are going to be tested on The Bar exam. This all depends on what your goals for the class and education are.
Identifying classes you’ll enjoy
It might surprise you. What I thought was going to be my favorite class turned out to be my least favorite—and worst grade. For me, it was the professor that impacted the content of Family Law so much that I didn’t even enjoy attending. Whereas, the class Land Use Planning that honestly fit into my schedule better than it did my interest ended up being my favorite class of all of law schools.
What made class great
The professor. His stories and the applicability of what he was teaching us was exactly what he was doing day-to-day. It made the class so interesting because I could actually see myself doing what he was doing. It might have been the beer that the class brought every Thursdays, but this was the class that made me fall in love with the policy side of law. (True fact, the professor arranged the beer list for which student was in charge of the cooler each week)
Checklist For Selecting A Class
By my fourth semester, I finally had a checklist of things to look for in selecting classes:
- The professor
- Is s/he the currently practicing? (I find them more interesting)
- What’s their teaching style? How do they grade?
- Are there previous student reviews that you have access to?
- The topic
- Are you interested in it?
- Is it similar in application to what you want to do when you graduate?
- The syllabus
- What are the expectations?
- How are you graded? (Be honest about what you are good at and if you will excel)
Cecilia Retelle is the co-founder and chief operating officer at Ranku. Ranku allows students to find the best online degrees at traditional, non-profit universities. She has a law degree from the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. Her previous posts on TippingTheScales.com: