What to Expect in Your First Year of Law School
The first-year curriculum is the brick and mortar of your law school education. No matter what school you attend, you’re likely to take the following courses:
- Civil Procedure
- Criminal Law
- Constitutional Law
- Legal Methods
A tort is a harmful act for which someone might be held legally responsible under civil law. You’ll study the rationale behind judgments in civil cases. Here’s a handy acronym for the primary actionable torts in the United States: FITTED CAB F alse I mprisonment, T respass (to land), T respass (to chattel, or personal property), E motional D istress, C onversion, A ssault, and B attery.
Contractual relationships are varied and complicated so much so that you’ll study them for two full semesters. Through the study of past court cases, you will follow the law governing the system of conditions and obligations a contract represents, as well as the legal resolutions available when contracts are breached.
If contracts and torts teach you what lawyers do in civil court, then civil procedure teaches you how they do it. Civ Pro” is the study of the often dizzyingly and complex rules that govern not only who can sue whom, but also how, when, and where they can do it. Rules of civil procedure govern the conduct of both the courtroom trial and the steps that might precede it: discovery, pleading, pretrial motions, etc.
Like so much U.S. law, the laws governing the purchase, possession, and sale of property in the U.S. often date back to the English common law. Anyone interested in achieving an understanding of broader policy issues will appreciate the significance of this material. Many property courses will emphasize, to varying degrees, economic analysis of property law.
Even if you become a criminal prosecutor or defender, in practice you will probably never encounter the crimes you will be exposed to in this course. Can a man who shoots the dead body of someone he believes to be alive be charged with attempted murder? What if someone forced him to do so at gunpoint? What if they were both on drugs or had really rough childhoods? Your crim. class is likely to rely heavily on Socratic dialogue, and criminal law professors are notorious for their ridiculously convoluted exam questions.
As close to a history class as you will take in your first year, “Con. law” will emphasize issues of government structure and individual rights.
This course travels under various aliases, such as Legal Research and Writing or Elements of the Law. It will most likely be your smallest, and possibly your only respite from the Socratic method, though it may also take up the most prep time outside the classroom. This course is designed to help you acquire fundamental skills in legal research, analysis, and writing.
In addition to these course requirements, many law schools require 1Ls to participate in a moot court exercise. As part of this exercise, students sometimes working in pairs or even small groups must prepare briefs and oral arguments for a mock trial. This requirement is often tied in with the methods course so that those briefs and oral arguments will be well researched and graded.
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