Are you curious about what courses you’ll be taking during your Juris Doctor program? While the specifics may vary, most law schools offer a set of core courses and electives that form the foundation of your legal education.
The Common Methods of Studying in Law School
Law school differs from your previous academic experiences, as it focuses heavily on the case method approach. Instead of traditional lectures and labs, you’ll analyze judicial opinions from appellate courts. These opinions examine the legal reasoning, facts, and precedents that guided the court’s decision-making process. By studying these cases, you’ll learn how to apply the law to different scenarios and understand how small nuances in facts can lead to significant variations in outcomes.
Skills Learned and Refined in Law School
Before beginning law school, it’s beneficial to brush up on the skills that will be vital to your success. While your J.D. classes will continue to develop these abilities, you can prepare yourself by taking pre-law courses or reading relevant books. Throughout your studies, you’ll hone your talents in critical reading comprehension, problem-solving, persuasive writing, communication, legal research, analysis, reasoning, judgment, organization, and time management.
Classes That Focus on Practical Skills
While all law school courses aim to produce well-rounded lawyers, certain classes specifically emphasize practical skills. These classes provide realistic training through exercises such as mediations, negotiations, property title searches, and more. At St. Francis, our J.D. curriculum includes a variety of skills classes, including Alternative Dispute Resolution, Evidence, Professional Skills, Trusts, Wills, and Estates, Business Associations, Remedies, Intellectual Property, Community Property, Real Property, Legal Negotiation, and Contract Drafting. Additionally, our students have access to LexisNexis, an online legal database that enhances research capabilities and prepares students for the actual practice of law.
Differing Goals and Outcomes of Law School Courses
While all courses strive to teach the fundamental principles of law, many also have additional goals. In addition to legal knowledge, instructors may focus on areas such as lawyering problems, statutory construction, historical development of doctrinal rules, jurisprudential and philosophical frameworks, implications of gender or race, law and economics perspectives, ethical and professional responsibility, procedural issues, relevant facts, and underlying policies.
Teaching and Assessment of Skills
Professors assess your skills through a combination of questions, hypothetical scenarios, and written or oral exercises. Depending on the course, your classes may focus on policy and theory, while also demonstrating their practical application. Professors often incorporate real-life tips and insights to help you understand how to use your legal knowledge effectively. You can expect to engage in transaction-oriented skills, litigation-oriented training, litigation drafting exercises, case analysis, and statutory construction exercises.
Skills-Based Courses in Law School
Law students typically enroll in several skills-based courses that enhance teamwork and practical training. In these classes, it’s essential to move beyond memorization and demonstrate an understanding of how legal principles apply to different scenarios. You’ll showcase your competence through written assignments, online exercises, and law school exams.
Torts are civil wrongs committed against others, including negligence and defamation. Courses in tort law delve into various types of civil suits, such as intentional torts, negligence, medical malpractice, product liability, and personal injury claims. By studying tort law, you’ll gain valuable knowledge about compensation and liability in accidents or other incidents.
Contract law provides the foundation for consumer and commercial interactions. These courses explore the common law of contracts and the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). By studying contracts, you’ll learn about principles, legal agreements, interpretation of terms, differences between bargains and gifts, and remedies for breaches of contract. This knowledge is essential for navigating everyday life situations that involve legal agreements.
In civil procedure courses, you’ll gain an understanding of the state and federal judicial systems, the powers of courts, the differences between federal and state courts, and the steps required to initiate civil lawsuits. You’ll learn about trial rules, evidence gathering, court filings, and the appeals process. Critical thinking plays a significant role in this course as you analyze constitutional limitations and move towards resolution.
Property law focuses on real property, including land and houses, as well as natural resources and unclaimed property. This course covers topics such as easements, freehold and non-freehold estates, personal property, landlord and tenant agreements, eminent domain, and deeds. By studying property law, you’ll gain practical knowledge about property transactions, which can be beneficial in real-life situations like purchasing a house or handling other property-related matters.
Constitutional law explores the federal constitution and its amendments, including the Bill of Rights. This course examines the roles and limits of the three branches of government, individual liberties, fundamental rights, and due process. Through constitutional law, you’ll develop legal analysis skills and learn how to construct persuasive arguments.
Criminal Law and Procedure
Criminal law and criminal procedure courses delve into the rules and procedures governing crimes, criminal charges, pretrial processes, and criminal trials. You’ll study topics such as arrest, search, and seizure, along with relevant legislation and constitutional rights. These courses provide insights into crimes, surveillance issues, witness testimony, and post-trial procedures.
Moot Court or Mock Trials
Moot court exercises and mock trials are often incorporated into law school courses. In these simulations, you’ll have the opportunity to argue legal issues before judges, present oral arguments, and answer questions from your peers. These exercises enhance your skills in legal research, brief writing, oral presentation, and other practical aspects of legal practice.
Legal Writing and Research Methods
Legal research and writing courses teach the techniques and skills necessary for effective legal research and writing. You’ll learn legal analysis, how to find case law, and how to construct a persuasive legal argument. Assignments may include appellate briefs, mock pleadings, memoranda, and various drafting exercises.
Bar Exam Preparation
While all law school courses equip you with logical reasoning and analytical skills, some schools also offer specific bar exam preparation courses. These courses focus on the subjects tested in the bar exam and provide you with the knowledge necessary to excel. At St. Francis, for example, we offer General Bar Prep I and II courses, which help you prepare for the California Bar Exam.
Explore Law School Courses at Garrity Traina
If you’re ready to embark on your law school journey, it’s essential to research the courses offered by your top schools. Though educational approaches may differ, law school will equip you with a wide range of skills that will help you succeed in your future career.