First Year Course Descriptions

Civil Procedure I

Civil Procedure I

Civil Procedure I is an introduction to procedures employed by state and federal courts for resolution of civil disputes. The course will investigate the process of forum selection, the pleadings stage of litigation, the discovery process, and the summary judgment mechanism as a device for terminating litigation prior to trial. In addition, the course will investigate alternatives to traditional civil litigation such as arbitration and mediation.

Comparative and Historical Legal Perspectives

Comparative and Historical Legal Perspectives

This course is a wide-ranging historical introduction to our Common Law legal tradition. The course also provides a comparative legal perspective on the Common Law versus Civil Law systems. In addition, the course includes topics focusing on: the role of law and lawyers, legal education, non-Western concepts of law, so-called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and changing perceptions of law in America. Thus, the course offers comparative, historical, cultural, and jurisprudential dimensions to law. It establishes a broad context not only for other first-year courses, but for the student’s entire legal education and work as a lawyer.

Contracts I

Contracts I

In an industrial society characterized by a "free enterprise" system and notions of individual freedom, "contract" is one of the primary means by which private individuals order their affairs. The contracts course inquires into why promises are enforced as contracts, which promises are enforced, and how they are enforced. The course places emphasis on close and critical analyses of court decisions.

Criminal Law I

Criminal Law I

This course considers the general principles of substantive criminal law and evaluates them in terms of the various purposes that justify a system of criminal punishment. It will include an analysis of the doctrines of mens rea attempt, complicity, and conspiracy as well as certain crimes such as homicide and certain defenses such as self-defense.

Elements of Legal Argumentation (ELA-I)

Elements of Legal Argumentation I (ELA-I)

ELA-I is the foundational legal analysis and communication course. In the context of a problem solving approach to legal writing students learn how to do the information gathering, pre-thinking and argument development that are essential to good legal communication. Students learn to identify legal issues presented by specific fact situations. They are given an overview of collecting relevant information, including an introduction to legal research. Students learn how to connect this information as they analyze a legal problem in preparation for writing both predictive and persuasive documents. Students learn how to determine relevant legal rules and apply those rules to specific facts to arrive at a reasonable conclusion in a specific case. Students practice organizing the information and their analysis into a logical and coherent structured proof of their conclusion and then effectively presenting the proof in a specific written or oral format to a specific audience. Students also learn to perfect the mechanics of their documents as they learn techniques for effective revising and editing. Assignments include short in class and out of class information gathering, pre-writing, writing and oral communication exercises as well as lengthier writing assignments. In addition, students are introduced to client communications and legal drafting.

Elements of Legal Argumentation (ELA-II)

Elements of Legal Argumentation II (ELA II)

The second semester ELA-2 course continues the study and practice of legal reasoning and communication that was begun in ELA-1. Students will have the opportunity to use their basic understanding of the core concepts and tools learned in ELA-1 as they complete a variety of both oral and written presentations. Focus is on argumentation and rhetoric as the means to building strong and persuasive documents and presentations. Students continue to practice the process of legal writing as they research, analyze, organize, write and revise litigation and other practice related documents. The primary context for the work done in ELA-2 involves writing briefs to a specific court. In addition to writing complete briefs, students will complete several smaller assignments focusing on specific skills related to strong argumentation and development of legal proofs. Students will also give several oral arguments and presentations in class throughout the semester. Additionally, students will be introduced to the role of ADR in client representation and will begin to learn about court and ethical rules related to brief writing and client representation.

Introduction to Constitutional Law

Introduction to Constitutional Law

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the study of Constitutional Law. The focus will be on the structural framework established by the Constitution, including principles of federalism and the role of the Supreme Court in policing the constitutional order. Among other things, we will study the doctrine of judicial review, the reach of federal legislative power, limits on the reach of state power, the workings of the Supreme Court, and separation of powers and limits on the exercise of federal judicial power.

Practicum

Practicum

One-hour Practicum Course accompanying the Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law Courses

The Practicum Course is not really a separate course; rather, it is a hands-on, practice-based extension of the Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law courses. Students explore the theoretical connections among the three courses in the context of resolving simulated but realistic client problems. The course stresses practical and analytical skills through writing exercises while also exploring substantive law questions that are addressed in other first semester courses.

Property I

Property I

This first year course is an introduction to the basic concepts of property law, focusing on the role of possession in allocating the various rights and responsibilities connected with personal and real property. The course covers acquisition of initial property rights, adverse possession, donative transfers, the evolution and nomenclature of interests in estates in land and future interest, concurrent property rights, and takings.

Torts

Torts

Torts is an introduction to the system governing civil liability for wrongs. Unlike contract law, in which persons establish standards governing their relations in private agreements, tort law imposes rights and duties between persons even when the parties have not done so by contract. Unlike criminal law which the government (rather than the victim) imposes societal standards through the medium litigation seeking punishment for violation of criminal law, tort litigation is controlled by the injured person who seeks not punishment, but personal compensation via money damages from the person whose violation of the laws of torts cause harm to the victim. Course coverage focuses on the tort of Negligence. As time permits, other torts are analyzed.