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Our Unique First Year Curriculum

The first-year curriculum is designed to give law students the conceptual building blocks essential for their professional training. Over the course of two semesters, students will take six doctrinal courses in classic subject areas, as well as one problem-based course, two writing courses and one additional course designed to put the study of law into a broader historical, cultural and political context.

The First Semester

The first semester doctrinal courses are Contracts, Criminal Law and Torts. In Contracts, students study the law of promissory and related obligation, beginning with responsibilities that flow from the making of a promise. Torts introduces the law of civil liability, where private parties bring actions against other private parties for the breach of a particular duty. Criminal law explores the roots of criminal liability in which the state is the plaintiff, prosecuting suspected criminals for offenses against society.

Students also take an additional Practicum course, held in a weekly small-group setting with one doctrinal instructor. The Practicum presents students with the opportunity to think about the role of the lawyer within the profession and within society. Instructors develop practical exercises in fact identification, claim development and client interviews.

Balancing these requirements is a contextual course, Comparative and Historical Perspectives on the Law (CHLP). CHLP encourages students to look at the way U.S. common law has developed since the birth of British common law, and to examine a variety of contemporary theoretical perspectives on the relationship between law and society.

The Second Semester

The second semester doctrinal courses are Civil Procedure I, Property I and Introduction to Constitutional Law. In Civil Procedure I, students learn the technical rules that govern the movement of a civil case through the court system, from the filing of a claim, to the making of various motions by plaintiffs and defendants, to the consideration of the case by the jury, final disposition and appeal. Property I examines the fundamental rules regarding interests in land and personal property. In Introduction to Constitutional Law, students study the structural framework established by the Constitution, including principles of federalism and the role of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Students take a two semester writing class entitled Elements of Legal Argumentation (I and II). Elements of Legal Argumentation II complements the doctrinal courses. This spring class builds on the fall course by developing skills in the kind of persuasive writing employed in the writing of a legal brief. The course culminates in the writing of an appellate brief and participation in a mock oral argument.

First- year students also may take an optional elective during the spring semester.