As I sit here in Criminal Procedure, a class that I happen to greatly dislike, I thought blogging about law school classes would be helpful to some people. Since I've started law school, I've come to realize how little people know about what lawyers actually do. Not to toot my own horn, but we're pretty damn useful. Pretty much any topic in your life includes the practice of law. For instance, Evan and I went to a new restaurant in town last week and I told him that I had heard the restaurant cost over $1 million to build. Evan thought that was a ridiculously high number and probably incorrect. Well guess what? At work yesterday, one of the attorneys wanted me to write a Summary Motion to Remove Lien because a sub-contractor is wanting some money on that very restaurant! While looking through the documents, I saw how much the general contractor has paid thus far, and would you believe it, it's over a million dollars!
Anyway, I thought I would write out what classes I took as a law student for any other law students that happen to read this blog. I'll tell you which ones I recommend and which ones I don't. Hope this helps with your planning!
Civil Procedure - I thought this class was beyond boring, but it's required for all law students.
Contracts - this class, while one of the hardest in law school, is incredibly useful. It's also a great way to get clients after graduation because lots of family members can have contracts questions.
Property - this is another really useful class and was my favorite first semester. It's a tough class, especially what's called future interests. My main advice for property is that if you get to choose who your professor is, go with the guy with the best reputation...not the easiest one. Property is heavily tested on the bar exam so whether you learn future interests now or then, you'll still have to learn it. You might as well have an expert teach you as opposed to your teaching yourself.
Legal Practice I - legal practice is an important class, but I happened to have a horrible professor. More than anything, I think it just prepares you for clerking and making you familiar with writing briefs, etc.
Constitutional Law - my favorite class my first year (I also did really well in this class, so yes I admit, that's part of why I loved it!)
Legal Practice II - look above from Legal Practice I
Criminal Law - I dislike Criminal Law so much it's not funny. I know I do not want to practice Criminal Law, but obviously, everyone has to take this class.
Torts - This class finally has fun cases to read. It talks about your "typical" cases that you hear about before starting law school - slip and fall, malpractice, etc. It finally was what I thought I'd be hearing about full time. That's the surprising thing about law school...torts is the only class ever covered on television shows. ha.
Law Science Policy & Evidence - this, obviously, was one of my electives, but I really enjoyed it. I learned about an entirely new area of law: microorganisms, forensics, etc. I wrote a 40 page paper on electronic waste and what happens to all the televisions, etc. that get thrown out. The United States just sends them to other countries instead of dealing with them and it's causing serious environmental and health problems, particularly in China.
Discrimination in Employment - this class was great. I recommend every law student take an employment class, if nothing else, to at least to help yourself in the future.
Correctional Health Law - I really liked this class. The correctional system is the current day mental hospital. It made me feel so bad for those with psychological problems that are labeled as criminals, when truly, you can't say a schizophrenic is a bad person. For instance, schizophrenics are released with 2 weeks of medication (each week after that is over $100).
Wills and Trusts - oh wills and trusts...I love you. I found my love in Wills and Trusts. Probate law is amazing to me, but I know not everyone loves it. Either way, it's required, so take it and then fall in love with it just like I did.
Income Taxation - this class is useful and you mainly learn how to fix problems that occur after people or CPAs incorrectly file tax returns (that's exactly how my professor put it at least). That being said, I found tax boring.
Bioethics - I wouldn't recommend people take this class. I did the "Health Law Certificate" in our school, and while I will be certified in health law, I don't think this will help in my job search. It's probably my greatest regret in law school. If you do need an advanced writing requirement, I still don't recommend this class because you had to do a 75 minute presentation and write a 30 page paper. Some classes don't require as much.
Public Health Law - Look at my notes from Bioethics.
Evidence - Evidence is required, but obviously, it's useful. The only problem with evidence is that people start thinking they're lawyers in their second year (my pet peeve). As law students, we know nothing. I probably won't feel competent enough as a lawyer until I've been practicing for a few years...so what would convince others that they're qualified to spit out legal information after sitting in class for a few hours a week?
Business Entities - most people hate this class: mergers, acquisitions, LLCs, corporations, etc. However, I think it's beyond useful! As a clerk, I get at least two projects each week that involve some form of business entities.
Health Law - look above for my thoughts on too many classes on such a narrow topic
Commercial Law - this, in my opinion, was the hardest class I took in law school. I was just happy I passed. Unfortunately, it's useful and I wish I would have tried harder. This class involves security agreements, check fraud, check forgery, etc. I think what made it so difficult was that it is an entirely new language. I had never heard of half of the issues so was teaching myself a new language and a new set of laws. I wish I had taken a better professor, one that actually cared, but either way it would have been hard. P.S. Doesn't sound fun? Too bad, it's required.
Professional Responsibility - It's ridiculous that this is a full 3 hours course. This class could be taught once a week and be plenty. As a law student, you have to pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) before the state will issue you your law license (this is a separate exam from the bar exam). Taking this class before taking the exam is recommended. I tried taking the exam before taking the class, but of course, I hadn't studied hard enough. Once you've at least studied for the final, you'll be more prepared to take the MPRE. Then, passing should be a breeze.
Estate & Gift Tax - I took this class since I enjoy probate so much, and while it's useful, I found it boring and don't recommend it unless you want to practice probate. Side note: as a brand new associate, you're rarely afforded the opportunity to practice the kind of law you like. If you're fortunate enough to get a job (this economic climate is very hard for law students), you do whatever kind of law the firm wants you to do...and you do it with a smile on your face.
Criminal Procedure - ugh...required. Look above for my thoughts on Criminal Law.
Marital Property - LOVE this class. The first half of this class talks about homesteads, which to those of you not in law school, talks about what you could do with your house after your spouse dies. In Texas, if your spouse dies and he leaves your house to his lady friend, she is quite out of luck...you get to live there until the day you die! ha...I'm leaving out some parts to this of course, but this sounds more tantalizing.
Texas Estate Administration - LOVE this class. You work through how to administer someone's estate and I happen to have Professor Gerry Beyer, one of the best probate experts in the nation.
Law Office Management - honestly, I needed another two hour course so that's why I'm in it this semester. However, if you're thinking about starting your own law office, take this class. It talks about advertising, how to get clients, etc.
Family Law - I took this class because it's tested on the Texas Bar Exam, but so far, I don't mind it too much. I wouldn't want to practice Family Law (hear people arguing about their child support, alimony payments, etc.) but if you want to hear about all this stuff (cause some people love it), then take this and enjoy.
Hope this helps! : )
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