Courses To Take 2L And 3L Year of Law School
The schedule for first-year law students is fairly standard without much (if any) flexibility in selecting classes. First-year core law school classes consist of those subjects typically tested on the bar exam, and these courses also establish a baseline for students to build upon in subsequent years. Without a rigid set schedule like they experienced during their 1L year, many law students wonder what courses are best to take during their 2L and 3L years. The answer is multi-faceted. There are a few outcomes to consider, including what courses best lead to success during law school, on the bar exam, and in your career. In this post, we address which courses to take during your 2L and 3L year of law school to best set you up for success in law school and beyond!
Courses To Take 2L And 3L Year of Law School
Courses that lead to success in law school are in a category that is fairly self-explanatory—those that will get you good grades!
For better or worse, grades do matter in law school, and 1L grades are especially important. 1L grades play a big role in determining your class rank, and class rank in turn affects available summer job opportunities (and later career opportunities). If you do well in your first year, you can continue that momentum as a 2L and 3L. However, even if you did not do well on your first-year law school exams, it is not too late to turn things around and improve your grades! In either situation, deciding which courses to take during your 2L and 3L year of law school will be critical.
Generally speaking, courses that lead to success in law school fall into two categories:
Courses that you enjoy taking.
Law school can be very stressful. Taking classes that you enjoy helps alleviate some of that stress. If you are not overly stressed, naturally, you will be more successful. Check out these 5 tips on how to manage law school stress! And as an added bonus, if you are interested in a subject, you will more easily remain engaged with the course material and likely will end up with a good grade in the course!
Of course, you cannot take only the courses you find interesting or enjoy. There are a number of courses to take 2L and 3L year that can be very helpful moving forward but are not enjoyable to all. Many students, for example, dislike their Evidence course but need to take it regardless (read on below for more on why Evidence is an important course to take!). However, supplementing gaps in your schedule with courses you enjoy can absolutely help you to succeed in law school.
Courses that help you achieve balance.
Proper time management is key for succeeding in law school. It is no secret that law school is challenging. Thus, there is no need to overload your class schedule with difficult classes and make your law school experience more challenging than necessary. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by taking on too much at any given time!
Some ways to ensure that you achieve balance include:
- Balanced workload: Mix in some easier classes with your harder classes to ensure that you achieve a balanced workload. If you are taking an evidence course, perhaps you wait until the next semester to take a difficult constitutional law course. Instead, add in a seminar or clinic, which might have a take-home final or final paper rather than an in-person exam. If you are not overburdened with work, you are more likely to do well across the board!
- Balanced finals week: Final exams typically make up all (or most) of your overall course grade. That is why it is so important to have adequate time to prepare for them (read about how the ideal law school final exam study week routine here!). If the finals schedule for your courses is released ahead of the semester, avoid selecting courses with consecutive days of finals to achieve a balanced finals week.
You may not be able to create a perfect course schedule, but you absolutely can consider all of your options to achieve the best balance possible!
Courses that Lead to Success on the Bar Exam
Courses to take during yout2L and 3L year of law school include those that lead to success on the bar exam. In particular, you should take courses that allow you to learn the highly tested areas of law on the bar exam.
After all, passing the bar exam is the ultimate goal for most law students at the conclusion of their education!
While you have an entire semester to learn a couple of subjects at a time, bar prep crams several subjects into about two months’ time. That does not leave a lot of time to learn a subject from start to finish! If you have taken courses on the subjects tested on the bar exam before bar prep even begins, you will be ahead of the game because you will simply be reviewing what you already know. With that said, many subjects are learnable during bar prep, so if a certain class doesn’t fit into your schedule, don’t stress it too much.
2L and 3L courses that can help prepare you for the bar exam include:
We highly recommend taking an Evidence course. Although it is not impossible to learn Evidence during bar prep, it will take up valuable study time because you will have to learn and memorize so many rules. Evidence can be a difficult and confusing subject to learn. Even seasoned litigators still grapple with the difficult concepts that are part of an Evidence course! Not only are Evidence concepts hard to grasp for many students, but there is a lot of information to memorize. Many students struggle with the topic of hearsay in particular, which is a highly tested topic on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). Whether you aspire to be a litigator or not, evidence significantly helps with bar exam prep. That alone makes it one of the top courses to take 2L or 3L year!
During law school, you should consider taking a Constitutional Law course that discusses both the structure of the constitutional law system and individual rights. These are two highly tested topics on the MBE. Law schools differ in how they structure their Constitutional Law courses. If your mandatory 1L constitutional law course covers both topics, that is great! There is probably no need to take an upper-level course on it, then. Some law schools, however, break Constitutional Law up into two courses, and only one of them might be mandatory. If that is the case, we recommend that you take any secondary constitutional law course that is offered so that you are adequately prepared for the bar exam.
Criminal Procedure is another course that helps students prepare for the bar exam. For most, Criminal Procedure is an easier subject to grasp than Evidence. There are fewer complex rules and exceptions to memorize and keep straight. Thus, if you cannot fit Criminal Procedure into your class schedule, you can likely learn it just fine during bar prep. However, Criminal Procedure is heavily tested on the bar exam. Specifically, you’ll want to have the topic of the constitutional rights of the accused commited to memory. So, if you have the opportunity to take Criminal Procedure, it might be helpfult to do so!
Secured Transactions appears on the Uniform Bar Exam, on average, about once per year. That makes it a highly enough tested subject to make the list of courses to take 2L or 3L year. Similar to Criminal Procedure, you don’t necessarily need to take a semester-long Secured Transactions during law school to succeed on the bar exam. Many students learn the subject during bar prep without issue and do very well on the bar exam. However, taking Secured Transactions in law school means one less subject to learn from scratch during bar prep!
Courses that Lead to Success in Your Career
Courses that lead to success in law school and on the bar exam are typically classes that focus on one specific subject matter (e.g., Evidence, Criminal Procedure, etc.). Ones that lead to success in your career, on the other hand, teach you invaluable skills and allow you to gain hands-on experience.
Examples of courses to take 2L or 3L year that lead to success in your legal career include:
Clinics and Externships
We highly recommend that you include clinics or externships in your law school schedule. Most law schools require some form of fieldwork for credit, and clinics and externships are a great way to meet that requirement. Additionally, many students say that clinics and externships are their most useful and most enjoyable classes!
Law school clinics provide you with hands-on experience in a specialized area of interest. If you have an area of law that you are already interested in, a clinic in that field can be an invaluable way to get the experience useful to your future career. Offerings differ by school, but examples include:
- Criminal defense clinic
- Patent law clinic
- Public interest clinic
- Health law clinic
- Disability clinic
- Criminal defense clinic
- Child advocacy clinic
- Appellate practice clinic
- Environmental law clinic
- Low-income taxpayer clinic
- Small business clinic
- And so much more!
Clinics typically accept a limited number of students that work closely with a supervising professor. This allows students the opportunity to gain more hands-on experience and work directly with clients. Read about the ins and outs of law school clinics here!
An externship is essentially an internship completed during the academic year for course credit. Your law school typically will assist with the process of applying to extern roles through its extern program, giving you more leverage to find a position that interests you. Similar to clinics, this is a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience and explore an area of law that interests you.
Unlike clinics, however, externships typically involve two types of supervision: professor and something extern-specific. You may be required to attend a seminar or report to a professor within your law school. Additionally, you will be supervised by someone at your externship site. If you are doing a criminal defense externship, for example, your supervisor may be a public defender.
Although the possibilities are endless, some examples of possible externships include:
- Family law externship at a law firm or government agency
- Immigration externship at a nonprofit or court
- Judicial externship with a judge
- Legislative externship at your state capitol or in Washington, DC
- Public interest externship at an advocacy organization
- Tax law externship with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Intellectual property externship with an in-house, corporate legal department
- Business law externship with a company or law firm
- And so on!
Read about the advantages and disadvantages of law school externships here!
Although hands-on learning in a clinic or externship is beneficial, you may wish to further hone your skills in a course specializing in certain areas. Examples of courses your law school may offer include Alternative Dispute Resolution, Trial Advocacy, Contract Drafting, and Legal Writing.
Finally, students can participate in extracurricular activities for a well-rounded law school experience. Many law schools allow students to take certain extracurriculars for course credit. Examples include:
- Law Review, which involves research, writing, and citation checking—invaluable skills for future transactional lawyers and litigators or those pursuing non-traditional legal careers.
- Moot Court, which involves research, writing, and oral advocacy—perfect for students interested in becoming litigators or doing appellate work.
- Mock Trial, which involves litigation simulations—ideal for law students interested in being in the courtroom, particularly criminal law careers.
For more on each of the above, check out this post addressing the ins and outs of law school extracurriculars!
Most employers look for these extracurriculars on your resume, and because they are a more fun way of earning course credit than class (and hugely beneficial!), credit-based extracurriculars should be on your list of courses to take 2L or 3L year!
Overall, selecting a variety of courses to take as a 2L or 3L year of law school that encompasses most (or at least some!) of the above categories will ensure that you are prepared to succeed in law school, on the bar exam, and in your career beyond!
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