As the semester starts to wind down, many students start to think about what their law school class schedule for next year will look like. Picking classes can seem somewhat daunting, especially for 1Ls who had virtually their entire first year planned for them. A lot of the class topics might be completely unfamiliar. One easy way to break down the options, however, is to divide the subjects into ones that are on the bar exam and ones that aren’t. When I (Laura) was a 1L my favorite question to ask older students, advisors, professors, etc. was whether I should be taking bar subjects or subjects of personal interest. Unfortunately I never really got a straight answer. Now that I’ve been through both law school and the bar exam, I have a better perspective. So, when planning out your law school class schedule, prioritize classes that are of interest to you!
Law School Class Schedule – Bar Subjects or Personal Interests?
Here are the most important reasons why you should focus on classes that interest you when planning your law school class schedule:
1. When you take a bar prep course, you will have adequate exposure to all bar subjects.
Pretty much every first-time bar taker uses a commercial bar prep class. These classes offer in-depth sessions on every single subject on the bar. These prep classes will not go into the law in as great of detail as a law school class. And we generally recommend that students take some of the more highly-tested subjects–particularly Evidence, Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure–during law school. Please read this post to see what law school classes are most useful in helping you pass the bar exam.
However, don’t pass up on interesting subjects while planning your law school class schedule to only take bar exam classes!
2. Of the subjects that are the most heavily tested on the bar, you have likely taken those classes already during your 1L year.
Most of the heavily-tested bar exam courses are as follows: torts, contracts, civil procedure, criminal law/criminal procedure, property, constitutional law, and evidence. On many bar exams, they are double-tested (e.g. tested on the multiple-choice portion and essay portion).
Since they are essentially tested twice, you can pick up a lot more points by knowing these subjects. They are the most important ones to focus on. Most first-year law students have no choice but to take these subjects. So, you already have significant exposure to the most important areas of the test. As mentioned above, if your school does not offer all of those classes your first year, it is good to take them later.
However, since most of the subjects are covered your first year, this means that you can afford to devote most of the next two years to subjects that interest you while still feeling confident about the bar. Similarly, some bar subjects are simply not frequently tested. It is not worth it for you to skip investigating topics you might like to learn far too much about a remote topic that might not be tested.
3. If you want to pursue a type of law that isn’t on the bar, this is your only chance!
I went into law school intending to focus on intellectual property. Unfortunately, those subjects are not on the bar! Law school was really my only chance to explore the topic by taking classes on trademarks, copyrights, and patents. I gained valuable knowledge that I was then able to apply to my clinical work and in work since I graduated. I would have learned nothing about it during bar prep! It is not easy to teach yourself an entire subject. Employers want to hire someone who already has exposure to the subject.
Along this same line, if you don’t know what you are interested in, remember bar prep covers all the subjects on the bar. Law school is your only chance to pursue topics such as intellectual property, tax law, immigration, environmental law, and many others. If you think one of these topics might interest you, take a class on it! This is your chance to find out!
Law school is your chance to explore all corners of the law. You have highly intelligent professors and amazing resources at your disposal. Take advantage of everything that you can! When planning your law school class schedule, focus on your interests.