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What Classes Will I Take My First Year of Law School?

You may be wondering what classes you take your first year of law school (also called your 1L year). Here, we give you an overview of the classes that you will take. Below, we also tell you a few ways that law school differs from college so you can be prepared to meet the demands of law school!

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What Classes Will I Take My First Year of Law School?

1. Civil Procedure 

Civil Procedure (Civ Pro) is a class that you will have one or even two semesters of! It goes through the basics of how a lawsuit is filed in federal court, when federal courts have the power to hear a case, where to file a lawsuit, etc. It’s a procedural class but it is helpful both in practice and when you take the bar exam. It is kind of dry in terms of subject matter, but some attorneys say it is one of the most important classes that truly helps them when they go on to become practicing lawyers.

2. Contracts

Contracts is another class that you will have one or two full semesters of. It is all about the art of dealmaking! You learn when a valid contract is formed, and what happens if one is breached, among many other topics. This class is interesting (and nuanced!). Outlining and memorizing your outline right away is the key to mastering this class! There are a lot of nuances to learn.

3. Torts

Torts is a fun class! This is a law school class that you will likely take your first year of law school. Many people have no idea what a “tort” is walking into law school, but it is not complicated. A tort is a claim like battery, assault, trespass, or negligence. Torts tends to be most law students’ favorite class in law school. The cases are interesting and the law is interesting. (In fact, it is really hard to make Torts boring!)

classes do you take your first year of law school

4. Real Property

The next standard law school class that the vast majority of 1Ls across the country take one semester of is Real Property. This (along with Contracts) tends to be one of the hardest classes for students. You learn all about property—ownership of property, the right to use land of another, adverse possession, easements, present and future interests, and a lot of other likely foreign concepts. Just because it is hard does not mean that you cannot enjoy it! Note: there are a handful of law schools (e.g., The University of Michigan Law School) that do not require this class but, by and large, the vast majority of law schools require it!

5. Criminal Law

Most students take one semester of Criminal Law (Crim Law) their 1L year. Criminal Law is a fun class for many students (though you may have to learn two sets of laws—common law and model penal code law—for every crime, which makes things complicated!). Criminal Law tells you what is required of a crime and covers crimes like murder in detail. You will likely enjoy this class, but even if you do not enjoy this class, it is still going to be interesting!

6. Constitutional Law

Not all law schools require Constitutional Law (Con Law). So, some students do not take this law school class their first year of law school. However, most law students do. Con Law is not as fun as a lot of people expect, as most first-year law students do not learn the fun stuff (e.g., free speech, fundamental rights, etc.). Instead, you will likely learn about the different branches of government and their powers. The fun stuff is usually taught in a Constitutional Law II class!

7. Legal Research and Writing

This is one of the classes you will take your first year of law school, for most likely two semesters. It is a relatively new class for law students. You will likely be expected to write a memo and a brief, learn the basics of researching, and perhaps present an oral argument to a panel of volunteer judges. Most practicing attorneys say that this was their most useful class in law school.

A few other notes on your first year of law school

  • The Socratic method is the teaching style in law schools. Teachers ask questions to students and call on students. Do not be too afraid! Here are some tips for surviving the Socratic method!
  • Law school final exams are trickier in law school! You only have ONE final exam that determines your entire grade for most of your law school classes (likely all besides legal writing, though be sure to check your syllabus. Here is a post on how to excel on law school final exams!

Go to the next topic, Why does the first year of law school matter so much? 

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