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Advice on Selecting Classes by Associate Dean Nancy Oliver

Most students report that they enjoy the process of selecting classes in their second and third years at the College of Law. Except for a fairly small number of requirements, you have an opportunity to customize your curriculum to fit your personal professional objectives. The choices made by individual students are as varied as are their career interests. In fact, you are likely the only person in your class who will take the specific classes you select in the specific semesters you take them. Much learning also takes place outside of the classroom in your second and third years of law school.

Your first year courses were all required, and you were assigned to specific sections of each class. This is true because you needed to build a foundation for the rest of your studies. The classes required in the first year are designed to help you acquire the substantive knowledge and skills that all attorneys must possess. By structuring some of your classes as small sections, you had the opportunity to be mentored by faculty members as you made the transition to legal studies. Among the things you learned were how to use the terminology encountered in the law, how to identify and analyze a legal problem, how to research the law, and how to apply the law to specific facts. You have learned the skill of legal analysis and practiced this skill during class dialogues, class exercises, writing assignments, and oral arguments.

The following are some ideas I offer to you as you plan your second and third years of law school. This journey is largely in your hands, but the faculty and staff of the College will partner with you to help you make informed and meaningful choices.

Learning Objective for the Second and Third Years

Among the many learning objectives for the second and third years are the following:

  • Develop a challenging, rigorous, and rewarding curriculum
  • Obtain a breadth and depth of knowledge of the substantive law
  • Prepare to take a bar exam
  • Develop professional skills
  • Develop your professional identity, including learning the ethics and values of our profession

Develop a Challenging, Rigorous, and Rewarding Curriculum:

You have chosen to enter a profession that provides employment opportunities that are very rewarding but will also be very challenging and rigorous and will require you to stretch your abilities to achieve your full potential. You will also be required to pass a very rigorous licensing examination. To prepare yourself for these experiences, you need to challenge yourself with a curriculum that will allow you to learn and grow. In short, this is not the time to slack off. For most of us, the JD will be the terminal degree, and we will not again be full-time students. Make the most of this last chance to be a full-time learner. Take advantage of all the opportunities afforded you while in law school to prepare yourself for you future.

Obtain a Breadth and Depth of Knowledge:

When selecting classes, you may already know the type of law you think you wish to practice after graduation. Even if you have not made this decision, in your first year you may have developed some idea of areas of the law that you want to explore. You should select classes that will allow you to explore these areas of interest, and we have materials on our website that will help you with this. When you pinpoint the area of law that sparks your passion, take enough classes in this area to build a knowledge base to enter practice in this area. However, you should also aim for a breadth of knowledge of the law to make you a well-educated and well- rounded lawyer. Our exceptional faculty will partner with you in this journey by offering a wide range of courses to help you build a breadth and depth of legal knowledge.

While in law school, you should also consider taking at least one perspective course that will give you the opportunity to think more broadly about the role of the law in our society and our history. We offer the following and other such classes: Critical Race Theory; Law, Literature, and Philosophy; Feminist Jurisprudence; Legal History; Jurisprudence; and Law and Popular Culture.

In addition to selecting from a large range of classes that will help you build a breadth and depth of knowledge, you should also plan to attend the many public lectures the College hosts on a vast array of topics. Our centers and institutes will also offer opportunities to learn by interacting with scholars on many topics.

Prepare to Take a Bar Exam:

While selecting classes, you should prepare to take a bar examination in the jurisdiction of your choice. You can find more information on this topic on our website and by consulting with Professor Chanvisanuruk. Although three years is not enough time to take a class in every topic tested on the bar exam, you can take a substantial number of them. You should also plan on taking a bar preparation course after graduation to help you learn the specific law of the jurisdiction in which you plan to practice and to learn the basics of topics you didn’t study in law school. Nonetheless, you will increase your likelihood of success if you take a fair number of bar classes in your second and third years of law school.

Develop Professional Skills:

You should also plan to expand your professional skills while in law school. As discussed above, you learned foundational professional skills in your first year. You learned the skills of legal analysis, legal research and writing, and oral argument.

In your second year, you are required to take a course in Client Counseling (or a class that includes similar topics) to expose you to the lawyering skills of client interviewing, counseling, and decision analysis. You will have the choice of taking this class set in the context of legal disputes or transactional practice. In your upper-level years, you will also have the chance to take classes in which you will learn by simulating lawyering work. The College has classes in such topics as pretrial litigation, practical lawyering skills, trial practice, negotiations, mediation, arbitration, witness preparation, legal drafting, corporate transactions, advanced legal research, and other topics. Some of these classes are offered as intensive short courses, and others last all semester. We also offer a series of Practice One classes that pair a one-credit skills class with a substantive law class. These classes allow students to learn skills that they will need during the early years of legal practice in the areas of corporate, intellectual property, family, and tax law.

You are required to meet the seminar and writing graduation requirements. These requirements are intended to offer you the opportunity to engage in at least two significant writing projects in your second and third years of legal studies. Our seminars are designed to be small enrollment courses in which you can engage in intensive study of the seminar topic and prepare a seminar paper under the supervision of a faculty member. The writing requirement is designed to have you engage in another writing project in an experience you select from a menu of options.

Students can also practice professional skills by participating in a journal or competition team. Students can hone their writing, editorial, and leadership skills by working on the Cincinnati Law Review, the Immigration and Nationality Law Review, the Human Rights Quarterly, the Freedom Center Journal, and the Intellectual Property and Computer Law Journal. They can also develop writing and oral argument skills by participating on the Moot Court Team or the Trial Practice Team.

The College offers experiential learning opportunities including externships, clinics, and the Summer Public Interest Fellowship (SPIF) program, that are excellent ways to build professional skills. Students have the opportunity to work in the chambers of a judge by participating in the Judicial Externship program or work in a legal office by participating in the Legal Externship program. Our clinical offerings include the Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic, the Ohio Innocence Project, the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic, the Sixth Circuit Clinic, and the Indigent Defense Clinic. Through SPIF, you have the opportunity to build professional skills and knowledge by volunteering in a public interest organization, some of which are oversees, supported by a grant provided through the program. All of these opportunities pair students with experienced attorneys to work on real client matters. They also help students practice and learn the ethical dimensions of the law.

You have already built a foundation of professional skills in your first year. In your second and third years you will build additional professional skills by taking Client Counseling and meeting the seminar and writing requirements. You should also consider taking simulation classes, participating in journals and competition teams, and enrolling in one of our experiential learning opportunities. By building a portfolio of professional skills, you will be preparing to serve your first clients after you graduate from law school.

Develop Your Professional Identity:

In addition to developing the knowledge and skills to be a proficient attorney, you must begin the process of learning about our profession and where you will fit in it. You will take a required course in Legal Ethics in your second year that will help you develop an ethical sensitivity to the practice of law and help you understand the concept of professionalism. Dean Bilionis also offers a course called Becoming a Professional that focuses on your path to building your professional identity.

Personal planning for your future career will begin with a series of individual meetings with an advisor from the staff of our Center for Professional Development. With your advisor, you will develop a personal plan for entering the profession of law and assess your plan through follow up meetings with your advisor. You will also have the opportunity to interact with many lawyers through programs offered by the CPD. The CPD Catalyst Program offers the opportunity for you to interact with a professional mentor. Other programs offered by CPD help you explore various areas of legal practice with attorneys who work in these areas. The CPD can also connect you to many opportunities to volunteer and get transcript recognition for your work in our community.

The College also offers a large array of student organizations. I recommend that you consider joining one or more of these organizations and working your way into a leadership position. Through these experiences, you will have the chance to build your leadership skills while also interacting with practicing attorneys.

I hope you enjoy building your upper-level curriculum. I advise you to talk to your professors and the staff of the College about this important part of your second and third year experience. I am happy to meet with you to discuss your curricular and extra-curricular choices.