February 13, 2012 -
Class selection at YLS is simultaneously easier and more complex than you might think. It is easy because there are so many amazing classes that one can hardly go wrong. It is complex because there are more classes than one can possibly take in three years. So class selection becomes a careful balancing test.
First, one balances between blackletter classes and specialized topics. Generally, students take between two and three blackletter courses and one or two topics in a field of interest. Our class schedule for Spring 2012 is a great example. We have the normal courses like Administrative Law, Criminal Law, and Prof. Langbein’s legendary History of the Common Law. Then, we have classes on Water Law, Sports Law, and the Laws of War.
Second, one balances between large classes and seminars. A large class for YLS contains about fifty students. These classes are especially enjoyable because there is such a diversity of viewpoints and one gets to interact with many classmates at once. Seminars are also fun because they are smaller. In seminars, students get to know each other and the professors very well. Seminars can contain around fifteen students, so each participant usually talks during every class.
Third, one balances between taking classes in the main area of interest and exploring new topics. If a student focuses on corporate law, she will take classes such as Business Organizations, Taxation, Quantitative Corporate Finance, and the Law of Mergers and Acquisitions. However, a student may have secondary interests in Art Law, Information Privacy Law, or Military Law. Thus, students try to take courses in secondary areas as they can fit them into their schedules.
Fourth, one considers clinics, journals, reading groups, and independent research. Clinics allow students to begin legal work under the supervision of experienced practitioners. Journals provide an opportunity to interact with legal scholarship. In a reading group, one can explore an area of law that is not covered by the main course offerings. It is also possible to plan an individualized research project with a professor.
Thus, it often happens that there are seven or eight courses that I want to take each semester. It is often necessary to make many lists of pros and cons. When I visited YLS, a then-2L told me, “I can’t believe I have only two more semesters in which to take classes!” Now, two years later, I find myself thinking the same thing. The academic offerings of YLS are so rich that three years seems way too short to sample them all!