by Veselin Simonov
As you’re taking the last few exams of your 1L Fall Semester, it’s almost time to relish the holidays and the respite they bring. But before you turn your attention to eggnog and relaxation, casting away all thought of torturous hypos and complicated legal rules, allow me to give you a quick rundown of what you can expect from your next semester.
First, there are some curriculum changes going from Fall to Spring. Yes, you still take Contracts, Civil Procedure and Lawyering: Foundations, but Property replaces Torts as your big four credit hour class and Criminal Law takes the place of Research Methods. Criminal Law is three credit hours compared to Research Methods’ one credit hour. That does make it more time-consuming and your schedule will be busier on that basis alone. Scheduling is just as important as it was during your Fall Semester and I recommend sitting down at the beginning of January and carefully blocking out your schedule to account for the tougher workload.
There are some things you can expect from your new classes. Property – as you can most likely guess by the name – covers a large bundle of rights and rules related to owning all sorts of things. This includes intellectual property, real and personal property, rules for transferring property, etc. It’s a very broad topic and you get through a lot of complicated material in that class. That said, there are some really fun and interesting cases you’re likely to come across. If you’ve ever wondered who gets to keep the ring when an engagement is called off or who exactly owns that baseball that landed in a gaggle of people after a homerun hit, then you’ll likely enjoy the class.
Criminal Law is probably the most different thing you’ll encounter in the curriculum. The class is also a sort of broad overview of the most important topics in the subject area. You’ll most likely spend a lot of time discussing the Model Penal Code – a statutory text meant to assist lawmakers in making an effort to update and standardize penal law across all the varying jurisdictions in the US. The class doesn’t really get all that much into the procedure of criminal law – we have several other courses you can take in your 2L and 3L years that focus solely on that aspect. Still, the course serves as an excellent introduction to the theories behind why our society punishes criminals the way it does. You’ll learn things like what state of mind requirements apply to certain crimes, how accomplice liability works, when certain affirmative defenses are available, etc. Overall, the course is a great way to gauge your interest in the subject area.
Among the continuing classes, you’ll notice some changes as well. Most notably, you’ll begin to write motions for Foundations. You’ll have to shift to a more persuasive style of writing from the balanced, neutral tone of the memos. The transition can be a bit jarring, but you’re still applying the analytical skills you started developing in the Fall Semester. Focus on those and the transition should go smoothly.
For Spring Semester in general, while some of the particulars in your classes and schedule may change, the overall goal is still the same – you’re developing your reasoning, analysis and time management. Just keep an eye on that core set of skills and you’ll handle all the curriculum changes just fine. Yes, your schedule will probably end up busier but because of all the work you put in during the fall, you’ll be better equipped to manage everything. In fact, I strongly encourage you to go beyond your classes in the spring and allocate some time to extracurricular organizations that capture your interest. They’re a great way to build relationships with your future colleagues and they can be very rewarding. Remember – law school isn’t just about academics. It’s also about connecting with people and making a difference.