[ Mary Apodaca, BARBRI Senior Director of Legal Education ]
As you prepare for all that is to come in your third year of law school, one thing at the top of your list is which classes you will be taking. Should you take bar classes? Practice-oriented classes? Does it matter?
I always felt a bit overwhelmed during the scheduling process. There were so many classes I wanted to take and only so many hours in my day, and deciding which classes would be most beneficial for MY path was never really clear. To make the process a bit easier, I came up with five questions to consider when evaluating classes.
#1 | IS THIS CLASS REQUIRED?
It might not be the class you’re looking forward to most but, if it’s required for graduation, you may want to take it sooner, rather than later. By getting your required classes out of the way, you’ll free up your last year or last semester for electives and any other interesting classes that you want to fit in. You don’t want to have to delay your graduation or take an unexpected summer class because you didn’t get something done.
#2 | IS THIS CLASS KNOWN FOR BEING DIFFICULT?
I’m not suggesting you shy away from challenging classes – some of my favorite classes have been the most difficult. However, I do recommend that you avoid loading up on too many classes that are known for being time consuming or hard, all at one time. If you plan accordingly and spread them out, you will be able to enjoy the class and actually get something out of it, not feel insanely stressed and fall behind due to a crazy workload.
#3 | WILL THE CLASS BE BENEFICIAL TO ME IN THE FUTURE?
Many students think that you MUST take bar classes in law school in order to pass the bar exam. Luckily, this is not true. Your bar preparation program should be more than sufficient to prepare you for the substantive law that is tested on the bar exam. That being said, if you have really struggled in a particular area or are very concerned about a specific topic, more exposure and practice can never hurt. Just know that if there are other classes that you are more interested in, or are more in line with your career path, those will likely be more beneficial to you in the long run.
You won’t be able to completely avoid subject matter that you don’t find interesting. Sometimes a class that doesn’t seem interesting will be the only thing that fits into your schedule or will be a requirement. If you have the option, choose something you think you’ll like or will be useful in practice post-law school. Having an interest in the material makes it a lot easier to focus in class, get the assignments done and achieve the desired grades.
#4 | DO I LIKE THE PROFESSOR?
The professor can make or break a class. Look at who is teaching the class before you sign up. Think about the last time you took a class with that person. Did you like their teaching style? Did you feel comfortable asking questions or going to office hours? If you haven’t taken that professor before, ask your classmates for their opinions.
#5 | ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS?
Before committing to a schedule, look at all the options. Maybe you want to work in an internship/clinic, or you might want to do an independent study if you’re a credit or two short. Your school likely has a lot of different ways you can get your credits. Talk to the registrar or your advisor about your goals and what you’d like to learn. Part of their job is to help you, so take advantage of it.