At most law schools, the 1L curriculum is locked into place, meaning students don’t have the opportunity to customize their schedules. But BC Law gives 1Ls the unique opportunity to take an elective, allowing students to interact with peers from other sections, take a break from large doctrinal lectures, and get some experiential learning in a practice area of their choice.
Course selection is right around the corner at BC, so if you’re a 1L, you may be feeling pressure to pick the best elective. The common advice is that you’ll get a good experience out of any elective you choose, and I definitely stand by that. Yet, you should still take some time over the next few weeks to follow these steps so you can make sure you get the most out of your semester.
1. Read the elective descriptions
To help 1Ls choose their electives, professors provide little synopses about the goals of their courses, the material they cover, and in some cases, how their classes will be structured. If you haven’t already read the descriptions of the electives offered next semester, you can find them here.
When reviewing the synopses, think about what you want to get out of your elective. Some people know exactly what type of law they want to practice, and some of those practice areas have electives dedicated to them. For example, if you know you want to practice family, immigration, transactional, or landlord-tenant law, there’s an elective specifically for you.
But even if there isn’t an elective dedicated to your dream practice area, you can find one that’ll give you universal skills or knowledge that could apply to any legal career. For instance, mediation skills are crucial in tons of practice areas, so Introduction to Negotiations is a safe bet if you aren’t set on one course. Introduction to Administrative Practice and Introduction to Practice in the Criminal Justice System will also help you build skills that are necessary for many fields, such as interviewing clients, arguing motions, or filing comments in a proceeding before an agency. Finally, if you’re looking for a more reflective experience, courses like Jurisprudence and Introduction to Restorative Justice are great options.
2. Consider the days and times the electives are offered
Remember when you were in college and you could make your dream schedule? No classes before noon, Fridays off, and maybe even free Mondays or Thursdays to give yourself a four-day weekend. You don’t have the luxury to be quite as picky as a 1L, since your schedule will still be mostly made for you, but you can try to fit in your elective exactly where you want.
Electives are offered in the late afternoons and early evenings, so think about which days and times would work best for you. If you know you’ll have a hard time focusing past dinner time, take that into account. On the other hand, if you already have a really busy day of the week that leaves you exhausted, don’t add another class to your schedule that day. This shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when choosing an elective, but it can help you narrow down the list.
3. Ask upperclassmen about their electives
Sometimes, the best way to get an idea of what a class is like is to ask someone who has already taken it. Even if you don’t personally know anyone outside of the 1L class, you can ask your mentor, a TA, or a peer advisor what elective they took. If you have a specific elective you’re interested in and none of those individuals have taken it, they may know others who did.
If you can find someone who took an elective you’re considering, ask them about the professor, the readings, and the class activities. Also, be sure to ask about the workload. You should be able to get through readings more quickly next semester, but you’ll also be taking more credits than you did in the fall, so try not to put too much on your plate.
4. Email the professors
When my elective professor started our first class last year, he mentioned offhand that we must have already seen the syllabus. When it was clear that we hadn’t, he was bewildered. How had we selected the class without knowing what it would entail?
The synopses that I mentioned earlier offer a great description of the kind of material you can expect from each class, but it doesn’t go into much detail about what the class structure will be like, or what your class-to-class burden might be. If you’re really stuck between two electives and don’t know which to choose, email the professors and see if you can get a little more information about the courses. Getting a better picture of what you can expect may help you lean one way or the other.
Tess Halpern is a second-year student at BC Law, and vice-president of the Impact blog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.