The first year of law school is a foundational period during which students learn the fundamental principles of legal analysis, reasoning, and writing. While the exact curriculum can vary between law schools, there are certain core subjects that are taught at nearly every law school during the first year.
Civil Procedure is a required course in most law schools, and it teaches students how to navigate the civil justice system. Students will learn the basic steps in civil litigation, including jurisdiction, pleadings, discovery, motion practice, and trial.
Contracts is another required course that covers the law of agreements between individuals and entities. Students will learn how to read and interpret contracts, how to negotiate the terms of a contract, and how to resolve disputes that arise in the context of contractual relationships.
Torts is the study of civil wrongs, such as negligence, intentional torts, and strict liability. Students will learn how to identify and analyze potential tort claims, how to evaluate the merits of a tort case, and how to apply legal principles to specific fact patterns.
Criminal Law covers the basic principles of criminal liability and punishment. Students will learn about the different categories of criminal offenses, the elements of a criminal offense, and the defenses to criminal charges.
Legal Research and Writing or Legal Methods is a foundational course that teaches students how to research legal issues and write effective legal documents. Students will learn how to use legal research tools, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, how to read and analyze legal sources, and how to write persuasive legal documents, such as briefs and memos.
Property is the study of the legal rights and obligations associated with real and personal property. Students will learn about the different forms of real property ownership, how real property rights can be transferred, and how real property disputes are resolved.
Constitutional Law covers the basic principles of the United States Constitution and its interpretation by the Supreme Court. Students will learn about the structure of the federal government, the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and the basic principles of individual rights and liberties.
and the extra courses
Leg Reg is a course that teaches you about how laws are made by the government and different agencies. You'll learn about how Congress makes laws and how those laws are interpreted. You'll also learn about administrative agencies, which are groups that help enforce laws, and how they work. The course will focus on rulemaking, which is how agencies make specific rules based on the laws passed by Congress. Finally, you'll learn about how the courts review and interpret the actions taken by these agencies.
Legal Ethics is a required course that teaches students about the ethical responsibilities of lawyers. Students will learn about the rules of professional conduct, conflicts of interest, client confidentiality, and the lawyer's duty to the court.
In addition to these core (and often mandatory) courses, some law schools may also offer elective courses that cover a range of legal topics, such as corporate law, intellectual property, immigration law, or environmental law. Elective courses can provide students with the opportunity to explore areas of law that are of particular interest to them and to develop specialized knowledge and skills.
The other categories of first year 'curriculum' are student activities, clinics, and social life
At some schools, 1Ls are limited in what activities they can join. For example, there are no first year law students on Harvard Law Review. In fact, students can't even apply until the very end of 1L spring when they apply/compete in an annual competition called "Write-On."
Law school offers a wide range of extracurricular activities and organizations for students to get involved in outside of the classroom. Here are some of the most common law school organizations you might encounter during 1L or after:
Law Review is an academic journal that publishes articles, notes, and comments on legal issues. Joining Law Review is a great opportunity for students to hone their legal research and writing skills, and gain experience in publishing.
Moot Court is a simulated court competition in which students argue hypothetical legal cases before a panel of judges. Participating in Moot Court can help students develop their legal analysis and oral advocacy skills.
Trial Advocacy is a program that teaches students the skills and strategies necessary for trial practice. Students who participate in Trial Advocacy programs often have the opportunity to participate in mock trials and gain experience in trial practice.
The Student Bar Association is a student-run organization that advocates for the interests of law students. The SBA also organizes social and professional events, and provides resources and support for law students.
Pro Bono and Public Interest Organizations provide students with opportunities to engage in community service and social justice work. These organizations often partner with local non-profits, legal aid organizations, and government agencies to provide legal services to underserved populations.
Legal fraternities and societies are social organizations for law students that provide networking opportunities, mentorship, and professional development resources. Joining a legal fraternity or society can be a great way to connect with other law students and legal professionals. Federalist Society (Fed Soc) and American Constitution Society (ACS) are the two most popular legal societies.
Specialty Practice Organizations focus on specific areas of law, such as intellectual property, environmental law, or health law. These organizations provide students with opportunities to learn about and network within their chosen field of interest.
Law schools typically have a large number of affinity or identity based associations which provide a great opportunity for socializing and networking. Some examples of identity groups include: Women's Law Association, Black Law Students Association, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Hispanic Law Students Association, LGBTQ+ Law Students Association. Additionally, some law schools will have groups focused on niche legal topics such as Animal Rights Law Association.
These groups vary at every law school. You can usually learn more on a school's website and once students' are enrolled there will usually be a 'club fair' where students can see booths that each group on campus will put together to get membership.
I am the half of LSD that didn't take the LSAT, or go to law school (Sorry about that). But I did go to MIT business school while surrounded by law students and lawyers, so I am somewhat qualified to talk about the intricacies of law school apps and finances.
Windsor (the dog) didn't write this but he WAS a Resident Tutor and career advisor at Harvard College with me, so deserves some credit.