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Curriculum Planning

Lewis & Clark Law School wants to make it as easy as possible for you to plan your time here. On this page you’ll find advice and links to important pages/resources. If you have any questions, please contact Libby Davis, Associate Dean for Student Affairs (eadavis@lclark.edu).

Resources

Specialized guides:

- Animal Law

- Business Law

- Environmental Law

- International Law

Certification Program Descriptions

3-year Curriculum Plan & Course Schedule (2016-2017)

Course Descriptions

There are many different opinions on curricular planning and on what factors should influence students in making choices. Students have substantial freedom in their upper-class course selections. This freedom is premised on students taking individual responsibility to inform themselves of the opportunities and considerations involved in planning an individual course of study. Students are encouraged to attend formal curriculum advising sessions held each spring as well as to seek further counsel from individual faculty members, members of the bar, or the following administrators:

In the end, each student needs to make a judgment based on his or her particular circumstances and interests.

General Planning Considerations

Graduation Requirements:  Graduation requirements for each year’s entering class can be found on the Registrar’s page here. In planning their upper-division curriculum, students should consider when they will fulfill these various requirements. It is not a good idea to leave a number of them until the last semester, particularly the Capstone writing requirement.

After the first year, any student may take classes offered at any time during the day or evening and students may change enrollment from full- to part-time and back over the course of their law school careers, providing substantial flexibility in constructing a program. Summer school also offerings also provide flexibility.

The importance of a broad-based legal education:  Most lawyers and law professors believe that students should obtain a broad foundation in the law. That is, no matter what field of law or type of practice you believe you will choose, a working knowledge of the basic concepts in each major area of law is critical. Some would counsel students to take all the basic courses, but there is more agreement that students should try to take at least one course in a number of these areas. The faculty also advises that you not limit your recommended and advanced courses to one area, but rather develop a broad foundation in the law by taking non-basic courses in a number of different areas. It should be noted that any one course can be “basic” to one area of the law and “recommended” or “advanced” in another area of law. Note: Many courses are not taught every year.  Consult the curriculum 3-year plan to see when these courses are likely to be offered.

Specialization, certificates & development of expertise:  In addition to a broad foundation, some degree of specialization in the law is useful from a pedagogical perspective. In at least one area of the law, students should probe deeply enough into the substantive law - often through “Highly Specialized” classes - to have a sense of expertise. This does not require a large number of courses, but rather a logical sequence of courses. Sometimes specialization can also be achieved through summer or part-time work or from clinical offerings and externships.

One way to develop expertise is to work for a certificate, however earning a certificate is not the only way to develop a degree of specialization. Student can talk with faculty and practitioners in particular areas of the law in which the students is interested about the best means to achieve a level of expertise.

Students who choose to work for a certificate should heed the earlier advice about the need for a broad background in the law. Breadth of legal knowledge will be a benefit even in practicing a specialty and will make students more flexible in a changing employment market.

Bar courses:  Information on bar requirements for the various states is available on-line on each state bar’s website. A common question is whether students should take as many “bar courses” as possible. There is no guarantee that bar passage will be assured by such a strategy, but there are faculty members who believe you are more likely to pass the bar with more exposure to the subject areas tested by the bar. There is an empirical correlation between higher bar failure rates and low law school grades. For that reason, students with lower grades should probably pursue a strategy oriented to passing the bar. Such a strategy might include systemic work on writing skills and exam-taking skills, in addition to taking particular bar courses.

Experiential courses.  Students entering 2014 or later are required to take at least 6 Experiential credits. Many students are interested in exceeding this minimal number. The curriculum contains many opportunities for learning in a practical setting. 

A common complaint by employers is that students come out of law school with insufficient writing skills. Good writing is one of a lawyer’s greatest assets. Students who are weak in writing skills or experience should seek opportunities to improve those skills rather than avoid courses that exercise them. There are a number of courses that require papers rather than exams, and upper-division students may also enroll in individual research under the supervision of a faculty member.

Special planning needs.  Some of the opportunities available in law school require special planning are:

  • Externships - Externships can be valuable learning opportunities, and some can be a stepping-stone to future employment, but Externships are not for everyone. In particular, Externships may not be appropriate for students encountering difficulty in their courses or for students who wish to take the maximum number of courses offered at the law school. Students should be particularly careful about considering a high credit Externship, as doing one will involve the loss of one semester’s traditional coursework. Students wanting to do a high credit Externship must plan carefully to accommodate prerequisites, year-long courses, courses offered only occasionally, and graduation requirements. Visit the Externship page for more information.
  • Certification to appear in court - Students who wish to qualify as “certified law students” (CLS) authorized to appear before courts and tribunals under the general certification of an attorney should carefully review the requirements for the state in which they want to become a CLS. Usually, students must be at least 2/3 of the way through their course of study to be eligible. 
  • Individual Tutorial Experiences - Individual Tutorial Experiences (ITE) are special projects distinct from typical Individual Research (IR). Advance planning is required for registration for an ITE:  a student must submit a completed application to the Curriculum Committee by the middle of the semester preceeding the ITE. (No advance Curriculum Committee permission is needed for IR enrollment; the student works this out individually with the professor.)
  • Early Bar Exam - several states (Oregon, Arizona, and New York) allow students to sit for the bar exam during the spring of the 3L year.  Being eligible to undertake the bar exam before graduation requires very careful planning. Students need to be sure to review each state’s rules carefully and meet with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs to make plans.

 

 

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