Course Selection: The Path Not (Commonly) Taken
Law school does not have to consist of solely doctrinal classes. Rather, many law students hold that they learn more from clinics, seminars, and simulation courses. Doctrinal classes provide a key foundational knowledge of the law, which explains the mandatory 1L curriculum and other courses required to graduate. However, alternative forms of courses involve actual application of the law and practical skills that will prepare you for your legal career.
Clinics come in all shapes and sizes. With the desire to expand my resume and explore a new field of the law, I participated in the Tax Clinic this past spring semester. Unlike other clinics, we did not have an on-campus office space. Rather, we were graciously given an office at a large firm in Midtown.
Essentially, we were temporary associates in the tax department of this firm, tackling pro bono litigation assignments. After being in the safety of classrooms for a year and a half, actual client work and interactions with the IRS were intimidating. But by the end of the semester, I was zealously advocating on behalf of my clients, making offers of compromise in collection due process hearings. Clinics also come with a seminar component, and in my clinic, we covered a wide breadth of tax law, from trial procedure to penalty defenses to tax shelters. The more involvement I have had with litigation practice, the more I have come to realize that Civil Procedure is the most important foundational legal course for a litigator. So if this is your interest, be sure not to sleep through or Gchat too much in that class.
I also took two other seminars with brilliant professors this past semester. The first was entitled Appellate Advocacy with Professors Samuel Estreicher and Laurence Gold. In this course, each student was assigned two currently docketed Supreme Court cases to brief and argue. The second was Critical Race Theory, a former course of Professor Derrick Bell, now taught by Professor Tony Thompson, a professor I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to research for and learn from last summer. This course also heavily emphasized writing and oral presentation. Skills, shockingly, that are highly valuable as you embark upon your legal career.
Taking this alternative path in my legal education also came with one final additional perk: no in-class final exams. I was consistently busy during the semester, but at the end, while my classmates were poring over outlines and readings they had not completed during the semester, I was relaxing.* I tried not to gloat. Too much, anyway.
*Granted, NYU Law did get therapy dogs this past exam season, which relieved much stress for puppy-loving students.