3L Advice on Picking Electives

Earlier this semester the bidding for spring classes reopened, and I spent hours pouring over potential class schedules and adjusting and readjusting my selections. Mind you, this is after hours of doing exactly the same thing a few months before. I already have a schedule I’m happy with, but I just can’t resist continuing to shop around! I always wonder if I missed some gem, some fantastic class that I hadn’t considered but that has great ratings and fits perfectly into my schedule. And so, for this month’s iteration of 3L advice corner, I pass on some of the insights I’ve gleaned from hours and hours on ABRA (our course selection website).

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791 classes to chose from!!!

As a 1L, you don’t really have that much choice. I jumped into a conversation I overheard the other day in the lounge in which a bunch of first-years were anxiously trying to figure out how many points to allocate to their elective. The trick is, as a first year, you don’t have to allocate your points, because everyone gets 1,000 points and there’s only one class to bid on. So, you just pick your first choice and your alternate, and you’re good to go! Most people I know got their first choice, with the vast majority getting their second. If they didn’t get their first or second in the initial round of bidding, most did by the time classes rolled around (with people deciding to switch, spots often open up). It may seem even more important to decide well since you have only that one chance, but you really can’t go wrong.

I took Constitutional Law, which is sometimes thought of as a public interest or gunner choice. I’m not sure how it got that reputation. I think it fits in great as a first-year course, because it can help tie together criminal law and admin law, and it gives an additional boost to your statutory interpretation chops as well. If you don’t end up liking it, at least it’s out of the way in the first year as opposed to hanging over your head until 3L second semester (when I promise you won’t want to be spending hours poring over cases from the 1800s). I also think Income Taxation is an often overlooked but cool class. If you have an interest in corporate law, income tax is actually quite crucial, and if you take it early you have the opportunity to take higher-level courses with our stellar tax faculty. I’m not going into tax, but I think my tax classes were some of the best I had here. Corporations, Property, and International Law are also good choices.

The end of 1L is where the fun really starts. You have your whole year ahead of you to chose up to 30 credits of class work! It is, as you may expect, completely overwhelming. But here are the things I think you should consider in creating a schedule.

1. Don’t be afraid to go outside your anticipated career choice.

Like I said, some of my favorite classes were tax classes, even though I’m not going to be a tax attorney. Our tax faculty is tremendous, so I decided to take Income Taxation, Corporate Tax, and a tax colloquium to really take advantage. I also enjoyed Remedies with Professor Daryl Levinson. It sounded like a litigation or civil procedure-focused class, which I’m not that into, but it ended up being the highlight of my semester. That leads me to my second point of advice….

2. The professor is (almost always) more important than the name of the class.

First of all, we are so lucky to have the best faculty at any law school here at NYU. So you really can’t go wrong, for the most part. But I think this is more about finding a teacher who speaks your language. I knew I liked Professor Levinson’s style because I had had him for Con Law, so I basically decided I would take whatever he taught. Some people prefer classes with no cold-calling, some prefer classes with a lot of engagement, some prefer finals, some prefer papers. This is all in the control of the professor, so I would advise looking at that over the specific subject matter as much as possible.

3. But sometimes the subject matter is more important.

Of course, sometimes you just find a topic interesting, and you should delve more deeply into it. This isn’t groundbreaking advice, but if you plan to do criminal law you need to take Crim Pro and Evidence; if you’re planning to work at a firm, you need to take Corporations and another business-focused class in your specialty. I just don’t think you need to take them all first semester of 2L!

4. Friends matter.

In a previous post I talked about how I was a bit sad not to be in my section anymore, because I found myself missing the camaraderie of spending all my days with the same group of students. As I’ve taken more classes, I’ve tried to foster that same sense of community by taking classes with my friends. It makes it easier to study, I’m happy to go to class to see them as well as to learn, and it feels to me like the last time I’ll have the opportunity to do this kind of thing. You can always make new friends in classes, but if there’s a choice between two relatively equal classes and one has more of my buds in it than the other, I’ll rank the friend-packed one first.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Humbolt University
Photo Credit: Flickr, Humbolt University

5. Pace yourself.

You do have four semesters to fill. So make sure you have enough interesting and required courses in each semester to make them all fun, and try to schedule the heaviest load when you think you can most carry it. I knew I would be getting married in the last semester of law school, so I tried to shift my classroom-intensive courses to 2L and first semester of 3L so I would have the flexibility to plan and travel in my last semester. You may want to do a clinic or go abroad, so try to build in as much flexibility as possible early on to give you that choice (coming full circle, this may be why Con Law 1L is a good idea!).

At the end of the day, you couldn’t be luckier to be at this school and get to take these classes with such amazing professors and students. As my last semester draws nearer, I am definitely jealous of the 1Ls who have four fresh semesters to plan!