The courses taken during the first year of law school are intended to introduce students to a wide range of legal concepts in order to prepare them for more specialized courses in their second and third years. If a law student assumes that their 1L courses are all that they need before they begin to focus on their intended practice area, they are in for a rude awakening. To really have a good legal foundation, students should consider taking some other foundational law courses that may benefit them, even though they are not required to take them.
Let me start by pointing out that few law students know for certain when they enter law school the area of law they will be practicing after they pass the Bar Exam. This is a good thing because this allows students an opportunity to explore various areas of law with an open mind. The down side is that students only have two more years to select the courses they think will best prepare them to become legal practitioners. My strategy was to consider a well-rounded set of course options and professors who I thought would best prepare me for a variety of legal positions and make me a more competitive candidate for future employment. I was not able to take every course that I wanted to take, but I believe that the following options would greatly benefit anyone as they prepare for their legal careers.
- Administrative Law – It surprises me that Administrative Law is not a required course at Florida State. There are countless opportunities for an attorney to practice administrative law. The demand for individuals with this type of legal expertise is growing every day. For me, Administrative Law also filled in a lot of gaps and helped me better understand how the law works. Administrative regulations are everywhere, and nearly everyone who practices law will come in contact with an administrative proceeding at some point in their career. At Florida State, students have the opportunity to learn from Professor Mark B. Seidenfeld, who is regarded as one of the top administrative law authorities in the United States.
- Evidence – Evidence is necessary for a basic understanding of court procedures. I do not need to belabor the point for this course, but if you do not take Evidence, you will wish that you had. Florida State Law has some great professor who teach Evidence, but Professor Charles W. Ehrhardt, author of Florida Evidence is the foremost expert in the State of Florida, and almost all attorneys in Florida who deal with evidence have a copy of one or more editions of his book.
- Criminal Procedure – All first-year law students at Florida State take Criminal Law during their second semester and gain a basic understanding of criminal statutes and how they work. Criminal Procedure more precisely analyzes criminal law within a constitutional framework and Professor Wayne A. Logan was one of the most outstanding professors I had while I was in law school. Criminal Procedure is obviously a must for students interested in practicing criminal law, but I found it to be incredibly beneficial for me in my everyday life. So, if you want to know what your rights are anytime you are approached by a police officer, I recommend taking Criminal Procedure.
There are several other courses that I could recommend, such as election law, family law, and employment law, but my recommendations would fill up many more pages. Whatever your plan is for law school, do not focus on just the courses in your interest area. Instead, think about how each course you take will benefit you, both while in law school and in your future legal career.
Alex Sarsfield, Class of 2017