PUBLISHED:March 28, 2008

Course selection advice

Sonja Ralston Elder, 3L (Joint Degree)

Take courses because you are interested in them not because someone said you "should." There will be plenty of time to study for the bar and learn on your feet as you practice, but you'll never have another chance to learn about wine law or ponder jurisprudence. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take the staples like evidence and federal courts, but rather that you should do it because they are interesting subjects, not because you feel compelled.

Eric Eisenberg, 2L

Be realistic about your registration chances: Duke Law's policy is first-come, first-serve. As a 2L, you probably won't get into that cross-listed, six-person seminar, no matter how cool you think the topic is. Check ACES before your registration window opens to see which of your preferred courses have some, but not many, spots remaining, and sign up for those first. Don't worry about getting into BA, Tax, or Evidence — there will almost always be one more open seat in the lecture hall.

Have any ideas about what you are interested in for next summer? If your academic and career interests line up, you can think of course selection as a crash course to prepare you for that job. However, pursuing courses you find interesting in spite of or because they differ from a job to which you aspire can also be a noble goal.

Sohair Ahmadi, 3L

Take one or more practical courses like a clinic, negotiations, or trial practice. They're different than your traditional lecture courses, help vary your course load, and you gain great practical experience.

If you know what bar you're taking, find out what subjects are covered and try to take some of those courses.

An independent study or a research tutorial is a great opportunity to really get to know a professor. The professors at Duke are a very valuable resource.

Try to vary your course load so that one semester you're not taking three four-credit lectures and another semester you're taking six seminars.

Don't forget about the writing requirement: it's 30 pages and many two-credit seminars only require 20-25 pages.

Jeff Ward, 2L

Because law school is perhaps the most significant investment you'll ever make in yourself, make sure that your course selection is guided by you. This means at least two things:

1) Know your learning style, choose classes accordingly.

2) Don't worry about the courses that you are "supposed to take." Instead, take the courses that excite you.

Brian Rosenzweig, 3L

The best advice I received was from Professor Cox, which was to "take professors, not courses." It's important to study with different professors and learn through different methods. When you take a class, you're studying the professor's methodology and perspective on a topic, not just the topic itself.

Take foundational classes in your areas of interest during your second year. Take BA and Evidence (and International Law if you're interested) early on so that the more advanced classes are available to you.

Looking for more advice? See what Duke Law faculty had to say about course selection and other aspects of your legal education.