« on: June 14, 2010, 12:29:17 PM »
W2014 (in regards to your question about a 1L schedule),
I just completed my 1L year at the Harrisburg campus and I am now doing an internship program for the PA government.
For the 1L year, students are basically assigned a 15-credit schedule per semester. The breakdown of credits for courses during Fall 2009 was: Torts I (2), Civil Procedure I (3), Legal Methods I (3), Contracts (3), Property I (4). Also, there are two 1L sections, N and P. Before beginning classes, the registrar divided up the 1L class into these two equal-sized sections. Both sections follow a relatively similar class schedule, however a certain course may not be taught at the same time. Generally you have a morning class and an early afternoon class.
The 1L curriculum was changed for the 2009-2010 school year (my first year). Last fall, my schedule looked like this (times may not be exact):
Torts I: 10:00-10:50
Civil Procedure I: 1:00-2:20
Legal Methods I (writing course): 10:00-11:50
Contracts I: 1:30-2:50
Torts I: 10:00-10:50
Property I: 12:00-1:50
Property I: 10:00-11:50
Civil Procedure I: 2:10-3:30
Legal Methods I: 10:00-10:50
For the spring, some credits were shifted around while still maintaining 15-credits; some classes have their credit load reduced to accommodate for a sixth course, Criminal Law: Torts II (3), Civil Procedure II (3), Criminal Law (3), Legal Methods II (2), Property II (2), Contracts II (2). However, not everyone will take Criminal Law. Widener Law has a policy where if 1L students’ Fall GPA falls below a certain number, they are placed in Intensive Legal Analysis (ILA), a two-credit course, in lieu of taking Criminal Law. Thus, these students have a 14-credit course load. ILA is taught by some of the best professors at Widener to help make your performance during spring semester (and the rest of law school) better.
Many students who have a GPA just above the cut-off (and therefore take Crim Law instead of ILA) find themselves wishing they were put in ILA. Many ILA students also rise far in the spring semester if they apply ILA’s instruction to their other courses. Also, if you find that you need to take ILA, you won’t be alone. My Criminal Law class had significantly less students (around 20 or so) in it when compared to the other courses that all 1Ls take so I assumed the rest were in ILA. With two first year sections (N and P), that makes for about 40 students in ILA (which I believe is also broken down into other sections).
Here is what my Spring 2010 semester looked like.
Torts II: 10:00-11:20
Civil Procedure II: 1:10-2:30
Criminal Law: 9:30-11:00
Property II: 2:00-2:50
Torts II: 10:00-11:20
Civil Procedure II: 1:10-2:30
Legal Methods II: 10:00-11:50
Criminal Law: 2:00-3:30
Contracts II: 9:30-11:20
Property II: 1:00-1:50
Another point I need to make is that the level of preparation varies with each course and with each professor. I took the Law Preview course at GWU in DC last summer. I figured with the level of money I was about to sink into law school, it could not hurt to spend a little more to get exposed to different areas of law before beginning the first year. The real value in the program was the interaction and instruction from professors from many different law schools in the country (including Top 14 schools). Additionally, there were current law students and recent grads that taught success tips and time management. Our program leader was a recent Stanford Law grad who just finished clerking for Justice Scalia. I figured he got to where he was by hard work and that it would be worth it to listen to his advice. The entire course (6 days, Monday-Saturday), exposed me to everything (and a little more) that is normally covered during the first year of law school. Some of the topics seemed hard to grasp during Law Preview, but the professors were there to make sure everyone understood.
Basically each day during the week was devoted to a different legal course, torts, contracts, criminal law, civil procedure, property, and a little bit of constitutional law. Prior to each day's instruction, you should have read the assigned cases and briefed them. Once you sign up for Law Preview, they send you a package containing all the materials you need to get started on your assignments, and a nice booklet of all the cases that will be used during your Law Preview session. Their website lists each professor's particular assigned reading for their course. The site even helps you prepare your briefs.
My course session was the last week of July 2009. Law Preview sent the materials to my house when I registered around mid-May 2009. One lesson I learned early (luckily), was that writing briefs takes some time, especially if you have never written one before. I mistakenly thought I could start looking at the cases for the Law Preview session a week before I left for DC. Because I was working during the summer, while also trying to enjoy some time to relax from just graduating college, it was hard to brief all the cases prior to leaving for DC. Law Preview even recommends that you brief at least up until Wednesday’s session before arriving. Otherwise you end up like me: in a nice city during summer with plenty of fun activities to do around me (Smithsonian), but instead you are stuck in a hotel room from 5:00 P.M. until you go to bed, trying to prepare your briefs for the next day’s session.
Each day typically begins at 8:00 A.M. and ends at 5:00 P.M., with an hour lunch in there somewhere. The professors completely realize that Law Preview is not actual law school and so they tailor their depth of the course to that fact. They also know that many Law Preview students want insight into the professor’s mind, something you won’t get easily from your actual law school professors (at least not while you are taking the particular course).
For each class, you basically have to brief 7-8 cases. That means you have to read them more than once and be able to understand it (at least to the limit of your ability). With six courses, this comes out to some 42-48 briefs.
On Friday of the Law Preview week we took an exam with one of our subject professors. After the exam, he showed us his grading rubric and we graded our own exams based on it. Needless to say, everyone at Law Preview came nowhere near scoring 50 percent. But that isn’t the point. The professor, a very passionate and enthusiastic teacher, explained that professors are looking at your legal analysis, not your ability to write down laws. They want to see you taking laws (even if incorrectly stated) and applying them to the fictional fact patterns. That is what lawyers do.
While I was stuck in the hotel room for three of six nights writing briefs, I also showed up to orientation at Widener Law having already been exposed to the concepts of all my first year courses, having taken an exam under exam conditions WITH professor feedback, and was well prepared to hit the ground running as soon as classes started.
Looking back on Law Preview, I realize it really helped me get in the legal mindset prior to starting law school. I think this was an extremely important factor in my success during the first year. I knew what I had to do, and I knew how to do it BEFORE starting class in the fall. While many of my other classmates were getting adjusted to the Socratic method of instruction and creating study schedules, I had already created a routine that I could adhere to, all thanks to Law Preview. Additionally, each time we began a new concept in a course, it was my second time seeing it. While I may not have totally understood the concepts during Law Preview, my second time (when it was likely everyone else’s first time) seeing it was like strengthening a home: the foundation was already there.
While Law Preview may seem like a lot of money (around $1000, depending on when you register), I very glad I did it because it helped prepare me for law school in ways I didn’t even realize. It doesn’t make you smarter than your peers; it makes you more prepared than your peers. In the current economy and given what is said about Tier 4 schools (don’t believe everything you hear about that either…), it only makes sense to do all that you can to be successful in law school.
I realize that this post far exceeded the scope of your question, I felt that I should put my experience out there because I know how I felt last summer and I want others to know what to expect, at least more so than I did.
Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions. I would love to share what I know if you think it may help.