The first-year program of instruction is designed to examine and foster an understanding of the processes by which law is made, the institutions that make law, and the analytical skills necessary in the professional use of case law and legislation. The first-year curriculum provides a general understanding of the American legal system, sharpens the student's analytical ability and lays the foundation of the basic working skills of a lawyer.
Many first-year classes meet in large sections of approximately 80-125 students. In contrast, the Fundamentals of Law Practice course, which begins students’ skills training with an emphasis on legal writing and research, meets in small sections of approximately 20 students. Additionally, all first-year standard and accelerated students enroll in a seminar section, comprised of approximately 40 students, as one of their fall term core courses. These smaller courses afford students the opportunity to learn in a more intimate and informal atmosphere. Many of the assignments in the seminars also provide training in skills such as negotiation, counseling, drafting, interviewing and oral argument. Instructor feedback is an important element of these seminars, and the students work closely with faculty on their assignments throughout the semester.
All students are required to take courses in Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Fundamentals of Law Practice, Property, and Torts. Most of these courses are taught in intensive one-semester courses, but Fundamentals of Law Practice is taught in a two-semester sequence. For students pursuing their JD over four years, these required courses are scheduled over the first two years. Criminal Law is taken either during the summer between the first and second years or the summer prior to the first full year. One substantive course, generally Property, is taught in the second year. Sample course schedules are provided below.