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2L Overview

Category Description

The Penn Law experience is multi-channeled. The first year presents a broad survey of courses and legal doctrines. In the second year, many students begin to choose curricular directions and deepen their understanding of certain areas of law. Further, in the second year, students often amplify their commitment to specific extra-curricular and co-curricular opportunities of interest. As students take more active charge of their curricular and experiential development, there are some general considerations to keep in mind, and these are presented chronologically by semester below. (Note, interested students should read all portions of the 2L slice of the Guide, starting with this section. These sections, together, present a more detailed view of the 2L experience.)

Considerations for 2L Fall Semester

Continue developing interests in certain areas of the law

1L year focuses a significant deal on learning legal analysis, and students are introduced to an array of legal concepts. Based on these experiences and individual inclinations, students can begin an exploration of certain legal fields in more concerted fashion during 2L year. In choosing potential directions, students should keep the “advocate/planner” guidance found in the 1L: Overview in mind (i.e. choosing between fields featuring active advocacy on behalf of a client, such as litigation, or more “planning-related” pursuits, such as tax).

The Areas of Focus in this Guide present the “foundational” courses in various topical areas that can be a good starting point for such exploration. Summer work experiences, journal work, pro bono work, and participation in various student clubs can also be good ways to discern interest in a particular field. 2Ls can certainly explore a range of topical areas, but students need to think critically about their aspirations and interests as the second year begins.

Take time to acclimate to journal work

Year to year, a majority of Penn Law students participate in one of the six legal journals present on campus as Associate Editors (“AEs”). While students receive one credit1 for their contribution to their journal, many students find the actual time commitment may not be accurately reflected in the credit received (i.e. journal work may take more time than expected). Later in the year, students often pick up speed conducting core tasks (e.g. source hunts, edits, etc.), but the Fall Semester experience can prove to be slower going. Students should keep this in mind as they plan their extra-curricular activities and courses.

Forge relationships with faculty

Building on faculty connections from 1L year or beginning connections 2L year is of interest to second-year law students. Through smaller seminar classes and through faculty office hours, students can create closer ties to professors and can learn more about a particular faculty member’s research interests. Especially in areas of particular interest to students (e.g. IP, family law, etc.), 2Ls should interact with faculty in these ways. Note, such interactions can certainly occur outside of office hours. For example, faculty often attend symposia, lunch panels, and engage in advisory roles with numerous Penn Law student organizations. Students can cultivate these relationships over time.

Continue exploring interdisciplinary opportunities

As students develop their areas of interest in the Law School, they need to remain mindful of the important connections that can be made outside Penn Law. Moreover, while the joint-degree programs generally require applications during 1L year, most certificates can be completed during the 2L and 3L years. Further, students can continually consider coursework – such as advanced language classes – that can augment their legal education. Additionally, a range of clubs, such as the Wharton Restructuring Club and LEARN, present major cross-disciplinary conferences each year and law students are welcome to attend. Feel free to review events calendars for Penn’s other schools and actively seek out conferences, symposia, clubs etc. of interest.  See the Cross-Disciplinary Opportunities page for more info, along with Penn Law’s general page on such opportunities (and note, Certificate Application Forms are due on November 15).  

Be mindful of deadlines

The deadline for Spring ad hoc externship applications is November 2. The deadline for Certificate Application Forms is November 15.  The deadline for study abroad applications is generally in late November. Clerkship deadlines, Spring course registration deadlines (usually late November) emerge as well. Overall, second year presents students with a wide range of deadlines – and students must take care to keep them in mind!

Move forward with Pro Bono involvement

All Penn Law students must complete at least 70 hours of pro bono service, as defined by TPIC. Penn Law students generally complete the bulk of this requirement during their 2L and 3L years. If students engaged with TPIC personnel/projects during 1L year, they can certainly deepen those ties. Alternatively, early in the semester, 2L students may contact the TPIC staff and explore the wide range of possibilities available – including dozens of student-run projects – that may be of interest.

Maintain contact with International Programs

As law is an increasingly global enterprise, interested students should touch base with Associate Dean Amy Gadsden and International Programs Director Lauren Owens to discuss pertinent opportunities. From extensive study abroad programs to up-to-date lists of internationally-oriented conferences and symposia hosted at the Law School, the International Programs office offers helpful resources for those interested in exploring the global possibilities of their legal educations.

Strengthen ties to the clubs/activities of interest

After general exploration during 1L year, students should have a sense of the clubs and activities that hold significant appeal for them. Further, 2Ls often have the chance to sit on boards for various groups, and to take a more active role in steering the direction of a particular club or organization. These activities and clubs can help develop a student’s network and provide meaningful experiences, so 2Ls should remain engaged on this front.

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Considerations for 2L Spring Semester

Deepen and maintain exploration of topical areas

In the Spring, 2Ls can explore subjects of interest in greater depth. Many students use the 2L Fall Semester to take some “foundational” or gateway courses (such as Corporations or Fed Tax), and then explore these fields more closely during the Spring. Narrower seminar courses, for example, can facilitate this type of advanced exploration. Additionally, participation in pertinent events, such as conferences and symposia, can build a student’s knowledge base in particular areas.

Consider upcoming leadership opportunities

Student organizational transitions occur very quickly at Penn Law. By the middle of the Spring Semester, 3L students already begin making plans to transfer leadership and board positions to 2Ls. Second year students should consider positions that could hold appeal. In this vein, Associate Editors on journals can research the work done by a journal’s managerial board. Those active in affinity groups can learn more about what conference organizers, communications chairs, etc. do for a particular group.

Participate in “Conference Season”

In the Spring, Penn Law’s Journals and various student organizations host nearly 20 symposia and conferences. These conferences run the gamut – from an IP-focused event to a sports law conference. Further, many of Penn’s other schools – Wharton, the Graduate School of Education, etc. – host conferences of interest for law students. 2Ls should review the conference schedules across schools and attend events of interest. Networking opportunities abound!

Note upcoming Deadlines

Again, 2Ls should be mindful of key deadlines. Student Conference Proposals for Fall Conferences/Symposia are due in late April. Fall ad hoc externship applications are due in late May. Judges often begin reviewing clerkship applications in late June. Students must remain aware of critical deadlines.

Reflect on Skill Development

3L year often offers Penn Law students the widest array of chances to develop skills through experiential opportunities. While this is discussed at more length in other portions of the Guide (e.g. the 2L – Skills section, the Clinics/Externships section, etc.), students should carefully consider the array of skills – oral advocacy, client counseling/interviewing, drafting, advanced researching, etc. – that they have gained and hope to gain heading toward their capstone year of law school.

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The Post-2L Summer

As most 2Ls are aware, CP&P offers a wealth of resources relating to maximizing the post-2L summer work experience. From a curriculum exploration perspective, rising 3Ls should use their summers to explore interest areas in greater depth, especially by seeking contact with practitioners and future colleagues who could aid in a student’s professional development. Further, rising 3Ls ought to seek a wide range of tasks so they can become accustomed to delivering work products in a variety of mediums – either written, oral reports, through team presentations, etc. Finally, active consideration of the work experience (e.g. did I enjoy my assignments in the real estate department? Was M&A work not what I expected?) can inform course selection decisions for the 3L year.

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Closing Thoughts

2L year involves both the expansion of horizons and the deepening of knowledge. Students tend to grow more seasoned in the key abilities developed during 1L year (reading and analyzing legal opinions, assessing fact patterns, etc.), and also widen their array of lawyering skills. At the same time, many increase their knowledge of a select number of discrete areas of law, and begin developing definable interests (e.g. in trial work, transactional concerns, IP, etc.). As always, please feel free to reach out to any needed resources for support. For general questions, Dimitri Islam and Dean Clinton can provide assistance, and the Registrar’s Office ( can answer inquiries relating to credit requirements and course registration. TPIC, the Penn Law Legal Practice Skills team, and pertinent faculty are willing to assist as well.

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1. AEs on the Journal of Law and Social Change receive two credits, one for journal work, and one for the JLASC seminar.