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2L: Classes

The Penn Law curriculum opens up considerably for 2Ls, but the plethora of options can be challenging to navigate at first. To assist with the process of course selection, this portion of the Guide presents numerous considerations for second year students, beginning with an important review of the curriculum’s credit requirements.  Additionally, for a video of Penn Law professors discussing upper-level course planning, please see here (talks start at 27:40 in video). 

Credit Requirements (i.e. the “Nuts and Bolts”)

To view specific credit and graduation requirements (e.g. how many credits a JD student needs to graduate, the credit limit on clinics, externships, etc.), please go to the JD Degree Requirements Page here.  This is a critical page, and all JD students should be familiar with it. 

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General Advice (Mock Schedule Below)

Penn Law presents its students with relatively few requirements and literally hundreds of course options.  While the curriculum is expansive, Penn Law students should be aware of some baseline principles:

Refer to the “Areas of Focus” in this Guide

Students should be aware of the “introductory” or “fundamental” upper level courses for a variety of topical areas.  The Areas of Focus present the “introductory” courses for a variety of fields (such as IP, Environmental Law, etc.).  Students interested in litigation, for example, ought to consider taking Evidence (Law 631) early in their law school careers.  Similarly, a student interested in IP & Technology Law needs to note that Patent Law (Law 677) is a gateway course that opens up advanced coursework in the future.  For those interested in tax and business planning, Federal Income Tax (Law 640) is a key building block class.

2L fall semester could see an exploration of fundamental classes in a couple of topical areas, with later law school semesters featuring exploration of the most interesting areas in more depth.  Refer to the pertinent Areas of Focus for more guidance.

Be Mindful of Relationships

Have a favorite professor?  Want to cultivate a relationship with a faculty member?  2L presents the opportunity for students to enroll in smaller seminars with faculty that feature opportunities for significant interaction.  Students may want to take advantage of such chances.  Feel free to explore smaller classes that simply seem intriguing, or offer the chance to build closer relationships – both with faculty and with peers. 

Be Mindful of Co-Curricular Obligations

Journals and moot courts may not impart that much credit (most Journals offer 1.00 credit per year to Associate Editors), but they can take up a lot of time.  Students may not want to take many “big” (i.e. 4.00 credit) courses on top of journal or moot court obligations.  A 16 or 17 credit load fall semester, combined with journal obligations, could be overly burdensome.  Penn Law students, of course, can handle such demands, but students should craft their course schedules as they best see fit. 

Know Yourself, and Leverage Your Network

Prefer papers to in-class exams?  Discouraged or heartened by the Socratic Method?  Review faculty evaluations and confer with your peers (be it your Littleton Fellow, Morris Fellow, upper-level students in affinity groups, etc.) to accumulate information.  Consider classes not just based on content taught, but also based on preferred professors and emphasis in the class (e.g. for those seeking to improve writing skills, courses that feature lots of writing and papers). 

Fall 2017 2L “Mock” Schedule

In practice and as an example, a 2L student exploring interests in IP and business/transactional law in the fall semester could take:

Accounting for Lawyers with Brotman (Law 600 - 2 credits) M 4:30 - 6:20pm
Corporations with Bratton (Law 622 – 4 credits) MTW 10:30 - 11:45am
Discrimination in Education with Davis (Law 969 - 3 credits) T 4:30 - 6:30pm
Patent Law with Skeel/Abrams (Law 677 - 4 credits) TWTh 3:00-4:15pm
Journal Credit (1.00 credits) 

This would make for a 14 credit fall load (when including journal), which is quite reasonable.  The student would allow ample time to explore academic interests in transactional and IP Law, AND would also take a seminar (Discrimination in Education) that simply speaks to his/her curiosity about a certain subject.  Further, by taking Corps and Patent Law, this student has made sure to take key introductory classes early on - which is helpful.

In the spring, then, the student could take additional foundational courses in these areas, for a schedule such as:

Advanced Legal Research (Law 582 - 2 credits, often offered in Spring)
(Building block course - such as Admin, Bankruptcy, or Fed Tax - 3 credits)
Corporate Finance (Law 768 - 3 credits, often offered in Spring)
Contract Drafting (Law 950 - 3 credits, often offered in Spring) (or some other skills-based transactional class - these courses tend to be tough for 2Ls to get into, but delving into skills-classes in 2L spring can be helpful)
IP or transactional seminar (check spring course list when released)

This would stand as a 13-15 credit spring semester (depending on the credit allocation for the seminar and the building block course).  By this point, students understand their journal work, and a slightly heavier 2L spring semester load will free up a bit of space for the 3L year.  Further, building block courses that apply to many areas of law - like Administrative Law, Bankruptcy, and Federal Taxation - can be helpful. 

In the third year, the student could take additional coursework in business law (e.g. Antitrust, Mergers & Acquisitions [Law 773], M&A Bootcamp, IP & Corporate Lawyering, Structuring Venture Capital, etc.), coursework related to IP (an IP seminar, Patent Litigation, etc.) and seek experiential opportunities (such as the Detkin IP clinic) that relate to the student’s interests. 

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“Required” Upper-Level Classes?

Outside of the important professional responsibility course requirement and the experiential learning requirement (starting with the Class of 2019), Penn Law has no required upper-level classes.  With this being said, some faculty and staff at the Law School assert that certain courses have broad applicability, and should be considered carefully by all law students, no matter their academic focus.  The classes often mentioned are:

  • Corporations (Law 622): corporate entities and a knowledge of corporate structure can be valuable across nearly all fields, from transactional law to health law.
  • Federal Income Tax (Law 640): tax impacts virtually every area of law, and many legal endeavors contain tax implications. 
  • Accounting (Law 600 or Law 729 – Law 729 tends to be more quantitative, but neither class requires any prior background in accounting): across fields, lawyers increasingly need financial literacy and an understanding of basic financial statements.  Accounting provides an introduction to such concepts.
  • Evidence (Law 631): evidentiary principles (and determining what is relevant/irrelevant) oftentimes guide the work that many lawyers conduct. 
  • Administrative Law (Law 601): administrative agencies (the FDA, SEC, etc.) exert tremendous control and authority over American life.  Further, nearly all lawyers interact with some sort of governmental agency in practice.  Law 601 provides law students with an introduction to the rules and principles that underpin these administrative agencies. 
  • (Also note that the Wharton Certificate in Management [Law 550] will provide multi-purpose training from a variety of angles [financial literacy, organizational behavior, etc.])

Again, none of the above classes are required.  Law students are free to take all or none of these courses.  As deserves reiteration, though, these foundational courses have broad applicability and deserve careful consideration.

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Class Bidding/Ranking Strategies (& Past Enrollment Info)

3Ls and LLMs receive preference in Penn Law’s ranking-based advanced course registration system for most classes.  2Ls, though, have a plethora of options and decisions to make.  For detailed information on this, please see the Advanced Registration InstructionsNote, students are not guaranteed enrollment in particular courses.  Students may need to utilize add/drop period to finalize their schedules.  With all this being said, here are some guidelines to help 2L students rank their courses meaningfully:

  • Students should rank clinics or historically popular seminars (such as Negotiation & Dispute Resolution [Law 651]) highly, and should note that entry into these classes for 2Ls is difficult. 
  • Similarly, students may want to use alternate and primary portions of their ranking carefully (e.g. a student intent on gaining clinical experience could rank the Civil Practice Clinic as the #1 primary choice, and have the Child Advocacy Clinic as their alternate).
  • Unless intent on studying with a popular professor, larger “building block” courses with multiple sections (e.g. Corporations) don’t tend to all fill up completely, and using the very highest rank on these classes is generally not necessary.
  • As described below in the “Two-Year Planning” section, students should be aware of classes that may not be offered every year (or are only offered once a year), and may want to rank such classes of interest higher.  (Please see the “Two-Year Planning” section below for more information.)  Also see the pertinent Areas of Focus to determine what course sequencing may be best for a particular topical area. 

The above constitutes suggestions, and please note that ranking a class highly does not guarantee entry into the class.  A lot of important activity and shifts occur during add/drop period!  For a full explanation of these processes, as stated above, please see the Advanced Registration Instructions on the Registrar’s Page.

Also, to view past enrollment information (e.g. to see which past classes have “maxed out” on enrollment), please see our Registration Archives (scroll down the page to get to the archives).

Finally, course evaluations (written by Penn Law students) can be helpful in assessing interest in a given course.  To review course evaluations, please go to the Course Finder and click on a previously offered class.  If the professor has online evaluations up, you can read the eval in the course description.

Note, online course evaluations are only open during advanced course registration and add/drop.  Also, some professors only allow for hard copies (not online versions) of their evaluations.  If you’d like to see course evaluations and they aren’t present online, hard copies are always available in the Registrar’s Office. 

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A Word On Adjunct Faculty and Full-Time Faculty

Full-time faculty (also known as standing faculty) are generally tenure-track (or tenured) professors at Penn Law who focus primarily on cutting-edge legal research and scholarship.  They have offices at the Law School, and teach multiple law courses, oftentimes year after year.  Adjunct faculty are generally active practitioners or judges  who are experts in particular areas of the law.  They generally do not have offices at the Law School, and they may not teach every year. 

Law students should be cognizant of differences between standing and adjunct faculty members.  For those intent on producing publishable legal scholarship, adjuncts may not be present for the multiple semesters (if not years) that it takes to produce such work.  Standing faculty are also sure to be aware of legal scholarship and academic trends within their fields of interests. 

Adjuncts are experts in specific fields, and can offer superb instruction relating to the practice of law for a particular area.  Adjuncts may not, however, seek to publish legal scholarship as often as standing faculty members, and may not follow the scholarship in a particular field as closely.  Further, adjuncts may not be present each semester to continue ties with students. 

When selecting courses, students ought to be aware of these general factors.  (Of course, the terms discussed here may not apply to individual faculty members.)  For a student seeking to form a relationship over the course of three semesters with a faculty member, such a tie may simply not be possible with an adjunct.  Similarly, for a student looking to learn from an expert in a certain field of practice, classes with adjunct faculty may present excellent opportunities.   

Two-year Planning

Foundational courses (e.g. Corporations, Evidence, Fed Tax, etc.) are offered every year, and oftentimes every semester.  Smaller seminars (such as Bok Courses) and some less-subscribed courses, however, are sometimes not offered every year, and certainly not every semester.  So, for instance, someone extremely interested in Health Law should note that one of the introductory courses, Health Law (Law 687) is only offered in Fall 2017. 

The above, presents a taste of how classes shift from year to year.  Consequently, if a small course looks very enticing, has no pre-requisites, and could be worthwhile, students ought to take the course now, as it may not be offered next year.  Similarly, if a student is very interested in a certain foundational course (such as Employment Law [Law 641] or Family Law [Law 637]), but this course is only offered once a year, a student ought to think strongly about taking that course now.  Forsaking the course could possibly mean waiting a full year until it is possible to take that course again.

Closing Thoughts

The plethora of opportunities presented to 2L students can be both exciting and a little daunting.  Further, there are no definitive answers about what a student should take.  Indeed, there are comparatively few requirements in the Penn Law upper-level curriculum.  Consequently, students should refer to the resources in this Guide, confer with peers, faculty members, practitioners, etc.  Moreover, students should feel free to reach out to Student Affairs, TPIC, CP&P, etc. for counsel as well.  Students tend to make the best decisions when they are thinking vigorously and communicating often about their course selection decisions.  Hopefully the resources presented here will spur such action.  Remember, this tool is a starting point – not an ending point – for exploration!

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