- Category Description
- Considerations for 3L Fall Semester
- Considerations for 3L Spring Semester
- Closing Thoughts
3L is the capstone year for Penn Law students. 1L exposes students to a broad survey of courses and legal doctrines. 2Ls often begin choosing curricular directions and deepen their understanding of certain areas of law. 3Ls, with these two years under their belts (along with 2 summers of legal work) generally can make the most use of sophisticated upper-level courses and advanced experiential/skills-intensive opportunities. 3L students can choose to dive even deeper into a few discrete areas of law, and 3Ls are the most aware of areas/skills they would like to develop before starting practice. In short, the third year of study represents the bridge between the law school experience and the legal career on the near horizon. 3Ls, then, must strive to make the bridge as formidable and sturdy as possible. Consequently, this section (in conjunction with the other portions of the 3L slice - classes, skills, etc.) will present some considerations, presented chronologically, to keep in mind.
Considerations for 3L Fall Semester
Schedule a Credit Audit to Monitor Curricular Progress
Early in the fall semester (preferably during add/drop), feel free to e-mail Nicole Federico in the Registrar’s Office to schedule a credit audit. During this 10-15 minute discussion, students can learn about what they need to do before graduation in May.
Note the Pertinent State Bar’s Requirements and Application Procedures
By the start of 3L year, most students know which bar exam they plan to take after graduation. Each bar has a particular set of eligibility rules (with some states mandating pro bono service, capping the number of non-law courses, etc.). Students should familiarize themselves early with these rules, so they can ensure that their credit totals align with these requirements.
Further, the application to sit for a particular bar can be rigorous, and often involves notarizing forms, obtaining certified checks or money orders, etc. Generally, applications for the July bar exam are not due until the spring, but students should familiarize themselves with the rules and process early.
Keep On Top of Cross-Disciplinary Requirements
For those seeking Certificates or Joint Degrees, fall semester add/drop is also a very good time to ensure adherence with the rules for a particular Certificate or degree program. Students should make sure they understand and conform to the requirements (e.g. course required) for a particular program. Please see the “Cross-Disciplinary Opportunities” page for more information. Seek out advisors and those with knowledge of the various requirements – both at Penn Law and at the Penn sister school or department of interest.
Review Pertinent Areas of Focus
Many 3Ls take foundational courses in a particular legal field during 2L year. The Areas of Focus, however, present a sequential view of fruitful exploration for a particular topical area. 3Ls should review pertinent Areas of Focus, and keep considerations delineated there in mind.
Chart the Path for Pro Bono
3Ls must complete at least 70 hours of pro bono by graduation. 3Ls, by this point, are familiar with TPIC and the pro bono offerings of interest. These students should consider how pro bono activities can augment their other aspirations (either in exploring an area of law, developing leadership skills, etc.), and be fulfilling in and of itself. Students may wish to focus solely on one or two opportunities, or cast the net wider.
Don’t Forget Curricular Requirements
Along with the pro bono requirement, students must take a professional responsibility class and complete the Senior Writing Requirement. Don’t leave these matters unattended until the last minute.
Build Upon Relationships with Faculty
As students’ aspirations begin to solidify, good relationships with faculty members can be crucial. Either through independent studies, in seminars, or in office hours, 3Ls should cultivate the relationships built during the first two years of law school. Professors can be wonderful recommenders and sound counselors. Maintain and deepen these ties during 3L year.
Engage in Co-Curricular and Leadership Opportunities
On journals or in student clubs, 3Ls oftentimes serve as leaders across the Law School. 3Ls can gain valuable experience managing others while on the executive board of a journal, and can form meaningful ties through networking at affinity group or student club events. As legal practice is right around the corner for 3Ls, students should take time to build upon these skills and opportunities, as they could come in handy down the line.
Considerations for 3L Spring Semester
Consider “Capstone” Opportunities
By 3L spring, students have taken the bulk of the courses they need, and many find the most advanced courses or offerings (such as clinics relating to a particular field of interest) to be the most fulfilling at this time. Students can bring their full array of developed skills and knowledge to bear at this time, and many find clinical opportunities, practice-intensive courses, pro bono opportunities, or high-level, specific seminars to be the most gratifying during this semester.
If Applicable, Monitor Cross-Disciplinary Progress
For those participating, the start of spring semester is a good time to make sure that progress for a Certificate or joint-degree remains on track. Contact advisors and make sure that one’s final semester courses align with the requirements for a particular degree or Certificate.
Take Care with Transitions
Student organizational transitions occur very quickly at Penn Law. Once 3Ls are just getting comfortable in their roles as EICs, managing editors, club presidents, etc., it’s time to think about the transition for next year. Early in the spring semester, then, 3L students should think carefully about their successors and the transitions that will occur soon.
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. 3Ls oftentimes lead and spearhead planning for such events. Further, many of Penn’s other schools – Wharton, the Graduate School of Education, etc. – host conferences of interest for law students. 3Ls should take full advantage of their final conference season!
Note Administrative Details for Graduation
Check for email reminders about this from the Registrar’s Office and Dean Clinton. Don’t forget to pick up graduation packets and get on the wait list early if extra tickets are needed. Pick up caps and gowns on time. Consider attending the annual graduation reception held the day before graduation on the Law School campus. Overall, make sure details are in order as graduation nears.
“Tend the Garden”
This final point has no succinct moniker, but instead refers to the general goal of preparing smoothly for one’s departure from Penn Law. By this time, students will have spent nearly three years (or more) learning with and from one’s peers and teachers, developing or solidifying professional goals, and cultivating a host of valuable analytical skills. The Penn Law experience is robust by construct and in practice, and 3Ls should take time to wind down and conclude matters in the ways they feel are best. For some, this may feature steady involvement in an affinity group or student club. For others, this may mean bonding with peers on the Penn Law Bowling Team or in the Intellectual Property club. Ultimately, many 3Ls come to the realization that life after Penn Law will be very different from life at Penn Law. Take time to enjoy the Penn Law community and experience before graduation.
3L year stands as the culmination of a Penn Law student’s experience. As stated above, rather than being viewed as a stand-alone year, the final two semesters should be viewed as a bridge to the impending legal career of a particular student. The student, then, should strive to make this bridge sturdy and formidable. Strategic and careful use of 3L year can lead to a smooth transition to practice, as well as an impactful finish to law school. As always, for any questions, please feel free to seek out faculty advisors, Dimitri Islam and Dean Clinton in Student Affairs, the TPIC team and CP&P, and the Legal Practice Skills Team. All of these offices and groups remain invested in the continued success of 3L students.