Ultra Vires


How to Succeed at Course Selection Without Really Trying

By Hayley Ossip (3L)

From the bottom of my selfless heart, I am writing this article to help all of you get into the courses you want. Okay…not entirely true. Alex Carmona told me I should write this article because I “really seemed to know [my] shit [about course selection]” (Facebook Chat, March 3, 1:35 PM) and now I just want to show off.  Here are a few tips and tricks of a wise 3L to get you into the courses you want (or should want) to take.

The Absolute Basics of Course Selection (The “ABCS”)

You can take 13-16 credits a semester, for a total of at least 28 credits per year. Classes are generally 3 or 4 credits. There are some exceptions, but the most important is that the Upper Year Moot is one credit.

You have to take at least one class that falls under the following topics (and one class can’t double count for two topics): legal ethics, international/comparative/transnational law and perspectives in law, and you must take a moot, Bus. Org., and Administrative Law (sorry 1Ls – sucks to suck).

What should you take anyway?

The classes you take should be a combination of classes that will be helpful for the area of practice that interests you (or for the more cynical, classes that look good on a resume), classes that inspire your intellectual side (or, are easy and require little work), and classes that are relevant to topics on the Bar Exams. I know some people disagree with this final point, but the Facebook statuses of friends before they wrote the Bar Exams last year complaining about “difficult” concepts in tax law and family law gave 2L-me mad schadenfreude.

Pro-tip: Just because a class has an exciting name, doesn’t mean it’s going to be fun. Upper years (and graduates) don’t bite, so feel free to ask about their experiences.


Take note of what classes are prerequisites, and take them early on. The course schedules change every year, so you can’t count on something being available in the first semester of your 3L year just because if it is offered first semester of your 2L year. I’m assuming most of you reading this are going into “either corporate law or litigation,” so Bus. Org. and Evidence are particularly good to take in 2L.

Final evaluations:

You don’t want to end up with four exams over four days, and four papers due at once seems terrible. Take note of the exam schedule and the types of evaluations, and plan accordingly. It’s nice to have different types of evaluations – switching up the rhythm keeps you focused.

Using the priority letters:

For pre-lottery course selection, 2Ls get one “B” and one “C” priority letter for the entire year, and 3Ls get one “A,” “B,” and “C” for the year. Don’t use these priority letters on things that have piqued your interest just because they sound cool. Use the letters strategically to first get you into the courses that are prerequisites for other things you may want to take, then use the letters for popular classes that tend to have waitlists. 2Ls – if you have a desire to do corporate law, use your “B” for Bus. Org first term, and your “C” for Securities Regulation second term. These classes fill up quickly and have long waiting lists. 3Ls – I trust you’ve figured this out already.

Using the credit numbers:

Even if you only intend to take 13 credits one semester, bid for 16. May as well have more options and shop around on your own terms, rather than worrying about waitlists. If you intend on doing a moot, there’s no need to put it in your course selection choices as a 2L (if you are a 3L and have to do your moot, the system will make you add it as a course). Again, it’s better to try out a class that sounds interesting.

So…you get waitlisted:

If you get waitlisted for a class – fret not! The lists move quickly. I got into Prof. Shaffer’s Evidence class (very popular) from being #33 on the waitlist (I didn’t end up taking it, but that’s another story).  Wait it out. If you are waitlisted for a class, you do not need to drop it to get a place in another class. You can stay on as many waitlists as you wish, without giving up a full course load of classes in which you’re officially enrolled (16 credits).

Overall, best of luck and happy pickings! In the end if it all doesn’t work out, just take Sports Law. Even though it’s at 8:30 a.m., I hear it’s worth it.

Recent Stories