Updated September 2011
After completing the required first-year courses, J.D. students at Rutgers-Camden must fulfill four other requirements in order to graduate.
First, you must also successfully complete the Professional Responsibility course (this is also a prerequisite to enrolling in any of the Clinics and certain other courses, so we recommend that full-time students take it during their second year).
Second, you must complete a total of 84 academic credits (full-time students may enroll in courses carrying from 12 to 16, or in some cases 17 credits, each semester, as described in the Academic Rules and Regulations).1
Third, you must earn 3 writing credits before you graduate (writing credits are a totally different requirement than the 84 academic credits), and one of these writing credits needs to be an “intensive” writing experience.
Fourth, you must acquire skills of the kind necessary to allow you to participate effectively and responsibly in the legal profession, by satisfying the Upper-Level Lawyering Skills requirement – that is, specifically satisfactorily completing (with a grade of C- or better) an experiential learning course designated a “lawyering skills” course, such as a simulation course, a clinic, or a practice externship.
Before speaking specifically about course selection, a few more words about the writing credit requirement. You may earn writing credits by taking courses that offer optional or mandatory writing credits, including seminars and directed research (independent research under supervision of a member of the fulltime faculty). As of now, writing a Hunter moot court brief does not carry writing credit, although writing a law journal note may carry writing credit if the faculty supervisor of the journal certifies to the registrar that you should receive a writing credit for your note. Although there is no limit on the number of writing courses you can take, you may only count 2 writing credits in any given academic year (i.e. fall-spring sequence) toward the graduation requirement. This basically means that if you should take one writing course for each of three semesters (remember – one must be “intensive”) and you should also take one lawyering skills course.
Now, more specifically about how to select courses. If from the time you came to law school you have always wanted to be a patent lawyer, it would be easy to select courses. You would speak with our intellectual property faculty, consult the Academic Advice memo on Intellectual Property Law (under Information for Current Students on the Law School Website), and choose your courses accordingly.
If, however, you are like most law students, you may not know what kind of legal career you want to pursue. So here is what we recommend. In your second year, you should try to take a good selection of the traditional “building block” courses that expose you to subjects that lawyers generally should know about and that form the foundation of coherent course sequences in a variety of legal specialties.
What are some of these “building block” courses? Courses like Professional Responsibility, Evidence, Business Organizations, Introduction to Federal Income Taxation, Commercial Law: an Introduction to the Uniform Commercial Code, Administrative Law, Criminal Procedure, Health Law, Family Law, and Intellectual Property, are all among the courses that are often referred to either as “building blocks,” or traditional second-year courses. (This list is not meant to be exclusive, and cases could be made for including certain other courses on the list.) You need not take all of them, but you certainly should take some of them. Multiple sections of many of the building block courses are offered each year.
The building block courses are keys to establishing coherent course sequences in various legal specialties. Many of them are prerequisites to various upper level courses. For example, if you wanted to be a business lawyer, you could not take Mergers and Acquisitions without having taken Business Organizations. If you want to be a trial lawyer, you cannot join the Trial Advocacy Competition Team without having taken Trial Advocacy, and you cannot take Trial Advocacy unless you have had both Evidence and Professional Responsibility. (Prerequisites are listed for specific courses in our on-line catalogue.) For course sequences leading to expertise in particular legal specialties, I encourage you to read the various Academic Advice memos available on the website that have been prepared by the faculty (under Information for Current Students).
So establishing coherent course sequences is important. What are some other considerations you could take into account in choosing your courses?
You should be sure to take courses that will help you to acquire the skills that will allow you to be a proficient lawyer. These include not only problem-solving, reasoning, research, and writing or drafting skills, but also interviewing, counseling, negotiation, and advocacy skills. Although many elective courses teach these skills, the experiential learning, simulation courses, and live-client opportunities in our upper-level curriculum focus on them.
You might consider potential employment. If you want to work at a large firm that primarily serves private clients, it would behoove you to take at least some courses that suggest that you have interest in doing what the firm does. I once had a research assistant at another law school who was extremely bright and had great grades from her first year courses, but couldn’t get any private firm interviews for her second summer. The reason as it turned out, was that in her third semester of law school she took every course on gender, sexuality and jurisprudence that the law school offered (there were several such courses), but nothing suggesting any interest in preparing herself for the kind of practice for which the potential employer needed new associates.
You ought also to consider stretching your mind. Some of the building block courses will do this. For example, few students expect to like taxation, but of those who take it, almost all are surprised at how stimulating the course is and the range of fundamental policy questions it implicates. Some, indeed, decide to be tax lawyers because of it. To take another example, if you are taking all business law courses, think of taking a legal philosophy, history or literature course – something that will provide intellectual nourishment as well as a change of pace.
Some faculty members have “do not miss” reputations. The Rutgers-Camden faculty is an exceptional teaching faculty. Some of its members are such wonderful teachers that you will remember taking courses with them well into the future. Think of taking courses from some of these individuals. The experience will be well worth your while.
Some of you will want to get some “hands on” experience. For those who seek experiential learning or real-world practical experience, we offer a wide range of clinical courses, simulation courses (like Alternative Dispute Resolution; Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiation; Pretrial Advocacy; Trial Advocacy; Litigation and others) as well as externship experiences that will get you representing clients in real life or role plays, and learning intensively by doing.
Periodically someone asks whether it makes sense to take courses that are going to be on the bar examination. Some of our faculty believe you should think about taking some of the courses you will encounter on the bar exam(s) you plan to take. First, you need to think about which bar exam(s) you plan to take and figure out which subjects are tested on those exams in addition to the six subjects (Constitutional Law; Contracts and Sales; Criminal Law and Procedure; Evidence; Real Property and Torts) covered on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). Currently, on the essay and performance test portions of their bar exams, numerous jurisdictions test on many various subjects in addition to the six MBE subjects already listed. You may want to consider choosing courses which cover these subjects so that you are not left with learning all of these additional subjects immediately prior to the bar exam(s). There are many factors which go into course selection with respect to preparing for the bar examination and, thus, we recommend that you visit the Bar Preparation link for more specific and detailed advice. You may also contact Alison M. Nissen, Director of Academic Success at email@example.com or Angela V. Baker, Dean of Students, firstname.lastname@example.org for individual counseling.
1 The American Bar Association has abolished the “residence credit” requirement that used to exist. You must complete the requirements for your J.D. no sooner than 24 months from matriculation in the Law School, and no later than 84 months from matriculation.