Academic Planning Advice

Academic Planning: General Advice

Mary A. Hotchkiss, Director of Academic Planning

As you consider what courses to take next year, I encourage you to share information with each other. Seek advice from upper-class students, your peer mentors, professional mentors, and faculty mentors. You can talk to any faculty member, not just your mentor. Consider talking to a professor whose class you might like to take. Please remember that not everyone in a course will emerge with the same experience. Weigh the information you receive carefully. Some general points to keep in mind:

Plan a balanced program: After your first year, you have only three requirements: a course in Professional Responsibility, 60 hours of Public Service, and completion of an advanced writing project. You need a minimum of 135 credits to graduate. This means you have 85+ hours of electives. Plan a course of study that provides a strong, general foundation for practice. Although we offer seven "concentration tracks," there is no expectation that when you graduate you will be a specialist or have focused on specific subject areas.

  • Balance paper and exam courses, doctrinal courses and perspectives courses, skills courses, and field experiences. Take a "liberal arts" approach to your legal education: sample different areas of legal practice through seminars and electives outside your primary areas of interest.
  • We offer multiple sections of various upper-level electives each year: Administrative Law, Basic Income Tax, Civil Procedure II, Closely Held Business Organizations, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, Family Law, Federal Courts, and Secured Transactions. Other heavily-subscribed electives include Community Property, Indian Law, International Law, Negotiations, Payment Systems, Pre-Trial Practice, Sales, and Torts II. Be sensitive to timing issues; many electives are prerequisites for specialized courses or clinics.

Keep the bar exam in mind: Taking a variety of courses in core areas helps prepare you for the bar exam and practice. Bar subjects vary from state to state. We have posted on the web a list of relevant courses that address subjects tested on the Washington State bar in the course catalog

Capitalize on our strengths: One of our strengths is our lawyering skills curriculum. The curriculum includes clinics and externships, simulation courses, research and writing courses, and advocacy courses. We have an outstanding selection of clinics, including: Child Advocacy, Entrepreneurial Law, Immigration Law, Innocence Project Northwest, Low-Income Taxpayer, Mediation, Refugee Advocacy, Tribal Court Criminal Defense, and Unemployment Compensation Law. We also have a variety of simulation courses that provide experience in interviewing and counseling clients, negotiating on behalf of clients, and participating in mock hearings or trials. Our Trial Advocacy series offers students small-group instruction and extensive feedback. And upper-level research and writing courses and seminars provide excellent opportunities to develop and refine critical practice skills.

Another strength is our support for interdisciplinary study. Today’s attorneys need to understand the relationship between law and other disciplines such as international studies, business, medicine, history, philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities. While some law students will pursue concurrent degrees, all students should consider courses, in and outside of the law school, that add perspective on the law and its role in society.

The bottom line: You have tremendous freedom to shape your course of study. Take the time to develop a strong, balanced knowledge base. While planning a coherent academic program is your individual responsibility, remember that faculty and staff are ready, willing, and able to offer their assistance. We encourage you to take advantage of the planning sessions over the next 20 days, whether hosted by your peer mentors, by concentration track advisors, or general advising offered by Academic Services.

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