|Courses & Academics - Our Educational Program|
The First Year
Undoubtedly, the first year can be daunting for law students adjusting to a grueling schedule and demanding course load. Nonetheless, those with a demonstrated work-ethic and solid study habits will find their place among a sense of community with fellow students and an environment of mutual support. The education provided by this shared experience will long remain a source of intellectual excitement and close friendships for students. The low student- faculty ratio allows for small sections that increase participation and provide students with essential feedback on their progress.
The First -Year Curriculum
Instruction in the first year embraces a variety of course work that introduces the beginning law student to the vast array of legal subjects:
This course focuses on the law governing private agreements and analyzes the criteria for determining whether or not a particular promise or voluntary agreement is legally enforceable, surveying the major legal issues affecting enforceable agreements. These issues include the questions of when a contract becomes binding and what persons acquire rights under a contract, the conditions under which performance is required or excused and what constitutes breach of contract. Attention will be given throughout the course to the general problems of interpreting contract language, the role of contracts in a market society, the conflict between the commercial need for certainty and the demands of individual fairness and the relationship between contract laws and other areas such as torts, property, and restitution.
This course entails an comprehensive analysis of property as a social institution and as a dynamic system for recognizing and protecting competing claims to resources. Major problem areas to be studied include the historical development of various kinds of interests in property. Housing, landlord and tenant, public and private land use, planning and development, and the sale and financing of real estate.
This course focuses on personal injury law as it has developed within the Angelo-American legal tradition. In particular, the concept of negligence and the refinements of negligence law will be extensively considered. The doctrine of intentional torts will be examined. Contemporary rules and strict liability are carefully studied because of both their intrinsic importance and their theoretical implications. Treating the need for victim compensation as a societal problem, the course will deal with alternatives to the tort system such as no-fault. Throughout the course, there will be an effort to identify the basic goals that our tort system achieves, or should achieve.
Legal Research and Writing
This course emphasizes the basics of effective legal writing through regular assignments, including proper citation forms. Students will learn to frame issues and analyze and legal concepts in reaching a conclusion.
Second, Third, and Fourth Year Courses
This is a course about the processes that courts follow in deciding disputes in non-criminal cases. It deals with the way in which conflicts are framed for courts, the stages through which litigation goes, the division of power among the various decision-makers in the legal system and between the state and federal courts, the territorial limitations on the exercise of the judicial power, the principles that define the consequences of a decision once a court has finished with a case, and special disputants. Throughout the course, considerable attention will be devoted to the ways in which our beliefs about fairness (in particular those embodied in the U.S. Constitution) shape the design of the process.
This course covers selected topics in substantive criminal law: principles underlying the definition of crime (such as the requirements of actus reus and mens rea) and the general doctrines such as ignorance of fact and ignorance of law, causation, attempt, complicity and conspiracy. Principles of justification and excuse are examined with particular attention to the doctrines of necessity, intoxication, insanity, diminished capacity and automatism. The substantive offense of homicide is extensively reviewed, as are from time to time other offenses, such as theft. Emphasis is placed on the basic theory of the criminal law and the relationship between doctrines and the various justifications for imposition of punishment.
This course examines ways in which the United States Constitution (a) distributes power among the various units of government in the American political system, and (b) limits the exercise of those powers. The course considers two sets of structural limitations of government: the division between the Nation and the States in the federal system, and the separation of the powers among the three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) of the national government. It also considers the Civil War Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th) as limits on the states and as sources of congressional power. A major focus throughout is the proper role of the judiciary in limiting the action of other branches of the government.
Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code dealing with transactions in goods or contracts for the sale of goods is studied in detail. The principles of personal property law, the rights and duties of the buyer and seller; passage of title; risk of loss; warranty obligation; reproductions; breach; excuse; sellers remedies; buyers remedies are explored. Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code deals with transactions which are founded on a security interest or agreement. Creation and perfection of a security interest; priority problems; bankruptcy liens; proceeds; default; bulk sales. Articles 3 and 4 of the Uniform Commercial Code deal with commercial paper. The introduction to instruments, requirements of negotiability, liability between parties to an instrument, holders in due course, check collection process and the legal relationship between a bank and its customer are all covered extensively.
A study of the standards of conduct among members of the legal profession, involving their moral and professional duties to one another, to clients, to the public, and to the courts. Emphasis on the history, duties, values and responsibilities of the legal profession will be stressed.
Advanced Legal Writing
This required course builds upon the fundamental and essential legal writing skills used in the every day practice of law. Students will focus more intensely on improving and elevating their skills to the fine art of clear, cogent and analytical writing.
The system of rules and principles which originated in England as an alternative to the harsh rules of common law and which were based on what was fair in a particular situation are thoroughly vetted. Special attention is devoted to the history of equity, powers of courts of equity, equitable remedies and defenses to equitable relief.
This course deals with the admission of proof during the fact-finding stage of a legal dispute. Rules governing relevancy, authentication, hearsay, privileges, presumptions and burdens of proof are taught, covering both the state and federal rules of evidence.
This course canvases the procedural steps through which a criminal case proceeds and examines the criminal justice system; right to counsel; 6th amendment; due process; 4th amendment; search and seizure; exclusionary rule; probable cause; 5th amendment; privilege against self-incrimination; police interrogation.
Lawyering Skills: Theory and Practice
Particularly mindful of a legal education that provides more skill-centered experience while students are still in school, the required Lawyering Skills affords students the opportunity to explore the relationship between legal analysis and the lawyering tasks such as effective, oral advocacy and legal research. Students achieve this experience through course work as well as working on simulated cases in both a courtroom and law office setting taking depositions, mock mediation sessions, interviewing witnesses, and preparing case memoranda. During the year students interview and counsel clients, do legal research, and draft legal memoranda and contracts. In the second semester, students prepare a case for trial, develop a discovery plan, interview and depose witnesses and argue motions before a judge. Throughout the entire year, the course focuses on the principles of legal analysis and argumentation as well as lawyering techniques.
Wills and Trusts
Laws dealing with the passing of a decedent's property at death to survivors will be thoroughly dissected, including cases dealing with interstate succession, execution and revocation of wills, limitations on testamentary power, will substitutes, probate and contest of wills and administration and distribution of estates. Students will focus on the study of the fiduciary relationship which exists when a property right is held by one party for the benefit or use of another. The creation of express trusts, charitable trusts, resulting and constructive trusts; powers and duties of the trustee; alteration or termination of the trusts and remedies of beneficiaries will be explored.
This course draws heavily on student participation in learning trial techniques: trial preparation; jury selection; opening statement; direct examination; exhibits; cross-examination; closing arguments, objections. Students demonstrate their mastery of the rules of evidence and civil procedure through role playing as defense lawyers or prosecuting attorneys in criminal cases, or lawyers representing the plaintiff or defendant in civil cases.
Students are responsible for briefing and orally arguing a case for appellate review as either the appellant or appellee. By submitting an appellate brief, students must again show proficiency with their legal research and writing skills.
Conflicts of Law
This course involves the study of the problems and proposed solutions of multi-sovereign jurisdictions with conflicting policies, practices and laws.