First year law school curriculum: What to expect

So you’ve rocked the LSAT, been accepted to law school, and sent your letter of acceptance: what happens now? First year is the most important year of law school. Your 1L grades will determine your class rank, the academic honors you’re awarded, and the job opportunities that are offered to you. With this in mind, what can you expect during your 1L law school curriculum?

Teaching method

During 1L year, you’ll learn the material through the Case Method. This is the method in which students will read, brief, and analyze court cases and be expected to participate in classroom discussions surrounding those cases.

Law school professors will often facilitate this discussion through the Socratic Method approach, where students will be called upon at random (cold-calling) to help them draw their own conclusions about the legal rules and their underlying theories, presumptions, and utilities.

You can read more about the Case Method and the Socratic Method here.

The classes

In general, the same seven foundational classes are taught during 1L year of law school. Those classes are Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Torts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Legal Research & Writing, and Property Law.

Civil Procedure

Also known as “Civ Pro,” this course teaches the students about the rules that the parties and judge must follow in civil cases. It covers the litigation method in the United States and the basics of a lawsuit, including pretrial procedures, discovery, motions, and appellate procedures.

Constitutional Law

Constitutional Law is an introduction to the U.S. Constitution and the different branches of U.S. government. It explores the separation of powers as well as individual constitutional rights and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

You can also expect to take a deep dive into the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment while taking this course.


Just as it sounds, this course is an overview of contracts, how they are formed, and what is considered a breach of contracts. It will also teach you about the damages that can occur when contracts are breached.


According to Cornell, “A tort is an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability. In the context of torts, “injury” describes the invasion of any legal right, whereas “harm” describes a loss or detriment in fact that an individual suffers.”

During this course, you’ll analyze the reasoning behind judgments in civil cases and the different types of claims (which can include battery, assault, trespass, or negligence).

Criminal Law and Procedure

Criminal Law will teach you what is classified as a “crime,” as well as the general principles of criminal liability. The course will analyze the rules for enforcing sanctions (a penalty for disobeying a rule or law) against those who have been accused of committing a crime. Most students consider this one of the most interesting classes in law school.

Legal Research and Writing

Considered one of the most useful classes in the law school curriculum, this is the course that will teach you how to research the law and how to write memos and briefs. It might also include teaching you how to present oral arguments in front of judges.

Property Law

Also known as “Real Property,” this course is an overview of the laws that govern purchase, possession, and sale of property in the U.S.

Considered one of the more difficult courses in law school, it analyzes the relationship between people and resources, land, buildings, and personal objects.

Summer jobs after 1L year

One of the most important reasons to ace your first semester of 1L year is to solidify your spot at the top of the class in preparation for OCI (On-Campus Interviewing). This is the process in which prestigious law firms and organizations visit law schools (or virtually, depending on COVID restrictions) and interview the best and brightest law students for summer employment before their 2L year.

This is important because when students do well in these roles, employers often extend an offer of permanent employment after law school. This is why it’s so crucial to do well your first semester of 1L year: these are the only grades these employers have to go off and will determine who they choose to interview.

How to get to the top of the class

Outside of making sure you’re dedicating enough time to your law school classes, students can also consider taking a law school prep course before starting their 1L year.

When you take the Law Preview course, real law professors teach you how to navigate the law school experience by introducing you to the core 1L material and proven strategies employed by the most successful students. This law school prep course gives you a comprehensive overview of the core classes you’ll be taking during your 1L law school curriculum.

The course includes 35 hours of an overview of the foundational classes we discussed above, as we as 7 hours devoted to Legal Research & Writing. More information about the course can be found here.

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