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Your First Year

Every lawyer remembers his or her first year of law school as if it was yesterday. At Cornell Law School, you will remember your first year as the apex of your academic career.

The hallmarks of the first year at Cornell Law are:

  • Classes taught by gifted scholars
  • The creation of lifelong friendships with classmates
  • Learning at nearly exponential rates
  • Most rigorous challenges in your academic life
  • Formation of close knit community and class identity
  • Unparalleled access to faculty
  • Discovery of hidden talents
  • Reaffirmation of your passion and purpose of pursuing a law degree
  • The most fun you have experienced in your academic career

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As a first year law student, all classes are required. Every First Year takes 16 credits each semester as listed below:

First-Year Courses – Fall
See Course Descriptions Below

  • Civil Procedure 3
  • Constitutional Law 4
  • Contracts 3
  • Lawyering 2
  • Property 4

First-Year Courses – Spring
See Course Descriptions Below

  • Civil Procedure 3
  • Contracts 3
  • Criminal Law 4
  • Lawyering 2
  • Torts 4

As a First Year student, you will be taught by our gifted faculty. Many faculty members hold academic chairs at the law school and are the authors on leading law casebooks in the subjects they teach.

First Year law students benefit from small classes and a close-knit learning environment. In the first semester, all students are assigned to a small section of only 32 students in Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, or Torts, and in Lawyering, taught by a faculty member.

The entire first year class is divided into 6 sections, which are assigned a letter A-F. Classes are taught with different sections. For example, a student in Section A this year will enjoy at least one class with every other section of the first year class except for one section, during the academic year!

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Sample Schedule – Section A

Fall 2008 Section A

Monday

10:10-11:05 Const’l Law Sections AEF
1:25-2:20 Property Only Section A
Tuesday

9:05-10:00 Civil Proc Sections AE
10:10-11:05 Const’l Law Sections AEF
1:25-2:20 Property Only Section A
2:30-3:25 Lawyering Only Section A
Wednesday

10:10-11:05 Const’l Law Sections AEF
11:15-12:10 Contracts Sections ADE
1:25-2:20 Property Only Section A
Thursday

9:05-10:00 Civil Proc Sections AE
10:10-11:05 Const’l Law Sections AEF
1:25-2:20 Property Only Section A
Friday

9:05-10:00 Civil Proc Sections AE
10:10-11:05 Lawyering Only Section A
11:15-12:10 Contracts Sections ADE

Spring 2009 Section A

Monday

9:05-10:00 Torts Sections AC
11:15-12:10 Criminal Law Sections ADE
2:30-3:25 Contracts Sections ADE
Tuesday

9:05-10:00 Torts Sections AC
11:15-12:10 Criminal Law Sections ADE
2:30-3:25 Contracts Sections ADE
Wednesday

10:10-11:05 Lawyering Only Section A
11:15-12:10 Criminal Law Sections ADE
1:25-2:20 Civil Proc Sections ADE
2:30-3:25 Contracts Sections ADE
Thursday

9:05-10:00 Torts Sections AC
11:15-12:10 Criminal Law Sections ADE
1:25-2:20 Civil Proc Sections ADE
Friday

9:05-10:00 Torts Sections AC
10:10-11:05 Lawyering Only Section A
1:25-2:20 Civil Proc Sections ADE

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First-Year Courses

Civil Procedure
Full year
6 credits

An introduction to civil litigation, from commencement of an action through disposition on appeal, studied in the context of the federal procedural system. Also, a detailed consideration of federalism and ascertainment of applicable law; jurisdiction, process, and venue; and former adjudication.

Constitutional Law
Fall
4 credits

A study of basic American constitutional law, including judicial review, some structural aspects of the Constitution as developed particularly in light of the passage of the Civil War amendments, and certain of its rights provisions.

Contracts
Full year
6 credits

An introduction to the nature, functions, and processes of exchange, contract, and contract law. The course focuses on the predominant rules and principles governing contract and related obligation, including the substantive reasons underlying the rules and principles.

Criminal Law
Spring
4 credits

An introductory study of the criminal law, including theories of punishment, analysis of the elements of criminal liability and available defenses, and consideration of specific crimes as defined by statute and the common law.

Lawyering
Full year
4 credits

Lawyering is a full-year course designed to introduce first-year students to lawyering skills, with primary emphasis on legal writing, analysis, research, and oral presentations. Assignments are usually set in the context of a simulated law office (or judge’s chambers). In the Fall semester, students write predictive memoranda that point out the strengths and weaknesses of their client's case. To prepare the memoranda, students may need to investigate and determine the facts of their client's case by conducting interviews or depositions. Students may also make an oral presentation to a supervising attorney. The Spring semester focuses on persuasive advocacy. Students prepare a memorandum, motion, or brief for submission to a court and, later, orally argue for their positions in a simulated court session. Throughout the year, students also learn the fundamentals of legal research. Instruction occurs not only in full-class sessions but also in individual conferences. Students receive extensive feedback on each major assignment.

Property
Fall
4 credits

This is a course in basic property law. It covers acquisitions of rights in property, estates in land, concurrent ownership, landlord/tenant relations, and regulation of land use.

Torts
Spring
4 credits 

An introduction to the principles of civil liability in the tort field: intentional wrongs, negligence, and strict liability. Attention is also given to the processes by which tort disputes are handled in our legal system.

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