News Release: Law, Teaching

Mar. 29,  2010

Emory Law Approves First-Year Curriculum Changes

The Emory University School of Law faculty has approved significant changes to the first-year curriculum, better positioning students for successful careers in legal practice.

Key changes include the addition of a new required first-year course in legislation and regulation and the creation of an elective course option during the second semester.

"The legal profession has changed in innumerable ways over the past few years," says David F. Partlett, dean and Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law. "At Emory Law, we saw the need to pursue curricular reforms that would better position our students in this new marketplace and better prepare them to make an immediate impact in the practice of law upon graduating."

The new legislation and regulation course introduces first-year students to the central role of legislatures and administrative agencies in the practice of law today. The course is a primary building block for constitutional law, administrative law, legislation and a number of specialized upper-level courses.

"In the administrative state governmental regulation dominates," Partlett says. "The addition of the legislation and regulation course exposes our students at the beginning of their legal training to the critical role this aspect of law will play in their future practice."

Emory Law is focused on preparing students for practice by helping them discern their legal path. By creating the first-year elective option, these curricular reforms give students the option to explore possible areas of legal interest or get a head start on a specific area of interest.

"One of the more unique features of the Emory Law curriculum is the availability to our first-year students of an elective course in the second semester," says Timothy P. Terrell, professor of law and chair of the curriculum committee during its two years of consideration of the reforms. "This unusual early opportunity for individual choice allows our students to begin pursuing special interests even as the basics of legal education are being stressed."

The list of elective courses offered will change from year to year. Students may select from upper-level courses that do not have prerequisite requirements. These courses will be offered as "building blocks" for more specialized legal study. Possible electives include administrative law, American legal history, business associations, family law, federal courts, intellectual property, international law, law and economics or products liability, among others.

"The elective is the most exciting change," says third-year student Stacy Tolos, the student representative to the curriculum committee. "In their first year, law students are put in the same classes, with the same students and focus on the same type of law."

"The elective will allow students to take at least one class that they are very interested in, providing them with much needed autonomy and choice. Exposure to a new subject of interest in the first year also will help students to choose their upper level courses more carefully and deliberately," Tolos says.

The curricular reforms will be supported by additional upper-level changes under consideration. Other changes to the first year include the reduction of civil procedure from a two-semester, six-credit-hour offering to a one-semester, four-credit-hour course.

The new course requirements take effect this fall for Emory Law's class of 2013.

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