New York, Jan. 14, 2010
— The first year of law school is typically marked by long hours of reading and studying after a full day of rigorous classes and events, but students at Columbia Law School
are rewarded for their labors with the freedom of choice.
It comes in the form of being able to pick from one of seven innovative electives offered
in the spring semester, which began this week.
“It is important for students to have the opportunity to pursue their professional passions at every stage of their legal education,” said David M. Schizer, Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, who revamped the foundation curriculum after becoming dean in 2004. “Adding an elective to their academic requirements at the beginning of their training allows and encourages students to consider and to develop their unique contribution to the profession in their first year of study.”
First-year electives, which supplement such core classes as Contracts, Property, and Torts, are still a relative rarity in law schools nationwide. A 2006 survey by the Association of American Law Schools
found that, of 102 schools responding, only 19 offered some version of a first-year elective.
At Columbia Law School, electives—which delve into topics ranging from the First Amendment to intellectual property to legislation— are not just a welcome addition to the first year of courses, they are a requirement.
By providing a range of electives, the Law School is able to offer first-year students small class sizes, allowing for close interaction between students and professors. These courses are designed to broaden and deepen the first-year academic experience.
Associate Professor Matthew Waxman
, who is teaching a first-year elective called The United States and the International Legal System, said he aims to motivate students to think about legal issues along international dimensions during their first year.
“It’s an exciting time to study these issues—including the role of Congress in foreign affairs and the infusion of international and foreign law in American jurisprudence—because almost every day we see a front-page news story involving them,” Waxman said.
Having access to a class during their first year like the one taught by Waxman is something Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, the Law School’s dean of students, said many students appreciate—and remember.
“Many students identify the opportunity to take these special courses as one of the highlights of their academic experience.”
Columbia Law School
, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.