Two students speak to each other in the lobby of Jerome Greene Hall.

J.D. Advising

From the time you are accepted until the day you graduate, Columbia Law School’s academic advising services are here to help you navigate the entire scope of your legal education.

Meet the Team
Our advisers are committed to helping you acclimate to law school life and build a personalized curriculum.

J.D. Advising Team:

Transfer Students and Dual Degrees
If you are a transfer student or considering a dual or joint degree, you should meet with an academic adviser at the start of your first year here to assess your required course load. You are also welcome to make an appointment to discuss any academic concerns you may have.

For more information regarding academic policies, review the following:

As you read through this guide and the course schedule and think about next semester, you can always reach out to us with any questions by emailing Student Services.

For the latest information on curriculum, special programs, and experiential learning opportunities, visit the course guide.

How Does the Course Registration Lottery System Work?
The Law School uses a lottery system as part of the course pre-registration process for each term. When you “pre-register,” your selections are entered into the lottery for that term. 

In general:

  • All students are divided into one of three categories (2Ls, 3Ls, and LL.M.s), and within each category are randomly assigned a lottery number. 
  • Students may select a primary choice for each numbered slot in their pre-registration forms.
  • Students may also select an alternate choice for each numbered slot. (If a choice is listed as an alternate, it may not later be listed as a primary choice.) The lottery system will “pre-register” you for a total of up to 15 points.
  • The lottery system runs through the pre-registration forms based on a lottery number. For each choice, the lottery system attempts to assign the student to their primary choice. If that is not available, then the system waitlists the student for the primary choice and attempts to assign the student to their alternate choice if one has been entered. (If your alternate choice is full, you will not be assigned to a waitlist for the alternate choice.)
  • The system first gives each LL.M. student two choices (numbers one and two on their pre-registration form). However, unless the instructor has designated otherwise, not more than one-third of seats in a class may be LL.M.s.
  • Then, each 3L gets two choices, followed by each 2L getting one choice.
  • Next, in order, LL.M.s get a third choice, 3Ls get a third choice, LL.M.s get a fourth choice, 3Ls get a fourth choice, and 2Ls get a second, third, and fourth choice. 

We are here to help you select and register for classes. Careful planning is recommended in the course selection, as the lottery system does not guarantee that you will be placed in courses.

Review the Registration Services Handbook for more detailed information about the lottery and registering for classes.

Course Selection Tips
Here’s the good news—it is hard to make bad choices. The life of the law tends to be broad and encompasses many different areas of knowledge. You will learn something from each of your classes, and you may find that you excel in courses you did not expect to like. Try not to overthink the process. 

That said, there are some useful things to focus on when choosing courses during your 2L and 3L years. Law school seems long when you begin, but after the required courses of your first year, four semesters go quickly. We often hear from students that they just did not get a chance to take everything they wanted to!

Not sure what classes to take next semester or align with your particular career goals? Check out some suggestions from Columbia Law full-time faculty and adjunct faculty based on their own experiences as law students and practitioners.

Balance breadth and depth. Take a broad sampling of classes in different areas. There are many interesting courses and subject areas to explore. 

If you are interested in a particular subject or practice area, you may find it useful to drill down in that particular area. Think of taking two or three courses in a particular subject matter, perhaps a large doctrinal course followed by a smaller seminar. That should give you a sense of what it means to delve more deeply into one area. 

Remember not to concentrate too much in one particular area. You may have some idea of what you would like to study or a particular career path, but these things can change, and you want to retain some breadth in your studies.

There’s no such thing as a “must-take” doctrinal course. There are many considerations that go into deciding what courses to take before you leave law school. For example, if you want to pursue a judicial clerkship, think about taking a course on federal courts. Also consider at least one course that involves a particular governmental agency—since many areas of law involve agency regulation—as well as courses on corporate law, criminal and civil litigation, labor and employment law, environmental law, securities law, and the social or political impact of the law on a particular group or aspect of society.

Explore international law. Look beyond the United States’ border when thinking about your legal education. The Law School’s international offerings are exceptionally diverse, spanning public law issues like comparative legal systems to private law issues like the conduct of international arbitrations. 

Do some writing. Take several courses during your upper years that involve significant pieces of writing. Taking a course that requires legal writing is a good opportunity to:

  • Think through a particular legal issue in-depth and sharpen your legal analytical skills.
  • Get to know and interact with a faculty member.
  • Produce a writing sample for later use.
  • Fulfill requirements such as Major Writing and Minor Writing.
  • Develop the basis for a journal note.

In general, writing is excellent practice for a wide range of careers, both legal and non-legal.

Balance exams with writing. Most courses will use either an exam or a long paper to evaluate you. Think about this ahead of time when planning your course load—you probably do not want to write five long papers or take five exams at once.

Do something experiential. Look into experiential courses, which range from clinics and externships to skills-based courses. These include the Negotiations Workshop, Lawyering for Change, Trial Practice, the Deals Workshop, and many seminars where you’ll practice legal skills and think about the law in a new way. Learning about the theoretical framework of the law is important, but getting a firsthand look at the work that lawyers actually do will enrich your educational experience and help prepare you for life in practice. All of our law students must earn at least six experiential points before graduation.

Build relationships with faculty members. Faculty members can provide valuable advice and a useful perspective on the world beyond law school. Focus on building relationships with full-time and clinical faculty, who often teach multiple classes in related areas and are doing research and writing in interesting areas. Take small classes (such as seminars or colloquia) in a faculty member’s area of interest, follow up with visits to their office hours, and offer to do research or writing in their area.

Take courses that pique your interest. If something sounds enticing but is not a focus or something you will use “practically,” take it anyway. Intellectual exploration in law school is vital. Many people have also found that taking a class with a wonderful teacher, regardless of subject matter, was one of the wisest decisions they made in choosing courses. 

Value perspectives from adjunct faculty. Practitioners bring a unique perspective to their areas of expertise, and it can be especially useful to take a course with an adjunct professor in an area you could see yourself pursuing professionally. Adjunct professors can also provide helpful advice as you begin to navigate your career choices.

 

 

Student Services hosts lunchtime lecture series on topics related to study skills and course selection.

The Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy Academic Success Lecture Series

Every semester, Student Services partners with student organizations and faculty to host academic success panels. These informative discussions help first-year students acclimate to the Law School and provide advice for academic success and making the most of law school.

Spring 2020:

Lessons Learned from First Semester (January):
After receiving their first semester grades, many 1Ls often ask themselves questions like, "What should I take away from last semester? What's the best way to move forward? How important are first semester grades? What if I'm not happy with how I did?” Law School faculty join this lunch to provide candid and helpful insight into how best to answer those questions and more.

Focus Friday
Adjusting to the demands of law school can be tough for even the best students. To help you sharpen your abilities and add new study skills to your toolbox, your academic advisers host weekly Focus Friday sessions. During these sessions, our goal is to provide you with practical advice and strategies to help you achieve academic success.

 

Dean Yadira Ramos-Herbert

Much of what you will remember about law school is what happened inside the classroom, so choosing courses is a very significant piece of your time here. We are here to help you, and we welcome any opportunity to talk to you about this (and anything else, including how things are going once classes start) in person. Good luck!

Dean Yadira, Joel, Robert, and Jennifer