Choosing Your Path

Choosing Your Path

A Holistic Approach to Your Course of Study

We prepare students to thrive in many practice areas, from business and corporate law to public policy and criminal and civil litigation. Given the range of possibilities, our holistic approach helps you discern the academic path that best fits your interests, skills, and ambitions.

One way of thinking about your choices is through the metaphor of a tree: Your first-year foundational courses represent a flourishing root system, your core group of upper-level courses in several areas forms a solid trunk, and more specialized courses branch out from the sturdy trunk.

This is only one example of a course of study—you can construct many other paths. What follows is some advice to keep in mind as you craft your own course of study.


Course Selection Tips

  1. Create a foundation of knowledge by taking introductory courses in a number of core areas, including:
    • Administrative law
    • Business law
    • Criminal law and criminal procedure
    • Environmental law and land use
    • Evidence
    • Family law
    • International law
    • Intellectual property
    • Labor and employment law
    • Tax
  1. Develop specialized knowledge by taking a reasonable concentration of courses in one or two areas that interest you.

  2. Diversify your perspective with a range of courses—to broaden your capabilities and satisfy the Perspectives on Justice and the Law requirement.

  3. Continue strengthening your research and writing skills through clinics, the ABA Upper-Level Writing course, and other opportunities.

  4. Sharpen your practical skills by taking clinical courses, externships, and other experiential courses.

  5. Fulfill course requirements for graduation and admission to the bar, including a course on Professional Responsibility.

Be sure to discuss your course selections with your advisors, your current professors, and professors with expertise in areas that interest you. You should also check what subjects are tested on the Multistate Bar Examination and individual state bar exams via the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Most jurisdictions also mandate completion of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as a prerequisite for taking a bar exam and being admitted to practice law. Some jurisdictions also limit the number of clinical or co-curricular credits that may be applied toward a law degree. Find information about these and other bar admission requirements on the National Conference of Bar Examiners site.

When Courses Are Offered

  • We offer most courses in one section each year.
  • We usually offer required courses in three or more sections each year.  While many courses satisfy the Upper-Level Writing or Lawyering Skills requirement, some courses focus specifically on Advanced Legal Writing or Advanced Legal Research. We offer multiple sections of these courses each semester.
  • We offer other select courses in three sections each year because they attract such large numbers of students. Typically, these courses are Corporations and Evidence.
  • We offer select courses in two sections each year because they attract such large numbers of students. These typically include Administrative Law, IP Survey, Criminal Procedure, Secured Transactions, Tax I, Trusts and Estates, Mediation, and Dispute Negotiation.
  • We offer some specialized or advanced courses once every two years because they appeal to smaller numbers of students.
    • Courses usually offered in academic years ending with an even number:
      • American Indian Law
      • Art of Lawyering and the Commercial Lease
      • Death Penalty Seminar
      • Environmental Law: Clean Water Act
      • Mental Health and the Law
    • Courses usually offered in academic years ending with an odd number:
      • Admiralty Law
      • Compliance and Performance Counseling
      • Conducting Internal Investigations
      • Food and Drug Law
      • International Arbitration
      • Patent Litigation
      • Prosecutorial Ethics
      • Seminar on Law and Higher Education
      • White Collar Crime

Also note that we develop new courses and cease offering others as legal, social, and economic developments warrant.

Start your business law studies with basic courses covering areas that consistently arise in modern business practice, including Corporations, Taxation I, Secured Transactions and Employment Law. If you’re interested in intellectual property, consider taking copyright, patent, and trademark courses. If you’re interested in corporate or corporate transactions practice, take Tax II and Securities Regulation.

After you complete the basic courses, increase the depth of your knowledge in particular areas like commercial law, bankruptcy, and securities. Then complete your studies by taking advanced courses that provide practical experience or advanced theoretical study. These courses are designed primarily for 3Ls who have already taken other courses from the business law curriculum.

Find more in Business Law

We recommend that all students seriously consider taking courses in criminal justice. Clients in civil matters often require advice about whether certain actions may bring exposure to criminal sanction, making a background in criminal law valuable for all lawyers. Criminal Procedure is a basic course often taken to complement the 1L Criminal Law course. Students interested in Criminal Law should also take Evidence. Advanced courses in criminal justice include International Criminal Law, Mental Health Law, Juvenile Justice Seminar, and National Security Law.

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Experiential education courses give students the opportunity to work on actual issues in a variety of settings under the supervision of practicing attorneys, judges, and faculty.

During clinical courses, students perform litigation or transactional activities while representing actual clients. In externship courses, students assist practicing lawyers in representing clients or observe judges in litigation.

The Massachusetts student practice rule allows 3L students to represent indigent clients and government agencies in both civil and criminal matters. 2L students are limited to civil representation. The student practice rule requires that a student be currently enrolled in or have successfully completed Evidence or Trial Practice. (We define “successfully completed” as obtaining a grade of C or better.)

Enrollment in all clinical courses is limited. Contact the Center for Experiential Learning for more information on clinical offerings.

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If you’re interested in practicing family law, start with the introductory Family Law course. Then advance your studies with such courses as Trusts and Estates, Estate and Gift Tax, Employee Benefits Law, and Family Law Practice. You should also consider completing the Civil Litigation Clinic since a significant number of the problems handled at the Legal Assistance Bureau involve domestic matters.

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As the increasing importance of technology makes intellectual property part of every business, students interested in most types of practice find valuable insights in these courses. Intellectual property is especially useful if you’re interested in technology, entertainment, or publishing.

You’ll build your foundation with our Intellectual Property Survey and basic courses like Copyright, Trademark, and Patent Law. Then proceed to advanced courses, including Patent Litigation, Telecommunications Law, Entertainment Law, Sports Law, and Art Law.

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The increasing globalization of society, including the economy, makes literacy in international law a necessity. In addition to the basic International Law course, we offer many other courses in this area, including Foreign Relations, International Trade, European Union Law, International Human Rights, and Semester in Practice: London/International.

Students interested in an international law practice should also consider participation in one of the law school’s
international exchange programs. Presently, the law school has exchange programs with the following institutions:
• Trinity, Dublin, Ireland (English language program)
• Sorbonne, Paris, France (French language program)
• HEAD, Paris, France (English language program)
• Bucerius, Hamburg, Germany (English language program)

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All students must take a course that satisfies the Lawyering Skills requirement. Numerous courses develop lawyering skills in the context of studying substantive law or simulating lawyering activities such as interviewing, negotiation, research, drafting transactional documents, and courtroom advocacy. Any course that carries the new ABA Experiential Learning designation also fulfills the Lawyering Skills requirement.

Find a full list of courses meeting this requirement at registration and through Academic Services.

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We recommend that all students seriously consider taking Evidence. Students interested in litigation practice can focus on:

  • Traditional courses: These center on the knowledge necessary to thrive as a litigator, including case law, statutes, and rules governing litigation. The teaching method is primarily analysis of cases and rules in a classroom setting. Examples include Evidence, Federal Courts, Conflict of Laws, Civil Rights Litigation, and Complex Civil Litigation.
  • Simulation courses: These emphasize litigation skills. The primary teaching methods are mock exercises and role playing. Examples include Trial Practice, Appellate Advocacy, Family Law Practice, Civil Motion Practice, and Advanced Evidence: Trial Objections.

Most lawyers’ careers will include alternative dispute resolution procedures. Our courses covering these processes include Arbitration, Dispute Negotiation, International Arbitration, and Mediation.

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If you’re interested in land use law and environmental law, consider taking Land Use Planning, Environmental Law, Real Estate Finance, Administrative Law, and Local Government Law. We offer an extensive variety of electives, including courses covering commercial leases, regulation of hazardous materials, air and water pollution law, housing law, and compliance counseling for corporate clients.

If you’re interested in estate planning, you can prepare for a concentrated practice in real and personal property and wealth transfers by completing Trusts and Estates, Estate and Gift Tax, Employee Benefits Law, and Estate Planning.


Find more in Property Law

The majority of modern legal practice is heavily weighted toward public law. Rules made by local, state, federal, and international governmental bodies dominate most of today’s functional law in virtually every area of practice.

We recommend that all students pursue sufficient studies in this area to feel comfortable with the processes of how laws are created and implemented in the modern administrative state. Take at least one course that provides you with direct experience in how complex regulations can be interpreted and applied to corporate or individual clients.

Courses in these areas include Administrative Law, Environmental Law, Immigration Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, and Semester in Practice: DC.


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Upper-level courses that emphasize research and writing are valuable because they encourage deeper understanding of material and build valuable professional skills.

Find a list of courses satisfying the Upper-Level Writing requirement at registration and through Academic Services.


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Number of Required Credits

In the upper-level curriculum, you must enroll in 12–17 credits to maintain full-time student status. You need a minimum of 85 credits to graduate.

You should earn 32 credits your first year, which means you’ll have to complete 53 credits in your 2L and 3L years. In your 2L and 3L years combined you must have at least 32 credits from in-class courses at BC Law. These 32 credits cannot include:

  • Semester in Practice and other externship credits (other than those for the seminar portion)
  • Law review credits and Moot Court credits
  • Independent Study credits
  • Credits from dual degree classes not taken at BC Law
  • Classes taken at other parts of Boston College or at other non-law schools or institutions

2L and 3L Electives

Nearly all of your 2L and 3L credits will be electives—except for the required Professional Responsibility course.

Of your electives, you’ll need courses that satisfy the following distribution requirements:

  • Perspectives on Justice and the Law
  • ABA Upper-Level Writing
  • Lawyering Skills (satisfied by successful passage of Law Practice I and the spring 1L Experiential elective)

Lists of courses satisfying these requirements are available at registration.