You Read 16 Cases, What Do You Get?
Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

Dianna's post on credit worries inspired some thoughts of my own about my current courseload quandary. As you will recall, I'm signed up for 15 points right now. At Columbia Law, 12 points is the minimum you can take in a semester and 15 is the maximum. To graduate, I need 53 points. Generally, students do this by taking three 13-point semesters and one 14-point semester.

Right now, I'm signed up for Criminal Investigations (3 points), Anthropology and the Law (2 points), Corporations (4 points), Evidence (3 points), and Professional Responsibility (3 points). I should theoretically be shooting for 13 or 14 points, the standard courseload. I can't drop Corporations or Evidence; they're both major foundational courses that I'll need to take more interesting, job-related courses later on. I really don't want to drop Criminal Investigations, because it's taught by a professor whom I've heard is great and who will almost certainly be leaving the school after this semester. Moreover, it's a course that looks fun and it's a recommended prerequisite for a lot of other criminal law-related courses, which I'm interested in despite their irrelevance to my short-term career goals.

This leaves Anthropology and the Law and Professional Responsibility. Anthropology would fit my needs best, point-wise, since dropping it would put me in the 13-point comfort zone. And yet flipping through the reader makes me really not want to drop it. The material looks like genuinely engaging, and it'll be nice to do some reading produced outside of the world of legal scholarship. So: Professional Responsibility. Nobody likes it, and Columbia lets us get out of the requirement easily by taking an accelerated one-week course at the end of summer, which I could theoretically sign up for next year.

And yet... For one, it doesn't fit the points neatly. Dropping it would mean either adding another course or taking a light 12-point load. 12 points now would mean either two 14-point semesters or one 15-point semester. Adding another course would be tricky; I'm on a bunch of wait lists, but their all either for 3-credit lectures or for seminars I have no hope of getting into. The list of open courses is no help; everything that's available is for too many credits, requires prerequisites I don't have, or is on a subject I have no interest in. And taking PR now would get it out of the way... Plus, to be honest, Professional Responsibility sort of intrigues me. If nothing else, ethical questions about the hypothetical situations a lawyer could find herself in would make more interesting blog-fodder than such subjects as the Minority and Majority Rules for Piercing the Corporate Veil or the Hearsay Exception. And I've heard it isn't particularly hard. There's no casebook, instead we'll be working with an Examples and Explanations volume (E&E being a series of "hornbooks," books for law students that provide a clear explanation of the material in various standard courses. Most students buy some sort of hornbook to help them with classes that they have difficulty with, but they're generally used as an outside-of-class supplement, not as an actual textbook).

This leads me to consider staying where I am and taking 15 points. I've actually had good luck in the past with taking more credits than a sane person would. At Berkeley, I had one 14-credit semester (my first at school), two 20-credit semesters, and five 16-credit semesters (the average is ostensibly 15 credits, but 3-credit classes are relatively hard to come by, so most students either take 16 credits or 12 credits plus a 1-credit student-taught class). My best semesters, my only straight-A semesters, were my 20-credit ones. I found myself much better able to manage my time to do all my work, get the necessary studying in, go to all my classes, and put in 15 hours a week at the library. Somehow I could never get things together nearly as well when I was less busy. My theory is that increasing the amount of stuff I had to do greatly increased the marginal utility of organizing my life. In general I dislike organizing my time, so it doesn't get done unless the demands on my reach a crisis level. When I took 20 credits, life was a constant crisis that demanded a carefully-planned structure.

So I seem to get things together and do my best work when I'm under a lot of pressure. Of course, while those were my most successful terms, academically, they were not much fun to actually live through. Still, if I'm to be an attorney I should get used to budgeting my time to accomodate long hours of work. And I like learning things. Maybe this will be fun!

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on September 1, 2006 12:10 AM.

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