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Balancing the Goals and Creating Your Plan

You know that you want to graduate, pass the bar examination, and be prepared for the practice of law. This concluding section is designed to address some common questions and concerns that law students have as they reach for their goals.

What Should I Do Now? Your overarching goal in planning your course of study at Texas A&M University School of Law should be to meet your own goals; in that sense, there is no “one size fits all” plan. First and foremost, as you plan your course of study, consider what you hope to gain from your law school experiences. Then during the spring semester of your first year, we encourage you to map out the rest of your law school course of study to meet your needs. While you will probably have to adjust your course selections each semester based on course offerings and other factors, you can make those adjustments with your goals and corresponding planned course of study in mind.

How Can I Meet All Three Goals? In making decisions regarding your course schedule, we think it will be helpful if you step back and ask yourself—frequently—whether and how much your choices advance one or more of the three goals: graduation, preparing to pass the bar examination, and preparing to practice law. Keep in mind that there will be some overlap among the courses and goals. For example, most of the courses that you need to take to graduate and to help you prepare for the bar examination will also help you to prepare for the practice of law.

Is Anybody Available to Help Me? Yes. As you prepare to navigate the various scheduling options that exist, feel free to talk with any of your professors or any of the various deans, including the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, to get advice on your course of study. The Academic Support Program, led by Marta Miller '06, is also an excellent resource for planning your schedule.

When Should I Take the Required Courses? You may choose to take these advanced required courses as early as possible, or you may spread them out over your time in law school. As you decide when to take these courses, make sure you note the typical availability of each course to ensure you will be able to plan a course of study that includes all of them before your anticipated graduation date. Timing is especially important if you plan to participate in one of the two law journals or one of our many competition teams, such as moot court. In addition, as you decide when to take these advanced required courses, consider your own curricular interests and goals. For example, if you plan to pursue a certificate in Estate Planning, you should strongly consider taking Wills & Estates as soon as possible, so you can build on that course in later semesters.

Is it Really Possible to Prepare for the Bar Exam and Prepare for Practice at the Same Time? Yes. Keep in mind that it is not necessary (or indeed, possible) to take all of the courses we have identified as bar-related. And here is a balance that each student must strike for himself or herself. If you take none of these additional bar-related courses, you will find your commercial bar review course exceptionally difficult, and you will reduce your chances of success on the bar examination. But if you try to squeeze in most of these courses, you will eliminate your ability to specialize in areas of law that interest you or to take courses that prepare you for a particular area of practice. As a result, we recommend that you balance these goals by taking a combination of courses in your remaining semesters in law school. We encourage you to take at least five to seven of the bar-related courses identified above. Balance them with advanced electives that you pick because of your own intellectual curiosity or to explore a legal specialty to prepare for law practice. Ideally each semester would include a mix of bar-related and other elective courses.

Should My Schedule be Different if I Have Struggled Academically? If you are particularly concerned about passing the bar examination and especially if your cumulative GPA is in the fourth quartile of the class (typically around 2.70 – 2.75), you should also strongly consider taking at least the following eight advanced elective courses: Family Law; Secured Transactions; Payment Systems; Oil & Gas, Texas Pre-Trial Procedure; Consumer Law; Trusts & Fiduciary Responsibilities; and Guardianship.

In particular, we strongly encourage students who are struggling academically to meet with Marta Miller in Academic Support as soon as possible to map out a plan to effectively tackle bar-examination preparation.

What if I Don’t Know What Area of Law to Pursue? Again, it is worth noting that many of the courses required for graduation and helpful to bar examination preparation are also helpful to prepare you for law practice. Indeed, many of your upper-level required courses will expose you to areas of law with which you may not be familiar now. Thus, you do not necessarily need to focus your study in a particular area of law. But at any point where you know the type of law in which you wish to practice, you can tailor your course of study to better prepare you for that kind of practice.

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