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Curriculum Overview

First Year — The Foundation

Our professors bring legal theory to life with creative and interactive lectures and presentations. Most classes are small, and the intimate learning environment fosters discussion and debate.

In your first year, you will take one required elective and eight required courses that provide the theoretical foundation for all legal scholarship:

  • Contracts
  • Law, Language and Values
  • Procedure
  • Torts
  • Constitutional Law: Structure
  • Criminal Law
  • Property
  • Legal Research, Writing and Advocacy

You will choose among the following electives during the spring semester:

  • Fundamental Business Principles (which introduces a broad range of business concepts, which are important for lawyers to understand, even those not engaged in transactional work)
  • Constitutional Law: Rights (focusing on equal protection and due process)
  • Ethical Issues For Public Interest, Government and Criminal Lawyers (Legal Profession) (for students interested in careers in public interest and the public sector)

Second and Third Years

Having acquired a solid foundation in the basic principles of law, the second and third years allow you to pursue the areas of legal and intellectual inquiry that excite you. You will be able to choose from more than 200 classes that can be as small as 10 students, allowing for vigorous debate and direct collaboration with faculty.

We offer numerous courses in every major area of the law, so you can concentrate in a particular area of concentration in addition to our highlighted areas of concentration.

In selecting the courses with the depth and breadth you wish to pursue, you will have access to one-on-one counseling with faculty members, the vice dean for Academic Affairs, the Registrar and the Student Services office. You'll also have numerous opportunities to meet alumni, leading practitioners and others who can share insights from their own experience that may help with your decision-making process. And you'll receive guidance on which prerequisites are needed before you can enroll in advanced coursework.

Numerous electives — particularly those on subjects that will be tested on the challenging California and New York bar exams — are offered every year, and often twice a year. While not all courses are offered every year, you will have a wide array of electives from which to choose. You can browse current and recent course descriptions for a sample.

Many USC Gould courses help you master legal writing and practical lawyering skills, which are in great demand among employers — who less and less frequently provide in-house, on-the-job training. To graduate, all students must complete an upper-division writing course as well as a practical skills course.