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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 eight required courses that provide the theoretical foundation for all legal scholarship and help you to develop the lawyering skills you'll need for any legal career you choose:

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

Additionally, we offer Fundamental Business Principles as an optional one-unit Credit/No Credit course during the first half of the fall semester. This abbreviated course is designed to introduce students without prior education or experience in the business arena to basic business concepts. Such knowledge provides help to students in many upper division courses and in job interviews during the summer before the second year.

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 Support 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.