The first-year curriculum consists of 22 credits of required classes and 6 credits of electives. Half of all first-year classes are taught in sections of 60 or fewer students.
Your first year of study at Northwestern will focus on building a solid foundation in legal reasoning, analysis, and writing, as well as a thorough understanding of the structures and policies of the law.
Teamwork and communication skills are also strongly emphasized in classes such as Communication and Legal Reasoning, a required year-long course in which students collaborate on analytical exercises and group projects. Part of this class involves participation in the Arlyn Miner First-Year Moot Court.
Another supplement to your first-year education is the Lawyer as Problem Solver program. Faculty and legal professionals teach this mandatory seminar, in which students learn how to facilitate problem solving for clients in settings outside the courtroom or boardroom.
At the end of the year, you may apply for a position on one of the Law School’s scholarly journals. Selection is based on a writing competition, first-year grades, and a publishable note or comment on a legal topic.
The following required first-year courses provide a basic foundation in law and legal reasoning:
Civil Procedure (3 credits) focuses on the rules that structure federal and state civil litigation.
Communication and Legal Reasoning I and II (2 credits per semester) offers instruction in legal reasoning, research, writing, and oral argument, as well as exercises to encourage teamwork and collaboration. Classes are often facilitated by guest speakers and panelists.
Constitutional Law (3 credits) provides a general introduction to the U.S. Constitution's allocation of power between the branches of the federal government and to the grants of and limitations on the substantive powers of the government.
Contracts (3 credits) explores the nature and enforceability of promises and bargains and the remedies available for nonperformance.
Criminal Law (3 credits) emphasizes the general principles of criminal liability and examines the elements and defenses of the laws that criminalize behavior.
Property (3 credits) examines the philosophical origins of property rights, and the rules that govern the acquisition and transfer of property rights, and the private and public means of the regulation of property.
Torts (3 credits) explores the policies and rules of the private law system that provide compensation for injuries to persons and property.
During the second semester of your first year, you have the opportunity to take 2 upperclass electives that may form the basis of additional study in subsequent years. Also available as electives will be courses that meet the graduation requirement that every student take at least one course offering an interdisciplinary perspective on law and the legal system.
Below are examples of courses that have recently been available as electives to first year students (those courses marked with an * meet the interdisciplinary perspective graduation requirement).
American Legal History*
Basic Federal Income Taxation
Business Associations (Corporations)
Civil Procedure II
Commercial Law: Sales
Constitutional Criminal Procedure
Economic Analysis of Law*
Estates and Trusts
Health Care Delivery Systems
International and Comparative Employment Law
Introduction to Islamic Law
Large Law Firms
Law and Psychology*
Law and Social Change
Perspectives on Injury Law (Torts II)
State and Local Government
Social Science in Law