I write from the other side of a three-week introductory course at GULC called Foundations of American Law. It is an intensive and optional course for incoming LLMs who want to learn the basics of the US legal system before the academic year goes into full swing.
This year, the class was regularly held for 2 1/2 hours a day, Monday through Friday, and conducted through a lecture-type format with around 85 of us in one class. The topics we explored were the following:
- Development of Common Law
- Statutory Interpretation
- The Constitution and the Role of the Court
- Separation of Powers
- The Court System
- Civil Procedure
A lot of people take this course so that during the Fall and Spring Semesters, they have more leeway to pick specialized courses and not just take bar subject-focused ones. And for classmates who had this as their objective, Foundations seems to really have helped. For me, in particular, I’m lucky that I am not required to take any additional subjects in order to sit for the (New York) bar as a Philippine lawyer, but I still wanted to take Foundations for two reasons: First, I wanted to take some credits before the official school year so as to lighten my load in the Spring so I can hopefully (fingers crossed) get an internship here in DC. Second, having been out of school for the past six years, I really wanted to get into the rhythm of being a student again as it’s extremely different from practice.
In the end, I actually and truly did learn a lot! Although the Philippine and American legal systems share a lot of major similarities, prior to this course, I had no idea what battery was or how juries were formed — otherwise basic things that will probably only be glossed over when I take my (non-bar) courses in the fall.
In addition, our professor, Prof. Michael Cedrone, was absolutely wonderful and did such an excellent job at teaching our big group of students, some fresh out of their primary law degrees, and some already partners at law firms. He and his TAs handled the class so well. While the short course definitely was not enough to make us experts in the topics covered, they made sure to teach us what we should know. We also spent a day discussing how to ace a US law school exam, which I found so valuable. Test tasking is such an important skill for law students, and in my legal education back home, was never explicitly taught.
It being summer, the fantastic graduate programs team also organized a few fun events for us to get to know each other and DC in our first weeks here, including a picnic, cocktail hour, and some fieldtrips. Here’s the Washington Monument as seen from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It must have been 91F (32C) that day, but we had fun!
Next week, our Foundations class will be split into smaller classes that will either take Professional Responsibility or US Legal Research and Writing. I’ll be taking the latter. I’m looking forward to taking it as my legal education background wasn’t very focused on research and writing. Here’s hoping it’ll be as good an experience as Foundations was. We already have homework for our first day, so I better get to that this weekend! Til next time.