Albany Law School First in NY to Offer New Students First-Semester Seminar Course Choice

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While many first-year law students will be locked in to a strict, structured, and required set of courses without any options for selection or personalization this fall, new Albany Law School students will have a unique opportunity to actively select part of their required first-semester curriculum from several new 1-credit seminars focusing on issues in law and society. Albany Law School is the first law school in New York State to offer new students a choice in their first-semester curriculum especially covering these topics. 

“This is a great opportunity for new students to begin to explore their interests right away when they join our community,” said President and Dean Alicia Ouellette ’94. “Teaching and learning the core knowledge and skills that all lawyers need through the traditional first-year courses is incredibly important, but giving students options to personalize their education will make our academic community richer.”

“This is an exciting time to be a law student,” said Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Connie Mayer. “We will continue to focus on the cornerstones of legal education in the first year and, now, students can start to branch out and follow their passions right away.”

While some other New York law schools offer traditional first-year (second-semester) electives in areas such as Corporate, Tax, or International Law, the Albany Law seminars are unique in their first-semester position on the academic calendar and subject area as each will address issues in law and society such as race, gender equity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, multicultural lawyering, and/or access to justice. The seminars – which will be taught in a discussion-based style rather than a traditional case-based format – aim to help students understand how those issues have affected and continue to affect the development of law. While the seminars offered will likely change on a regular basis, the initial set of choices this fall include:

  • Law and Justice: An Introduction
  • Multicultural Lawyering and Professional Identity
  • Barriers to Justice: The Lawyer’s Ethical Duty to Ensure Equal Access to Justice
  • Marriage Equalities
  • Introduction to Critical Race Theory
  • Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and the Quest for Sex Equality in the Law
  • Intergenerational & Intragenerational Justice/Equity Seminar

Although upper-level course offerings at the law school fluctuate, the new first-semester seminars are the first baseline curriculum change in decades at Albany Law School. In general, an incoming first-year student can expect to take 15-credit hours of courses in the fall:

  • Contracts I (3 credit hours)
  • Federal Civil Procedure (4 credit hours)
  • Torts (4 credit hours)
  • Lawyering I (3 credit hours)
  • Chosen Seminar (1 credit hour)

A typical 1L spring semester schedule will be 16-credit hours:

  • Contracts II (2 credit hours)
  • Constitutional Law (4 credit hours)
  • Criminal Law (3 credit hours)
  • Property (4 credit hours)
  • Lawyering II (3 credit hours)

Currently, the new seminars are only available to first-year students, but may be open to all students in the future.

Registration for the seminars will begin with a ranked choice survey likely sent to incoming students in early-mid July. While the number of students per seminar will need to be as even as possible, the Registrar’s Office will do its best to accommodate each request. As it has done before the new seminars were created, the Registrar’s Office will continue to register students into first-year courses and new students can expect to have their schedules some time in August.

“Being an independent law school, we have the agility to address the concerns and needs of our community much more quickly than other institutions may be able to. This is an asset that makes Albany Law unique and nimble in the ever-changing times we are moving through,” Ouellette said. She will be teaching Law and Justice: An Introduction this fall. “With the continued hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, I am extremely excited to welcome all of our students back to campus this fall to take all of our courses with our brilliant faculty.”

“We have heard from many of our incoming students that as future attorneys, they aspire to impact areas that are important to them such as access to justice, multicultural justice, and social justice,” Assistant Dean of Admissions Amy Mangione said. “Giving each student some early interaction in an area they are interested in and passionate about will help prepare and engage the next generation of attorneys in an innovative way that is unique to Albany Law School.”

First-year law curriculum requirements are guided by American Bar Association Standards and are meant to provide a firm grounding in core subjects of law and training in legal analysis, reasoning, and writing. Albany Law will continue to follow the cornerstone requirements of a legal education, but with current events bringing a re-examination of traditional norms and practice coupled with the school’s independence from a larger University’s bureaucracy, the Albany Law Academic Affairs Committee and faculty created and approved the new required 1-credit seminar choices in the late spring.

Citing the law school’s strategic plan, “to advance equality of opportunity and oppose discrimination and bigotry,” and “to promote inclusion on campus and in the profession,” and the school’s learning outcomes for J.D. graduates to, “demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to be competent and effective lawyers in a multicultural world,” and to “demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the Lawyer’s professional responsibility to advance the mission of service to the underrepresented so that all individuals have equal access to the privileges of our justice system,” the Committee and the faculty deemed a change in the curriculum, the 1L curriculum specifically, necessary.