1L Small Sections Not So Small in Coming Semester

Taylor Elicegui ‘20
Features Editor

Changes are coming to the size of 1L classes next semester. Instead of having one small–section class, one combined class, and two electives, 1Ls will have both their core classes with another section. Additionally, LRW II will now be a two-credit class and LRW I will count as a skills credit. The third LRW credit will be awarded spring semester, but it will reflect the time spent outside of class in both the spring and fall.

According to Associate Dean for Academic Services and Registrar, Jason Dugas, the faculty collectively decided to change LRW in August. Regarding the combined sections in Property and Constitutional Law, Dugas explained, “There are many factors at play for the Vice Dean and me to consider when it comes to class scheduling and sizing, with the result that the spring 1L class size may vary from year to year. It could be that 1Ls will take combined sections of these courses for many future spring terms, or it could be that they don’t—we make that determination from year-to-year.” Professor Sarah Ware, co-director of the Legal Research and Writing Program, added, “The increase in credits was the result of a routine review conducted by the Vice Dean’s office. The school periodically reviews course workload to make sure the credit allotments are appropriate. It was our turn, and the assessment demonstrated a need for one more credit to reflect work outside of class. Accordingly, the faculty implemented an adjustment. We also considered whether some part of LRW might feed into the ABA’s new skills requirement. We concluded it could (as have a number of our peer schools).”

Students reacted to the increase in class sizes in a variety of ways. 1L AJ Santiago ’21 was not pleased to learn about the increase in class size. He said, “Having only 30+ people in a class allows each student a greater opportunity to ask questions about difficult concepts, and I feel like it likewise helps the professor to get a better sense of when the majority of the class is struggling with a concept. I have definitely benefitted from my section being able to have more intimate, in-depth discussions in Contracts, in a way that we are simply not able to in any of our other classes. And I can say with near certainty that I would have a better grasp on a class like Torts if the class were smaller.” Similarly, Meg McKinley ’21 was sad to hear about the increased class sizes. Meg told the paper, “People are more comfortable participating in the small section, and we definitely know Rip better than any of our other professors. I think the smaller size makes everyone more engaged with the class (but that could also just be Rip’s teaching style). I hope they bring it back for future classes!” Head PA Robbie Pomeroy ’19 said, “I think that having two larger classes in the Spring will give students a better sense of what to expect for their 2L and 3L years, as well as exposure to more of their peers in class.” Professor Charles Barzun ’05, who occasionally teaches Con Law but won’t be teaching the class this spring, thinks there could be a slight downside to the change. Barzun believes there may be a downside because students always benefit from smaller classes, but ultimately, he doesn’t think the increase in class size will make much of a difference. Barzun also explained that 1Ls didn’t have small section classes in the spring when he was a student and some of the classes used to have three sections, which was less preferable than class sizes of sixty.

Students generally responded positively to the changes to LRW. Pomeroy also said, “I think it’s great that students will be rewarded for their hard work in LRW. I wish we’d had the same credits as 1Ls, but I’m happy for the Class of 2021 and years to come.” Nellie Black ’20, a Legal Writing Fellow, told the paper, “I think increasing the credits will help students to feel like their work is proportional to the credit they are receiving. I think all students know how important LRW is, but it can feel frustrating to put what feels like two credits worth of time into the class and only receive one credit at the end of the semester. Likewise, I think adding a professional-skills credit helps to recognize the time and effort that goes into preparing and presenting oral arguments in the Spring.” According to Ware, the increase in credits will not “prompt a major alteration to the course as a whole; rather, both are mostly based on an evaluation of what we are currently offering. We think the credit changes just better reflect the educational experience students are gaining through their LRW course work.”

In total, the changes are not large deviations from the past. Students can look forward to receiving an extra credit for LRW and getting credit for the skills they develop. 1Ls will have larger class sizes next semester, which may be adjusted going forward.