Curriculum B (Section 3)
For generations, the first year of law school focused on disputes between individual plaintiffs and defendants about matters such as who should pay for an accident or how a contract should be interpreted. Students learned principles of "common law" - that is, law made by judges on a case-by-case basis - that resolved these disputes. This law was thought to be "private" in the sense that it promoted the ability of individuals to order their own lives and did not necessarily involve broad issues of public policy.
A curriculum with this focus takes little account of the disruption in the common law system caused by the emergence of the regulatory state in the first part of the last century. Today, it is widely understood that adjudication amounts to much more than a retrospective sorting out of the rights of the particular parties before the court. Legal rules govern the conduct of large classes of people and provide appropriate incentives for how they should act in the future. Most of our law comes not from judges deciding individual cases, but from complex statutory schemes written by legislative bodies and from detailed regulations authored by government agencies. Law has a public focus. It allocates power and distributes resources.
Curriculum B is designed to educate students about this modern conception of law and about the problems that result when it conflicts with older conceptions. Students enrolled in the Curriculum receive all the essential instruction received by other first-year students. The Curriculum covers all the basics that student need to know in order to do well in upper division courses, pass the bar examination, and excel in the practice of law (including fundamental concepts of property, contract, and tort). However, the Curriculum is designed to integrate the various courses in a fashion that emphasizes common themes and problems associated with the legal transformation described above. The courses are designed to "talk to each other" and to make clear that they all address common issues.
Students in Curriculum B take the same number of credits as other first-year students, and the courses are subject to the same faculty-recommended grading curve. Curriculum B students have a fall seminar called "Legal Justice" that meets in small groups. The seminar provides the backbone of the curriculum by introducing students to the common themes that are discussed in all the other courses. It takes the place of the small, spring elective taken by other students.
The Curriculum also places greater emphasis on understanding law through the lenses of other disciplines like economics, history, and philosophy. Some students report that there is somewhat more reading in Curriculum B than in the standard curriculum. The extent to which this assessment is accurate is difficult to determine because of differences in the nature of the assigned material. Whereas the standard curriculum is dominated by the reading of appellate cases, Curriculum B offers more readings from secondary sources.
The Admissions Office invites admitted students to request a seat in Curriculum B during the summer. Each year, one section of approximately 115 entering Georgetown full-time students participates in Curriculum B (known colloquially as "Section 3").
What Do Students Say About Their Curriculum B Choice?
- "Because Section Three taught me the law as embedded within contexts of history and legal theory, I am a deeper thinker, both as a practicing lawyer and as a citizen."
- "Going to law school made me a little nervous. I was nervous about the difficulty, the cost, and the time commitment—but I was also nervous that I would be learning law in a vacuum— studying Law and absorbing rules. I knew myself, and I knew if that was the learning situation, I would have a pretty hard time. I was extremely lucky to enroll in Curriculum B. Part of Curriculum B's project is illustrating just how much law animates, and is integrated in, our lives, our institutions, and society generally. Curriculum B made me a more nuanced and more powerful thinker, analyst, and lawyer. Curriculum B does not simply teach you what the law is, but also how it is formed, and how it functions."
- "Perhaps nothing is more uniquely and typically Georgetown than Curriculum B. Georgetown is a place where ideas are freely exchanged and respected, and Curriculum B gives students—gave me—the opportunity to think about and discuss ideas in a different way. Curriculum B provided me with not only a foundation in the fundamental concepts of the law as it is written and practiced, but also with an understanding of legal philosophy and the way legal theory affects the practice of law. We read cases and theoretical articles, and the professors guided class discussions that ranged from the economic theory of law to whether the law provides justice. Thinking back on my decision to enroll in Curriculum B, I know I made the right choice and I'd do it all over again!"
Curriculum B Faculty
Michael J. Cedrone
David A. Cole
Anthony E. Cook
Daniel R. Ernst
David J. Luban
Susan A. McMahon
Jonathan T. Molot
Louis Michael Seidman
Lawrence B. Solum
David A. Super
William M .Treanor