Introduction to US Law and Introduction to US Legal Practice
Introduction to US Law is an intensive course that reviews the fundamentals of the US legal system, including an overview of the US Constitution, federalism, the structure and function of courts, sources of legal authority, and common-law methodology.
Introduction to US Legal Practice teaches practical skills needed in the US legal environment including locating cases, statutes and other legal source materials; citing legal authority correctly; and checking the validity of case citations. In addition, these introductory classes help prepare students for study at a US law school by developing their skills in briefing cases, course outlining, and taking law school examinations.
All LLM students who received their first degree in law outside the United States must take Introduction to US Law and Introduction to US Legal Practice. Students beginning the LLM program Fall 2023 will take the Intro classes beginning Monday, August 14 through Friday, August 25, 2023.
On the last day of the class there is an essay exam on the line of cases covered during the second week of Intro. Students have found studying for and writing the exam for Intro. to be important preparation for the fall semester.
Please note that credits earned for these classes do not count toward the 24 credits needed to earn the LLM degree. Students who need the LLM degree to qualify to take the New York Bar exam can use credits earned in Introduction to US Law and in Introduction to US Legal Practice toward fulfilling NY Bar eligibility requirements.
Introduction to US Law Sections
During the second week of Introduction to US Law, several days are devoted to exploring an evolving line of cases; the topic of these cases differs between sections as indicated below. You will receive a registration link via email asking you to indicate your section preference. We will honor your preference to the extent possible, while maintaining classes of equal size. If you do not indicate a preference, we will place you into one of the Intro sections. Once you are assigned to a section of Introduction to US Law, you will be automatically enrolled in the summer course Introduction to US Legal Practice.
Just or Unjust? Punitive Damages and the American Judicial System
Section One: Professor Alice Estill Burke; Section Two: Professor Susan Chung
These sections will read cases examining how the U.S. Constitution, common law, and statutes might guide or limit punitive damages. The cases selected shine a spotlight on the roles of juries, federal and state court judges, and federal and state legislatures.
Just or Unjust? Reproduction and the Constitutional Right of Privacy
Section Three: Professor Amanda Sen Villalobos
This section will examine the expansion and contraction of privacy rights in the context of reproductive rights, reading United States Supreme Court cases as well cases from state courts that illustrate how state constitutions interact with the U.S. Constitution.
Just or Unjust? Private Arbitration and the American Consumer
Section Four: Professor Gerry Lebovits
Arbitration has been praised for being generally much faster, cheaper, and more efficient than litigation. At the same time, arbitration has been criticized for protecting the contract drafter, usually a corporation, who typically chooses and compensates the arbitrators. This line of cases looks at how the Federal Arbitration Act has shaped the American judicial process.
Syllabus and Early Reading for Introduction to US Law
Please complete the reading assignment noted in the syllabus before the first Introduction to US Law class meeting. The textbook for the class is A Lawyer Writes: A Practical Guide to Legal Analysis (3rd ed.). It is available as an e-book, as well as on Kindle and in paperback. You will need a copy of the U.S. Constitution.
During the second week of Introduction to US Law, the faculty devotes several days to exploring an evolving line of judicial opinions (cases). They recommend that you read the line of cases before the beginning of the course. The topic of the cases differs between sections.
Recommended Reading to Prepare for the Academic Year
- Law 101: Everything You Need to Know about American Law, by Jay M. Feinman, Sixth Edition, Oxford University Press. The faculty strongly encourage students to read this book before taking Introduction to US Law.
- Essential Legal English in Context: Understanding the Vocabulary of US Law and Government, by Karen Ross, NYU Press. Enormously helpful and readable introduction to legal English vocabulary and to the US Court system.
- Open Book: The Inside Track to Law School Success, by Barry Friedman and John C. P. Goldberg, Second Edition, Wolters Kluwer. Highly recommended guide to preparing for US law school classes and exams.
- Whose Monet? An Introduction to the American Legal System, by John Humbach, Second Edition, Wolters Kluwer. This book traces a civil action related to a stolen painting from discovery of the work through litigation.