Law School Course Areas and Related Classes
WHAT THIS AREA IS ABOUT. Courses in the Property area examine issues of ownership, development, and transfer of interests in property. Unlike other areas in which there is a basic sequence of upper class courses that lay the predicate for more advanced courses, upper-level Property courses fall into several discrete categories: commercial real estate transactions, natural resources and the environment, transfers by will or gift, marital property law, and intellectual property law. In general, courses taken in one of these categories are independent from and do not lay a foundation for the courses in the other categories.
COURSE OFFERINGS. The courses can be grouped in the following categories:
Real Estate. Several courses and seminars deal with issues that can arise in a simple real estate transaction (e.g., sale of a home) or a complex business deal (e.g., sophisticated financing arrangements in an urban real estate development). Land Use Planning covers zoning laws and other private and public land use control mechanisms. Real Estate addresses basic legal issues involved in structuring a real estate deal. Real Estate Finance focuses on the financing of large scale real estate development. Students interested in real estate practice should also consider Taxation of Partnerships, discussed in the Taxation Section.
Natural Resources and Environmental Law. These courses, many of which include a substantial property law content, are described more fully in the Natural Resources and Environmental Law sections.
Transfers by Will or Gift. Wills and Estates is the basic course in this area. Students who have no intention of practicing in this area may want to take Wills and Estates for basic exposure to the major issues in the area: intestacy laws, preparation of wills, and the use of trusts. Knowledge of these issues will be important to students individually as well as to their future clients. Also, wills and related issues are frequently tested on the bar examination in all jurisdictions, and particularly in Texas.
Estate Planning is a specialized course that probably should be taken only by students who have a strong interest in estate practice. Wills and Estates is a prerequisite or co-requisite for Estate Planning, as is Federal Income Tax (either the 3- or 4-hour version).
No course on trusts is regularly offered. But Wills and Estates and Estate Planning both introduce the student to the trust relationship and give some coverage of trust law issues.
Marital Property. A good working knowledge of marital property issues is very important to practitioners in the family law and estates areas and is useful in other areas as well. Students can get some exposure to community property principles in Wills and Estates or in Texas Marital Relations and Divorce. Texas Marital Property Rights, which is offered only occasionally, analyzes community property laws with a very strong emphasis on Texas law.
Intellectual Property. Intellectual property law creates and protects property rights in intangible products of the human mind, such as inventions, books and articles, musical recordings, and trademarks. Consult the Intellectual Property section for more information.
The Relevance of the Texas Bar Examination. The subjects covered by several of the upper-level Property courses are given an extraordinary amount of emphasis on the Texas Bar Examination. Currently, seven of the twelve essay questions on the local law portion of the exam are from these areas: Real Property (two questions); Wills, Trust, and Estate Administration (three questions), and Family Law, including Community Property (two questions). Commercial bar review courses give good coverage of all these subjects, and that should be sufficient if the bar exam is your only reason for taking these courses. However, Oil and Gas is sufficiently difficult and different to make self-study for bar preparation a challenging enterprise. Students for whom the bar exam is the only reason for taking Oil and Gas should take the one-hour Oil and Gas Short Course instead of the three-hour Oil and Gas.
CLINICS AND INTERNSHIPS. Three clinics offer students the opportunity to participate in representing clients in transactional work related to property law, including real estate, contract, and environmental matters: the Housing Law Clinic, the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic and the Environmental Law Clinic. Students in the Judicial Internship can intern at the Travis County Probate Court, and students in the Non-Profit/Government Internship Program can intern at a number of placements involving real estate or intellectual property, including the General Land Office and the UT System General Counsel.
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