Specializations: Programs of Study
The Law School provides seven programs of study for students who wish to concentrate on particular legal fields and problems. These programs enable students to study established and emerging areas of law in light of modern challenges and developments. The following brief descriptions of these special programs are followed by links to more information. See also Choosing Your Curriculum at Notre Dame Law School, prepared by the faculty.
Business attorneys focus on the challenging legal puzzles faced by businesses of all sizes and types. Because much of the law school curriculum prepares the student for litigation practice, including litigation relating to businesses, the Program of Study in Business Law places a special although not exclusive emphasis on transactional practice: helping clients achieve their goals efficiently and responsibly, and in ways that minimize the risks and costs of litigation. The program has three substantive dimensions: corporate law, dealing with private ordering and the organization and management of both businesses and nonprofit organizations; tax law, the study of which includes careful thinking about the incentives and externalities associated with different tax policies; and commercial law, which structures and regulates the buying, selling, planning, and financing of a wide range of enterprises.
The Program of Study in Criminal Law will help prepare students to participate in the crucial work of ordering society and protecting the vulnerable. Prosecutors and law-enforcement agents, acting on behalf of the entire community, vindicate the rule of law and the dignity of crime victims. Defense attorneys vigorously work to make sure that both individual rights and limits on government power are respected. Consistent with the high stakes involved, the criminal law is administered through complex and highly regulated processes in the United States and, in cases involving offenses against international law, in international tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court.
Environmental law is an important part of the American legal landscape. Once a niche field, environmental law is now a large and growing area of practice; expertise in the area is in high demand in local, national, and international legal markets. Moreover, familiarity with environmental law and related areas can be of great value to practitioners in other areas of law, given its intersection with fields such as commercial law, international law, and even criminal law. Notre Dame Law School offers a wide range of courses and activities for students with an interest in environmental law and its relation to energy, natural resources, and land use law. The Program of Study in Energy and Environmental Law provides students with a comprehensive educational foundation in order to prepare them to address a wide array of environmental issues in legal practice.
Whether dealing with the regulation of securities markets, the suppression of cross-border crimes, or the resolution of family law disputes, law today is inescapably global. Given the pervasively transnational nature of legal problems in today’s world, every legal professional needs to have a familiarity with the principles, sources, processes, and institutions of law that transcend the boundaries of national legal systems. Some students, however, will discover an interest in acquiring deeper and broader expertise in this area beyond the basic courses. The Program of Studies in Global Law offers those students a guide for crafting a comprehensive educational package in international, foreign, and comparative law.
Intellectual property is one of the fastest-growing legal specialties in the United States, and increasingly in the world. Notre Dame Law School’s Program of Study in Intellectual Property and Technology Law prepares students to practice in a wide variety of intellectual property-related fields. Our faculty teach basic and advanced courses in the core doctrines of intellectual property—patent, copyright, trademark and unfair competition—and related fields including design, cyberlaw, and antitrust.
The serious study of law is never far from the hard work of evaluation, of coming to judgments about the efficiency, reasonableness, and justice of the doctrines, rules, and statutes that are the bread-and-butter of law school classes. Legal education necessarily involves not only learning what the law is, and how it is applied and enforced, but also thinking critically about what it should be. The Program of Study in Law, Ethics, and Public Policy takes the task of critical moral evaluation and puts it at center stage.
Public law regulates the structure of government and its relations with individuals and foreign nations, as well as the administration of public policy. Sound public law promotes individual well-being and the common good. The Constitution of the United States reflects one of the world’s most influential efforts to design a government that works both well and within limits. In ever increasing ways, public law pervades legal practice and offers lawyers extensive opportunities to serve the common good. The Notre Dame Law School’s Program of Study in Public Law provides a rich course of study for students interested in government lawyering, judicial clerkships, criminal justice, constitutional litigation, administrative regulation and adjudication, public policy, and many other public law fields.
Real estate plays a crucial role in organizing society. Historically, almost all wealth was in the form of land and real property. Today, real estate continues to be the largest asset class in the world. The importance of real estate—for both the economy and society—was made readily apparent during the recent mortgage and financial crisis. Lawyers serve important roles in all aspects of real estate development, finance, investment, and transactions. Lawyers also play critical roles in drafting, interpreting, and reforming the legal rules and institutions that facilitate and regulate real estate markets and various uses of property. Because real estate affects our homes, our businesses and workplaces, our schools, playgrounds, and places of worship, the stakes are not only financial; real estate fundamentally affects the common good and our ability to flourish as human beings. The Program of Study in Real Estate Law provides students with a comprehensive educational foundation to address a wide array of real estate issues in legal practice.