Sidney Buchanan

First Amendment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Sidney Buchanan is the "nicest", mildest professor I've taken at UHLC. At the first class meeting he told us (in so many words) "Look, there are different types of professors and I'm not one of the oppressive, Socratic method types, I'd do you a disservice by pretending to be, so let's just be ourselves and get on with things." I liked that approach.

Buchanan called on people by name maybe 10 times the whole semester, but overwhelmingly would tend to say "Does anybody have any comments to share on this subject?", and if someone volunteered a remark great, if not he just moved on. The reading volume was moderate for this class, and it's almost exclusively US Supreme Court opinions which means any given emphasized case is a good 10 pages or more. The pace of the class was good. I had hoped when I signed up for the class that it might make for some lively debate among the students...I figured freedom of speech was something that everyone has an opinion on...maybe it was just my particular class but as a whole we seemed uncommonly sedate. Buchanan is good about spelling out the current law and the applicable tests, and if you hadn't read he gives a quick summary of the facts that's enough to clue you in as to what the case is about. He also gives out short handouts throughout the semester that explain things well and in our case had a direct bearing on the exam questions.

Exam: The exam was three hours, three questions, and the sample exams online were very representative of the final. My sense is that this is one of those classes where if you showed up for every class and took solid notes, you could write a perfectly good exam answer without ever having cracked open the casebook. The exam was extremely writing intensive so if you're ambivalent about typing versus writing I would go with typing; I wasn't the only one with wicked hand cramp after the exam. We had a pre-exam Q&A on the last class and Buchanan didn't narrow the field but he did tell us what "Rings his bell" to use his phrase re: exam answers. Pretty typical: points are awarded for spotting as many legal issues as you can and then arguing both sides. The exam was open notes: casebook, outlines, commercial outlines...whatever you like.

As an aside, first amendment is tested relatively heavily on the multistate portion of the Texas bar exam (day two, the 200 multiple choice questions). Having some familiarity with the material beforehand was quite helpful, though I wouldn't suggest you take this class solely "because it's on the bar".

Carter's First Amendment Outline
Carter's First Amendment Redux Outline (a stripped down version of the full outline useful for the exam)

Trusts & Wills

Trusts & Wills is always on the Texas bar exam. Every bar exam there will be at least one wills essay, though commonly there are two. Trusts is tested roughly every over bar exam. While the material is not particularly difficult, there is a lot of it and the terminology is often cumbersome. I took Buchanan's trusts and wills class in my final semester of 3L so it was still fresh in my head while I was prepping for the bar exam; this was perfect timing, and I would suggest you give some thought to timing your taking of this class similarly.

All of the comments about Buchanan as a professor made in the first amendment review (above) hold true for the trusts and wills class. The exam fairly reflected the emphasis given during class time. The assigned case book was relatively readable, though as with Buchanan's coverage of first amendment, not having read for class does not put you at a particular disadvantage.

This is a class that you should probably take simply because its on the Texas bar, but also because "Can you write me a will?" is probably a likely request from friends or family once you graduate, so knowing the basics is to your advantage.

Carter's Trusts & Wills Outline