Intro to U.S. Legal System

From: $90.00 / month for 5 months

Grades: 10th-12th

Class : Thu 1:00–2:00 p.m. ET

Dates (2nd Sem):  Jan 13–May 9, 2025

Prepaid:   $399

Instructor:  George Sheehan

See Reviews of Instructor George Sheehan


Course Description

Sample Course Syllabus coming soon

(Students need to be able to attend the live classes. Some assessments will be conducted live. More importantly, interaction among the students will help them to learn from one another, and most importantly, make the time of the live classes fly by!)

It was once said, “Those who know the law hold the keys.” Whether that is true, and whether it should be, are questions that merit some knowledgeable thought by every engaged citizen. If you want to explore those ideas, this course is for you.

The course is a sixteen week survey of the different components of the American Legal System, from federal and state to local jurisdictions. It will explore the sources of American law, and the differences among statutory, regulatory, and common law. It will cover how the U.S. Constitution plays a significant role, including the right to a jury trial in civil and criminal cases, and how the litigation process differs between civil and criminal cases.

After establishing a foundation of essential knowledge, students will explore significant legal cases in American legal history, and research and prepare a class presentation on a case of their choosing. In addition, students will have the opportunity to examine, develop and debate their views on significant legal issues in the headlines.

The following are the Goals of the course:

  • To equip students with a foundational understanding of the civil and criminal justice systems at the core of American society
  • To prepare students for college or other further education by developing critical thinking skills on issues of justice, democracy, and fundamental rights
  • To empower students to engage in responsible civic action to improve their communities through the legal system
  • To enable students to explore career possibilities that can contribute to the integrity of the legal system
  • To equip students to analyze the competing tensions in a society that seeks to do justice, and to understand what makes a law legitimate

Course Structure

The weekly live class will vary from week to week. There will necessarily be some lecture with notes, but that will compete with class discussion time of legal issues in the news. In addition to the live class, students should expect to invest 4 hours per week in reading assignments from the texts, or resources or videos posted to Canvas. Students will be assessed with periodic quizzes, short answers or multiple choice assignments, and short essays keyed to specific reading passages. Students will also be assessed on the degree to which they participate in discussions with their classmates.

Timely guidance for the case research and class presentation will be provided, with the presentation to take place during the last three weeks of the course.

Who Should Enroll?

This course is designed for 10th-12th grade students who are curious about the legal systems at the center of our American society, and wonder what the phrase “the rule of law” actually means.

Technology Requirements

  • High speed, broadband internet
  • Web cam, sound card and microphone
  • Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures

Evaluation and Feedback

Students are encouraged to seek additional video time with me for help with concepts, understanding assignments, or other academic issues. It is simply a matter of coordinating schedules. Email is the best means of communication with me, and I will respond promptly, almost always the same day.

Grades are a form of feedback and will be posted promptly; posting on Canvas will also be a source of feedback.

Parents are an invaluable part of the educational process and also have ready access to me to discuss any question about their student’s progress. Any parent who wishes to discuss the class prior to registration may do so by emailing


Email is the best means to communicate with me, and it will be answered almost always the same day.

Required Texts

Law in America, Lawrence Friedman, ISBN 978-0812972856


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Instructor Bio

George Sheehan

George Sheehan has been teaching for twenty years after practicing law for twenty years. He graduated from Villanova University with a B.A. Honors-Arts, cum laude, before obtaining his J.D. from Villanova Law School. In his first career he was a busy trial attorney, before finding his true calling as a teacher. In his courses Introduction to the Legal System and Criminal Law, he is able to merge his long experience in both careers into stimulating student-centered explorations of important and timely elements of American society. Contact: gsheehan[at]

All classes taught by George Sheehan