Around the globe, the institution of property is part of the human condition. Nevertheless, the rules of property vary somewhat with time and place. The American law of property derives primarily from laws of England, including rules that date back nearly a millennium.
Property law delineates rights in things, primarily, but not exclusively, physical things and especially land. It includes the rules governing the initial allocation of those rights, the kinds of rights that are recognized, limitations on those rights, and the methods of transfer, both voluntary and involuntary.
Competency in the law of property requires an understanding of the basic structure of the vast set of detailed rules relating to things, familiarity with the special language spoken in this area of practice, and knowledge of specific areas that pose traps for the unwary lawyer. The ability to think like a lawyer is necessary but not sufficient for competency in predicting when and where the government will put its threat of force behind the claims of individuals.
The presentation of property doctrine, theory, and practice starts with the first-year course in property. Building upon that foundation, students may choose among a number of upper-level elective courses. One branch of advanced courses focuses on the transfer, development, and uses of land. The other major branch of advanced property courses focuses on gratuitous transfers of wealth.