Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rodriguez & Estreicher NY Times Op-ed in support of two-year law degree

Most readers will have seen this, but just in case.  What do readers think?  Signed comments only:  full name and valid e-mail address required.

Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink


I don't have any problem with a two-year option in theory, but I think very few of my students would really benefit from such a program. While elite schools such as NYU and Northwestern might have more students who can pass the bar after just two years, I think students in general would be absolutely terrible at predicting ex ante whether or not they would be ready to sit for the bar after two years of law school. It also makes me a bit sad that students at elite schools would not want to luxuriate in their last opportunity to take advantage of the fabulous people and resources at their law schools before they start sliding down the razor blade of life (as Tom Lehrer put it).

I have proposed an alternative model here ( that goes in the opposite direction. In short, I think many of our law students need more schooling, not less, to help them to develop cognitive abilities that they should have worked on in college but didn't. The weakness of the two-year model is that it pushes the costs of training onto employers, and they are no longer equipped or willing to provide it. Instead, I suggest that law schools and law firms should form partnerships, allowing students to focus on doctrine and cognitive development in the first two years of law school, with the second two years comprising an apprenticeship.

Employers can pay tuition and a stipend to cover the second two years, and students still emerge far less indebted than they would be otherwise. The costs of the apprenticeships are lower than the costs of new attorneys, so the employers are likely no worse off, and they might actually be better off, since they can develop cost-effective ways to train law students on the job so that they actually know what they are doing in practice by the time they sit for the bar.

Posted by: Jeremy Telman | Jan 20, 2013 5:15:05 PM

I disagree with much of the article. I foresee the natural followup being that the economic rationale justifies a later rejiggering to save 1/2 or 2/3 the present costs, or more, by requiring one year of law school or a move toward the global system of folding law school into what we call the undergraduate degree. I also already hear the retort that too many lawyers will be admitted without the requisite training. Ironically that is already said once students get in a few years on the practicing side of the bar. Many new unemployed lawyers also claim the law schools did an insufficient job of getting them ready for the marketplace. You can't have it both ways.

Law school costs need to be controlled from a federal and internal basis then students won't mind staying 3 years or even longer like typical medical and engineering programs require. If costs are reeled in and law schools offer good substantive and practical experience in the latter years no one will have problems with the time. Further if the government collectively (or private enterprise) did a better job subsidizing the legal needs of public interest organizations and clients through law school assistance or remunerative supplements for attorneys there wouldn't be a shortage in that area.

If the elite drive the 2 year plan forward it will only be a matter of relatively short time before they also force the on-line option into play thus hastening the reduction in the overall number of law schools. Why go local if you can get a more prestigious degree on-line in a fraction of the time? Of course a reduction in the number of law schools is not necessarily a bad thing but the 2 year argument seems to be quite the slippery slope.

Posted by: Darryl C. Wilson | Jan 24, 2013 8:55:39 PM

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