Tuesday, August 13, 2013
National Law Journal, These Students are on the Six-Year Plan:
A 3+3 Program ... essentially shaves a year off the undergraduate degree and allows participants to earn both bachelor's and juris doctor degrees in six years. In addition to saving time, it eliminates a year's tuition. ...
These programs have been cropping up with increasing frequency during the past two years as competition for law students has stiffened and would-be lawyers grow ever more sensitive to the price of a J.D. Law schools and university administrators alike view them as a valuable recruiting tool targeting the high-achieving and motivated students who are already thinking seriously about law school during their teenage years.
At least two dozen law schools offer some form of a 3+3, with more schools joining the list each month. ...
The programs' details vary, but they tend to follow the same general format. Participants fulfill the core requirements of their undergraduate major during their first three years in college, then move directly into law school without having completed their bachelor's degree. The credits they earn during their 1L years count toward their J.D.s and as electives to complete their undergraduate degrees. Students graduate with a bachelor's degree after their 1L year, then finish the last two years of law school. (The ABA allows schools to admit students who don't yet hold bachelor's degrees as long as they obtain one by the time they graduate from law school.)
Participants in the 3+3 programs still have to take the LSAT before they show up at law school, and most schools set minimum LSAT scores and grade-point averages to ensure their spot. Some programs are open only to applicants still in high school and choosing a college; others allow students to apply as late as their junior year of college. ...
The 3+3 represents a fairly low-risk proposition for students. If they have a change of heart about attending law school as an undergraduate, they can withdraw from the program and finish their bachelor's degrees in the traditional four years without penalty. They can even leave after their 1L year with their bachelor and are not obligated to finish their J.D.s in most cases.
The rise of the 3+3 program may well benefit the handful of students who opt in, but slicing a year off the undergraduate program does little to address the larger problem of rising law school costs, said New York University law professor Samuel Estreicher.
Estreicher has been pushing for a pilot program in New York that would allow students to complete two years of law school then spend a year apprenticing, after which the court system would waive them in to sit for the bar. The proposal would eliminate one year of law school tuition and give students a year of real-world practice experience, although Estreicher has yet to convince New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to sign on.
"In general [a 3+3 program] could have some economies for the student, but I'm a little suspicious," Estreicher said. "This seems to be motivated by public relations. There's less here than meets the eye. You have to fundamentally change the economics of a law degree." Moreover, relatively few incoming college students know for sure that they want to go to law school and even fewer know what law school would be right for them, he said.
- Dan Rodriguez (Dean, Northwestern), 3 + 3: Not a Fan