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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

U.S. News Debate Club: Should Law School Be Two Years Instead of Three?

U.S. News & World Report Debate Club:  Should Law School Be Two Years Instead of Three?:


President Obama not only waded into the college rankings debate recently, but he also opined on whether law schools should rethink the amount of time aspiring lawyers spend in the classroom. “This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it,” Obama, a former constitutional law professor, said. “I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.” He continued: “Now, the question is, ‘Can law schools maintain quality and keep good professors and sustain themselves without that third year?’ My suspicion is, is that if they thought creatively about it, they probably could.”

Whether law schools move from three years to two is a hot topic within the law community. Last year, Samuel Estreicher, a professor at New York University Law School, released a paper calling for law students to be eligible to take the bar exam after two years of school; he says such a change could force law schools to cut costs and make the third year of instruction more useful. According to one estimate, the average 2013 law graduate will have $140,000 in debt.

But others in the law community are skeptical that such an approach could work. "If we're not producing good results in three years — and many of the critics say we are not—how are we going to do it in two years?" asked Houston Law Center professor Michael A. Olivas. Santa Clara University School of Law professor Stephen Diamond added, "You'd basically have to cram the first and second year with bar courses."

Also, two-year degrees might not bring about the hoped-for savings on tuition. As law professor Matt Bodie writes, “It may seem obdurate to suggest that lopping off a third of the legal education provided to students would not reduce the tuition they pay. But it won't – at least, not on its own. Yes, it will cut the costs of providing that education, at least in theory. But it won't lower tuition.”

So should law school be two years instead of three? Here is the Debate Club’s take:

The Arguments

37 Pts

YES — A two-year program could address law school's debt and training problems

KYLE MCENTEE, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Law School Transparency Comment (0)

Legal Education | Permalink


NOT JUST NO - F*CK NO - Are you kidding me??? The answer to a systemic oversupply is to facilitate greater production? A 2-year option might work if the problem was ONLY debt...but some helpful gentleman made a website called "" which clearly shows the problem is too many graduates & too few "FTLT" positions.

Law school isn't a rite of passage without regard to cost, it's an investment with an assumption of returns on that investment's opportunity costs and tuition.

Is this a serious discussion, or is it the ivory-tower-types seeing an impending collapse of their market & getting in front of the talking points?

Such objective data might not sink through the skulls of people with undergraduate degrees in literature, history, or the humanities, but it's economics 101, this is simple. Why is this even up for debate?

Posted by: anon | Oct 1, 2013 4:02:17 PM