New York Times op-ed: Make Law Schools Earn a Third Year, by Daniel B. Rodriguez (Dean, Northwestern) & Samuel Estreicher (NYU):
Today, leaders of the New York bar, judges and law school faculty members will gather at New York University to discuss a proposed rule change.
If adopted by the state’s highest court, it could make law school far
more accessible to low-income students, help the next generation of law
students avoid a heavy burden of debt and lead to improvements in legal education across the United States.
The proposal would amend the rules of the New York State Court of
Appeals to allow students to take the state bar exam after two years of
law school instead of the three now required. Law schools would no doubt
continue to provide a third year of legal instruction — and most should
(more on that in a bit) — but students would have the option to forgo
that third year, save the high cost of tuition and, ideally, find a job
right away that puts their legal training to work. ...
With this reform, law schools would have an
obvious financial incentive to design creative curriculums that law
students would want to pursue — a third-year program of advanced
training that would allow those who wished it to become more effective
litigators, specialize or better prepare for the real-world legal
challenges that lie ahead.
We are confident that many law schools will be able to meet that challenge.
In fact, that evolution is already going on, as many schools (including
our own) reimagine their third-year curriculums through externships,
public service programs and courses that offer in-depth practical
training.If this trend continues — and the two-year option would only encourage
it — those who graduate from rigorous three-year programs will not only
emerge with sharper legal skills, but also be more essential to
employers, raising the rate of job placement out of law school....
Update #1: National Law Journal, Law School Two-Year Option Intrigues New York's Top Judge:
A proposal to allow students to take the New York Bar Exam after two
years of law school has piqued the interest of the state's top judge.
of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman stopped short of formally
endorsing the idea when it was taken out for a public airing on January
18 at New York University School of Law. But he told the more than 100
gathered legal educators, practitioners and judges that the concept
deserves serious study.
Update # 2: Matt Leichter, NYT Op-Ed Provides Mostly Irrelevant, Unsubstantiated Reasons for Two-Year Legal Education:
Rodriguez and Estreicher mean well when praising New York’s
discussion about reducing its legal education requirement from three
years to two. Unlike others who’ve written op-eds for the Grey Lady in
the past, I believe they are working in good faith, and make no mistake
I’m fine with reducing the number of credits people need for law school.
…But I’m not fine with doing it for irrelevant or incorrect reasons because it doesn’t solve the underlying problems.
(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)