Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cleveland State Offers Nation's First 'Risk-Free J.D.'

Cleveland StatePress Release, Cleveland-Marshall First School to Offer Risk-Free J.D. with ‘Convertible’ Degree Option:

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University is removing some of the personal and financial risk that goes along with committing to a three-year law degree.

Beginning this spring, if a J.D. student decides not to continue law school after completing the first year of studies, the student can graduate with a Masters in Legal Studies (M.L.S.) degree, without taking any additional courses.

“There are many good reasons why a law student may decide not to continue to pursue a J.D.,” said Craig M. Boise, dean of Cleveland-Marshall. “They might have financial concerns, family or personal issues, or they may realize that though they still have an interest in law, a career in traditional legal practice is not right for them. For these students, the first year of law school might have seemed like a waste, and a hard-to-explain item on their resumes. Now they can leave with a master’s degree that we believe will be attractive to employers.”

Update:   National Law Journal, 'Risk-Free' J.D. Offers Students a One-Year Escape Hatch

Legal Education | Permalink


This is a good idea.

Posted by: New normal | Mar 5, 2014 4:18:16 AM

If the JD is not attractive to employers, why would 1/3 of a JD be attractive to employers? Listen, I've been saying this for years, but I'll say it again: the only risk-free JD is the one where the school guarantees the loans. If the student defaults, the school is on the hook. If you folk in the law professoriate and administration worlds are such ardent believers in the S&M study and the general notion of a JD salary premium above and beyond the cost of a JD, then there is no reason NOT to guarantee those loans. If your beliefs are correct, it won't cost you a dime (since no one will default), it will shore up your collapsing applications and test scores/grades with risk-averse candidates, and will be win-win for everyone. If I am right, however...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 5, 2014 8:00:53 AM

Good idea, but not "risk free"

Posted by: No, breh. | Mar 5, 2014 9:12:03 AM

I thought an LLM - a post JD degree was a masters of law. An MLS sounds kind of a deceptive version of an LLM.

Posted by: Jimbo | Mar 5, 2014 9:17:34 AM

U.N., what about the moral hazard? If the student defaults because they don't really like working and don't put in any real effort, why should the school be on the hook? Owing money is an incentive to work hard.

Posted by: Smarts | Mar 5, 2014 9:21:34 AM

Failure has a new name!

Posted by: Scipio | Mar 5, 2014 9:40:15 AM

I like that this gets rid of the stigma related to dropping out. A terminal 1 year degree gives you a way out and allows those who aren't interested in practicing law a way to quit while saving face.

Posted by: Jojo | Mar 5, 2014 10:19:37 AM

This isn't a bad idea, it is just not risk free. In fact, this is actually how it works in most doctoral programs (and, technically, the JD is a professional doctorate degree) whereby if you drop out after a year you get a Masters as a consolation prize.

I agree that there is a not going to be a lot of demand for this degree from employers but that doesn't seem to be the goal. Rather the goal is to help students who, for whatever reasons, decide law school/law is not right for them explain that year. Plus, who knows it may be helpful for those who want to be in a pseudo legal career field like compliance.

Posted by: Michael | Mar 5, 2014 10:47:21 AM


Call it retribution for the many years where law schools across the land promoted misleading-to-fraudulent employment statistics while raising tuition at a rate unparalleled in higher education, all to secure student loan dollars from gullible law students they had reason to no would not be able to secure employment after graduation. Talk about your moral hazards! And lest us not forget, student loan default has nonmonetary consequences, namely the utter destruction of one's credit, which impedes everything from home ownership to credit cards to the ability to work in any number of industries. People do not default on their loans frivolously, any more than people file for bankruptcy frivolously.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 5, 2014 11:07:23 AM

The MLS is a degree program CSU offers to non-lawyers who want exposure to legal issues to enhance their non-law jobs. see website: "The MLS program is designed for non-lawyers who work regularly with laws and regulations, and could benefit from a greater understanding of the law as it relates to their field in a current or future position. Enrolled students may select from more than 20 concentrations including health care and criminal law, or work with an advisor to design an individualized concentration that fits each individuals career needs. Part-time and full-time options are available to complete a master’s degree in as little as one year.
An MLS degree can help an employee stand out within an organization or profession as someone who can interact with counsel, protect ideas and organizational assets, assess the need for regulation and work efficiently with changing legislation, such as health care reform and compliance. MLS students take some of the same classes as the JD students studying to become lawyers, but are able to take fewer classes, and focus on the specialized areas that will specifically enhance their careers."
The new twist seems like a real win for student who tries law school and decides it isn't for them.

Posted by: David | Mar 5, 2014 11:38:40 AM

I am one of the students that decided after year one that I would not have a legal education and the life of a lawyer in me if I had room for it. On the other hand I would rather mask my year of foolishness rather than claim it through a bogus degree.

Posted by: Walter Frank | Mar 5, 2014 10:04:14 PM

So now you can get a completely useless one year degree for $65,000 or a probably useless three year degree for $200,000.

Posted by: william ockham | Mar 6, 2014 12:08:19 AM

This is not new. Duke Law offered this option in the late '80s.

Posted by: telecomesq | Mar 6, 2014 4:57:01 AM