Obama’s 2-Year Law School Proposal May Not Be Necessary

Lately, much has been made about the high cost of legal education. Many law school graduates are being greeted with a difficult job market and a mountain of student loan debt. One proposed solution to the issue of cost has been the elimination of a year of law school. The rationale is twofold. Firstly, most law students would likely tell you that they did as little as possible during their 3L years. Secondly, by lopping off a third of law school, you would also lop off a year’s worth of tuition.

Well now President Obama has gotten in on the action, suggesting that law schools look into the elimination of the 3L year. The reactions have been mixed. As far as the potential efficacy of this approach to cost reduction, I can speak only to my own experience as a law student.

I can tell you that, during my 3L year, I was not sure about the area of law in which I would make my career. I can tell you that I took a bunch of classes that, while enjoyable and informative, were little more than filler at the time. I can also tell you that I feel as though my time would have been better spent exploring the realities of practice in a given area of the law. In other words, it’s likely I’d have derived greater benefit from some sort of practical experience.

That said, gaining practical experience doesn’t necessitate the elimination of the 3L year altogether. Rather, it seems entirely possible that law schools could instead set up broader clinical programs and place law students in legal aid internships to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to hit the ground running as working lawyers. These programs could be supplemented with courses that provide in-depth coverage of specific subjects for those with a clear picture of their desired area of practice.

I don’t see the 3L year being eliminated altogether, but its cost could certainly be defrayed with part-time work while simultaneously increasing its value.

What do you think? Should law school be reduced to two years? Chime in in the comments.

5 Responses

  1. Liz Cartwright says:

    Interesting that President Obama chimed in on this. I’m entering my third year now. While I hear the point you’re making, I think most schools give a plethora of “practical” opportunities for 2Ls and especially 3Ls. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m paying Northwestern’s insane tuition for another year, renting an expensive studio apartment downtown in a city I don’t like, and buying books that I’ll do anything to avoid reading. Just racking up the debt for very un-fun, unnecessary reasons. I loved working at the law firm I’m going back to this summer, and I wish I could just take the bar and get on with it. BUT NOTE: I am engaged to someone who lives in another city, so this extra year apart & in school makes me extra bitter.

  2. KRISTINE C. says:

    Very interesting…very hopeful!


    Future law student

  3. TSam says:

    You can bet if they do away w/ a year of Law school, tuition is going to HIKE to equal those 3 years or WORSE! Idk, looking into law school in the future and I’m still not seeing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yikes.

  4. President Obama is a former Harvard University Law Professor aand thus adds some credibility to the discussion of eliminating third year “fluff” and saving some valuable time and money for the young customers of law schools. Schools that provide clinical training have an edge in providing most valuable and marketable skills for young future attorneys and should incorporate a third year program for pay in defiance of the ABA’s antiquated stance on this. Students are facing decades of stiffling debts with a bleak employment opportunity to repay these debts. Underemployment is the fate for many graduates in leiu of greater available and cost effective technology and overseas outsourcing of legal business. The supply of current graduates employed or otherwise is just too great to absorb in the current market and law school must rapidly “adapt or die.” Since most people in comfortable positions usually choose to ignore the reality of a given situations, I can see why students are suing their law schools out of frustration for a future that will never materialize for but a small percentage. The time to rise is now, today! Good luck to anyone pursuing a JD in today’s market. DRM…………..

  5. Gina Shirinian says:

    I’m electing to graduate in 2.5 years and that last .5 of my third year is extremely unnecessary. You can gain practical experience in your second year and take all bar-related courses. 2 years fasho.

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