Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Two's company

For years I've been saying that law school doesn't need to be any longer than two years for full time students. In fact, if you want to get down to brass tacks, there's no reason why a minimum amount of time should be placed on the education of advocates, and as most find out, the lessons from the classroom tend to make sense only at the point that they start their internship, or are forced into a courtroom to hear real-time proceedings take place. The ABA and most state BAR's have set time regulations for the minimum amount of time that it is required for students to sit in a classroom to be eligible to sit for the BAR. California, by far, is the most liberal, and in my opinion, one of the best states to practice in because you have the opportunity --- which is a Constitutional right --- to become an advocate for the people in a way that suites you best. Here's what Section 6060 of the California Business and Professional Code reads:

Article 4. Admission to the Practice of Law

Section 6060.

To be certified to the Supreme Court for admission and a license to practice law, a person who does not comply with Section 6062 shall possess all of the following qualifications:

(e) Have either:

(3) Studied law diligently and in good faith for at least four years in any of the following manners: . .
(iv) By instruction in law from a correspondence law school authorized or approved to confer professional degrees by this state and requiring 864 hours of preparation and study per year for four years.

That's the exact layout of the copy as found on ALU's School of Law website. I've ranted about how I believe independent, non-accredited law school such as ALU and Concord will quickly become the leading force in legal education over the next few years, especially as the ABA and state BAR's take note of their passage rate, as well as the sheer number of students who want a legal education not only to practice law, but also to further their careers by picking up a law degree.

Getting back on track, we're talking about time. When you take into consideration that many schools are offering joint MBA/JD programs that allow you to complete your MBA and JD in three to four years, and that a number of law school are offering adult study and working adult programs that allow people to complete their law degree from ABA accredited schools in four years, it's not hard to pose the question about why law schools still continue to make their full time students sit through three years of school, when the entire process can be completed in two years. Here's the case in point.

At many top law schools, the third year is famously relaxed, a halcyon interlude between rigorous introductory courses and the long hours that await graduates at law firm jobs. There is research and volunteer work, but also a lot of bar-hopping and little studying: 15 hours per week, according to one survey at 11 law schools, compared to 33 hours for first-year students.

But if it's an extended vacation, it's pricey: $30,000 or more at top private schools. And at many law schools, grads can't count on the six-figure salaries awaiting many at the most prestigious programs, so an extra year of debt is a big burden.

Some educators want to see the third year beefed up, arguing the law is more complex than ever and future lawyers need more preparation, both for the bar and exam and for their careers. But others want it dropped.

Critics say there's so much law that students will learn most of it on the job, anyway. They see the third year as a revenue racket, a full-employment scheme for faculty that comes at the expense of non-elite school students and discourages them from taking public service jobs.

It's a periodic debate in legal education, and with tuition going ever higher, there are signs it's heating up again.

The American Bar Association recently updated its accreditation guidelines for law schools to require more total minutes of instruction, but offering schools more flexibility in how that's structured.

That prompted the University of Dayton to announce a program starting this fall designed to help students earn a J.D. in two years, including summer work. It has no fewer requirements and doesn't charge less, but it saves students a year of living expenses.

You won't hear any argument from me.

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