June 23, 2008
"Bore You To Death" Year Eliminated by Northwestern Law's New 2-Year JD Program
First year, they scare you to death; second year, work you to death; third year, bore you to death.
Northwestern has joined Dayton and Southwestern Law School in offering an accelerated JD program that eliminates the third calendar year of law school. Students will be required to complete the same number of credit hours as traditional three-year JD students but in five semesters over the course of two calendar years. They will start classes in May and then join traditional JD students during the fall and spring semesters. The accelerated program leaves the second summer open for working in summer programs. Students then return to law school for their last two semesters. According to the School's press release, applicants for the two-year JD program must have at least two years of substantive post-undergraduate work experience and "ideally have demonstrated managerial and leadership experience to qualify for the program." Tuition for Northwestern's accelerated program has not be set yet but the real economic incentive is being able to start paying off student loans by practicing law a year sooner. See the WSJ's Law Blog post, Law School in 2 Years (Same $$?) — Assessing Northwestern’s Program. Northwestern estimates that 25 to 40 students are expected to enroll. 40 First-Years running around the law library! There goes quiet summers for the School's law library staff.
University of Chicago professor and former dean Geoffrey Stone called the two-year program "irresponsible." "My sense is that compressing the educational process is likely to seriously derogate from the quality. What is lost is likely to be much more than anything that is gained by hustling the students through more quickly." But Daniel Polsby, the George Mason University law school dean and a former Northwestern faculty member for 23 years, is predicting that other law schools are likely to follow up with their own accelerated programs. Quoted in NU law school to offer 2-year program: Other schools predict lower-quality lawyers (Chicago Tribune).
Northwestern is also adding three new required courses covering quantitative analysis (accounting, finance and statistics), dynamics of legal behavior, and strategic decision making starting with the new two-year program and eventually being required of everyone. Is this an innovative approach to curricular reform in legal education? Take Above the Law's poll: Is Northwestern's Two-Year Program a Good Idea.
Instead of eliminating the third year and adding new three required courses to the otherwise traditional law school curriculum, Washington & Lee's new third year program offers fundamental curricular reform in legal education. See LLB's earlier post: Washington and Lee Reinvents 3L Curriculum. [JH]
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