June 20, 2008

Two Year J.D. Program -- It's About Time

Northwestern University School of Law has three very good ideas here. The first is reducing law school to a two-year, rather than a three-year degree. Three years is too long and too expensive for what law school teaches (although I think one year is not enough); the third year of most law students’ educational programs is simply a grind to accumulate credits for the sake of accumulation of credits. The second is eliminating a break in the educational calendar for summertime. It’s the early twenty-first century. Law students in Chicago are not needed back home in the summer to harvest crops on their family farms. The practice of law is a profession that works 12-month long; courts do not take summer breaks nor do they step up their trial calendars for the summer. And third, they are including some basic business skills like accounting, finance, and statistics, and the “legal services behavior” class sounds like it would be a welcome addition to any law school curriculum. The idea is to take a younger person (under 40) who has typically had an excellent record of academic achievement and a small amount of life experience, and turn that person into a lawyer. Lawyers tend not to work at their maximum potential when flying solo; they need, at minimum, some support staff and a background of intensive academic study is not a good indication of whether someone has the ability to be a part of, or to lead, a team of people. This idea meets with this lawyer’s hearty approval and his high hopes for its success. Good luck to Northwestern and the students who are trying this out.

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