Are two-year law schools the answer to runaway costs?

By Gary Gosselin

Dolan Media Newswires

President Barack Obama recently suggested that perhaps earning a law degree should take only two years and not three.

I'd like to hear from some law school grads on exactly how they feel about that.

Although it remains unclear if he meant to just cram the present three years to two, there is some speculation that he was talking generally about cost.

He was on a tour to promote lower cost in higher education, and maybe he thought that a two-year law degree might alleviate some of the problem with the high cost of becoming a lawyer.

But then you get that little tingling behind your ears and think about the recent Michigan bar exams.

Sure, a few schools did pretty well, but there were a few that really did not make the grade.

February's bar passers came in at 58 percent overall and 65 percent for first-time takers. As Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian K. Zahra, liaison to the Board of Legal Examiners, said, the bottom line was that some applicants weren't showing "minimum competence in Michigan law."

So, in Michigan at least, some basic issues should probably be addressed before leapfrogging into discussions about less classtime.

But, they did discuss the issue at a forum in New York, reported The National Law Journal. American Bar Association President James Silkenat suggested that Obama may not have meant law schools should go to two-year programs, but that maybe they should only charge like two-year programs?

Let's take a poll and see which law schools want to lop off a year's tuition.

Actually, The National Law Journal reported that New York Law School will roll out a program in 2015 that does just that, lopping off a year's tuition -- and study.

Students accepted into the accelerated program would receive a $50,000 scholarship -- no joke -- which is about one-third of the $152,000 price tag of three years at NYLS.

Brooklyn Law School also has a plan in the works for next year. That program would offer a two-year degree and the students would work at a partner agency, such as legal aid or a government agency, for their third year and for a year after graduation.

Oh, but they'd still have to pay full tuition for that third year.

They get off easy, because everyone knows entry-level government and legal aid jobs pay so well.

But, hey, apparently it works at University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

The idea of getting real-life experience is a good idea, as many lawyers have said they were ill-prepared to face the real world after graduating. The idea may have some merit, except it does nothing to address the overall cost of three years of law school.

The ABA now apparently is considering whether its accreditation standards are driving up costs, according to The National Law Journal, with a report due next month by the Task Force on the Future of Legal Education.

Silkenat is quoted as saying, "If they do result in higher costs, we'll get rid of them."

Given the recent Michigan bar passer percentages, does anyone think that is a good idea?

President Barack Obama recently suggested that perhaps earning a law degree should take only two years and not three.

I'd like to hear from some law school grads on exactly how they feel about that.

Although it remains unclear if he meant to just cram the present three years to two, there is some speculation that he was talking generally about cost.

He was on a tour to promote lower cost in higher education, and maybe he thought that a two-year law degree might alleviate some of the problem with the high cost of becoming a lawyer.

But then you get that little tingling behind your ears and think about the recent Michigan bar exams.

Sure, a few schools did pretty well, but there were a few that really did not make the grade.

February's bar passers came in at 58 percent overall and 65 percent for first-time takers. As Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian K. Zahra, liaison to the Board of Legal Examiners, said, the bottom line was that some applicants weren't showing "minimum competence in Michigan law."

So, in Michigan at least, some basic issues should probably be addressed before leapfrogging into discussions about less classtime.

But, they did discuss the issue at a forum in New York, reported The National Law Journal. American Bar Association President James Silkenat suggested that Obama may not have meant law schools should go to two-year programs, but that maybe they should only charge like two-year programs?

Let's take a poll and see which law schools want to lop off a year's tuition.

Actually, The National Law Journal reported that New York Law School will roll out a program in 2015 that does just that, lopping off a year's tuition -- and study.

Students accepted into the accelerated program would receive a $50,000 scholarship -- no joke -- which is about one-third of the $152,000 price tag of three years at NYLS.

Brooklyn Law School also has a plan in the works for next year. That program would offer a two-year degree and the students would work at a partner agency, such as legal aid or a government agency, for their third year and for a year after graduation.

Oh, but they'd still have to pay full tuition for that third year.

They get off easy, because everyone knows entry-level government and legal aid jobs pay so well.

But, hey, apparently it works at University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

The idea of getting real-life experience is a good idea, as many lawyers have said they were ill-prepared to face the real world after graduating. The idea may have some merit, except it does nothing to address the overall cost of three years of law school.

The ABA now apparently is considering whether its accreditation standards are driving up costs, according to The National Law Journal, with a report due next month by the Task Force on the Future of Legal Education.

Silkenat is quoted as saying, "If they do result in higher costs, we'll get rid of them."

Given the recent Michigan bar passer percentages, does anyone think that is a good idea?

Published: Thu, Sep 19, 2013

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