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TheJesus

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Some Question Third Year of Law School
« on: August 10, 2005, 08:55:43 AM »
Some Question Third Year of Law School

By JUSTIN POPE, AP Education Writer
Tue Aug 9, 2:21 PM ET

Now a corporate lawyer, Jennifer Leong fondly recalls her third and final year of law school. A job secured, she traveled frequently. Her courses included feminist jurisprudence and a half-semester bankruptcy seminar each carefully chosen to get her weekend started by Wednesday afternoon.
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"A lot of beer and softball," recalled Leong, who got her University of Virginia law degree in 2000. "Third year was probably the best year of my life."

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.

Dayton was trying to reach out to students like Melinda Warthman, a 33-year-old mother of two who will start the program next year. Warthman teaches communications at Dayton but wants to boost her credentials with a law degree.

"I think for a lot of people looking at law school, they read the requirements, it's sort of off-putting," she said. "If you're married and you have a mortgage and you have children and you have a job, that just seems like, 'That's not something I can do right now.'"

But two years of school, instead of three, is a sacrifice that Warthman thinks she can make. Dayton officials predict other schools will follow their lead.

If so, it could encourage less-indebted new lawyers "to pursue some ideal other than the highest pay," said Harvard Law School graduate William Strauss, who has spoken out against the third year. According to the ABA, the median debt for 2004 graduates of private law schools was $98,000; at public schools it was $67,000. The organization has concluded two-thirds of law graduates cannot afford to take lower-paying public interest jobs.

But there are also signs the third year is as entrenched as ever. The ABA's requirements are still stringent. The legal profession wants to keep quality and in some critics' eyes, salaries high, so it doesn't want to make it too easy to become an attorney. Also, the legal recruiting process is built around a three-year schedule; summers are when law students earn money and take the internships that lead to jobs, so many will be reluctant to give them up.

Besides, many third-year law students do work hard. Increasingly, they are getting hands-on training in legal clinics. In the classroom, some educators say third year is when students learn the law they most need to know. University of Chicago Law Dean Saul Levmore says students there are more likely to suggest adding a fourth year than dropping the third.

Jeff Lewis, dean at St. Louis University, says he's pushing for more rigor and specialization in the third-year curriculum. He also says the final-year course he teaches is packed with attentive students though that may be unusual.

David Wilkins, a Harvard Law professor, recalls struggling to conduct a survey of third-year law students because so few showed up to class. In a paper about the third year titled "The Happy Charade," three scholars, including prominent UCLA professor Richard Sander, estimated that the 1,100 third-years he surveyed attended no more than 60 percent of their large classes.

About two in five agreed with the statement "the third year of law school is largely superfluous."

For Jennifer Leong, however, it was a heck of a good time. She says some of her classmates worked hard, but many did not. As for the debt, she says, "once you get past the $40,000 barrier, what's another $20,000?"

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050809/ap_on_re_us/law_school_third_year

james

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Re: Some Question Third Year of Law School
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2005, 09:00:08 AM »
Ya, I just read that article. Interesting but I highly doubt there is going to be many schools shifting to 2 yr. programs. If anything, as the article mentions, schools will begin to make the 3rd year more difficult, and therefor more relevant- from their perspective.

Duner

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Re: Some Question Third Year of Law School
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2005, 10:28:20 AM »
that sounds like a stupid concept. if they're not going to decrease the credit requirements, their primary goal of reducing the debt burden is undermined. Schools typically charge per credit...90 credits will cost the same whether you get them in two years or three. in the grand scheme of law school debt, how much of a difference is the third year of living expenses?

I'd even bet schools that offer "flexible" programs will take the same approach MBA programs do....Charge twice as much for the working professional version as they do for the "full time student program." It's sick when you think that many MBA programs cost 10 grand/year full time...and 20k/year part time. WTF? $60k to get the same number of credits part time versus $20k to get the same degree full time.

TheJesus

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Re: Some Question Third Year of Law School
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2005, 01:13:43 PM »
Can any current third year or former law students speak to their experiences as a third year student???

Is the curriculum that much easier that the first two years or is the environment much more relaxed as the article describes?

il Principe

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Re: Some Question Third Year of Law School
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2005, 01:37:53 PM »
Very interesting article.  Thanks.
"The most futile and disastrous day seems well spent when it is reviewed through the blue, fragrant smoke of a Havana Cigar" - Evelyn Waugh

Cosmoline

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Re: Some Question Third Year of Law School
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2005, 03:17:17 PM »
Frankly to say every 3L has an easy time is a drastic overstatement.  The classes are the same as 2L classes, though by that time most people have figured out how to play the game better.  Attention does shift to the professional world, but there's also the matter of passing a bar. And unless you got all your "bar" courses taken care of as a 2L, you'll have more of them to look forward to.

What I wanted to see more of as a 3L were practical courses such as trial practice.  Those courses were so popular you had to enter a lottery system to get in, but the school showed little interest in expanding them.


TheJesus

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Re: Some Question Third Year of Law School
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2005, 04:39:32 PM »
Frankly to say every 3L has an easy time is a drastic overstatement.  The classes are the same as 2L classes, though by that time most people have figured out how to play the game better.  Attention does shift to the professional world, but there's also the matter of passing a bar. And unless you got all your "bar" courses taken care of as a 2L, you'll have more of them to look forward to.

What I wanted to see more of as a 3L were practical courses such as trial practice.  Those courses were so popular you had to enter a lottery system to get in, but the school showed little interest in expanding them.



Cosmoline...thanks for the input...you make some good points...

So how different was 2L compared to 1L as far as ease, stress levels, time consumption, etc.?

Cosmoline

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Re: Some Question Third Year of Law School
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2005, 10:17:35 PM »
Cosmoline...thanks for the input...you make some good points...

So how different was 2L compared to 1L as far as ease, stress levels, time consumption, etc.?

The big dividing line for me was not between 2L and 1L, but between first and second semester as a 1L.  Before that nobody knows where they stand in the class. After that, no matter how hard you try to ignore it, your class standing impacts everything about your law school experience and job prospects. 

As far as classes go, by the time most people get to the second year they have figured out the system a little better. I remember I didn't have so much trouble with reading assignments because I had figured out what to focus in on and what to ignore.  For example, my first few weeks as a 1L it would take me hours to brief cases.  By the time I was a 2L I could do it much more quickly. 

It's possible to take a lighter class load, as well.  I knocked out Con. Law and Secured Land Transactions the summer after my first year and it was a very good decision.  I was able to take fewer classes as a 2L, which was a big benefit.