A proposal to make the third year of law school optional is beginning to pick up a great deal of comment, amusing and otherwise. Front and center, of course, are the comments of Michigan lawyers to SBM Blog:
- I learned more in six months in practice than three years of school. Third year was not necessary. Only useful course I took in law school was Blood Feuds. [Note: Blood Feuds is a notorious/celebrated University of Michigan Law School course taught by the incomparable Prof. Bill Miller.]
- In my third year, when the bar exam was still 40 essay questions over five three-hour sessions, conflict of laws, corporations, and ethics were all third-year classes. They covered subjects on the bar exam, or subjects required for graduation from an ABA-accredited law school, a requirement to sit for the bar (except I could have taken the bar a semester before graduating, in extraordinary circumstances, like being conscripted for a two-year, all-expenses-paid, tour of Southeast Asia, which I managed to avoid).
From the Letters to the Editor to the New York Times about "Make Law Schools Earn a Third Year":
- [T]he J.D. was originally intended to encompass not just the study of law but the whole social context in which law takes place, the study of “the whole field of man as a social being,” as one university president ambitiously put it. In a world that already conceives of lawyers as failing to look past laws and cases to the human beings they govern, such depth should be required, not optional.
- The third year is claimed to offer “clinical” expertise and studies in a specialty. But real practice teaches clinical skills, and the specialty pursued is often that of a professor. Midcareer, when a lawyer finally knows his specialty, would be a good time to return for further training. So let the market decide whether law students who pass the bar exam after two years’ study are ready to be hired.
- Other professional schools have figured out a way to obtain competent and experienced professors who can transmit their skills to the students. Not so in law schools. The law school graduate is fit to perform virtually none of the basic things that a lawyer must do. Adding to the problem is that judges, who are among the most overworked and underpaid professionals in the country, will have to spend their time in on-the-job training. Frankly, law school is a waste of money for the students and their parents, and is best equated to the price one must pay to belong to a union.
- Penny-wise and pound-foolish best describes the proposal for two years of law school instead of three. As Daniel B. Rodriguez and Samuel Estreicher correctly note, the first two years of law school are largely taken up with courses that are intended to provide knowledge that every lawyer must have. But all lawyers are not alike. Some will practice admiralty law, some patent law, and some will specialize in leveraged lease transactions. Only in the third year of law school is there time for students to roam various legal fields and find — perhaps unexpectedly — the one most suitable to them. By putting economic pressure on them to forgo that opportunity, we would impoverish not just them and their future employers but, most critically, their clients.