Monday, June 23, 2008

The two year itch

Northwestern Law has announced that they will now offer a two-year J.D. program in which classes start the summer before traditional 1L year.

This is an awful idea.

First, Northwestern just jumped from 12 to 9 in the U.S. News rankings. Why start this gimmick now, just as things are looking up?

Second, Northwestern is a small law school that prides itself on being a small community in which professors and students actually know each other. Creating a segment of the student body that runs on a different track can only wall off some of that community by having some students take an entire semester of classes before they get to meet anyone else in the school and then making them take extra classes so as to ensure they won't have any time to socialize.

Third, by making the two-years take an extra class each semester, the school is making it nearly impossible for these students to participate in journals, clinics and student groups. Given that law firms and judges in the market for clerks like these things. Since post-graduate placement is a large part of the U.S. News rankings, I can't see how this is good for the school's overall prestige.

The two-years will be just like the L.L.M.s: a group of people who are "just passing through." Good if you're in it for the money, bad if you're in it to cement a reputation as a top ten law school.


Dave! said...

I don't think it's such an aweful idea. In fact, I think ultimately, it will help Northwestern's reputation and rank.

First, the program doesn't involve any fewer classes--it's just in a compressed timeframe.

Second, it's geared towards focused students who know what they want (presumably, since students are required to have work experience before being allowed to enroll in the two year program.)

Third, as for community, those students will have their own community, but so what? First years have their own community... 2Ls and 3Ls have their own as well. Every year is somewhat segregated from the other, but they still manage to interact. There's no reason the students in this program won't be able to, either.

Finally, I think the argument that they won't have time to participate is pure hogwash. I graduated from a school with an evening program. I worked full-time, took 12 credits each semester, and still made law review. Yes, it took sacrifices, but so what? I would be willing to bet that students interested in the two year program who want to participate in journals or clinics will find a way to make that happen. And the drive and focus those students have going in will go a long way toward helping with placement afterward.

I think it's a *great* idea. I wish it'd existed when I went back to school, I'd have done it in a heartbeat.

Charles said...

Not to be an elitist, but Northwestern isn't competing against night schools.