Stanford Law School is one of the best law schools in the country. SLS is ranked #3 in the latest U.S. News law school rankings. Stanford graduates are generally intelligent, capable, and employable individuals (with some exceptions).
But are they smart enough to miss the first few weeks of Bar/Bri? The law school has changed its academic calendar to a quarters system. Stanford University already followed a quarters system, but the law school had been on a semester-based academic calendar.
The change could result in some conflict between 3L classes and the beginning of bar review courses. One student explains:
Stanford Law School changed to the quarter system, leaving their students in very precarious position vis a vis the bar exam. Classes do not end until several weeks after the California bar review courses start. Aside from the fact that this puts an extra burden on all SLS 3Ls, who will have to study for the bar at the same time they are attending classes and studying for finals, it creates a real mess for those students who are not remaining, or cannot remain in the immediate area. to study for and take the California bar.
This is because the bar review curricula differ from location to location. Accordingly, a student who is planning to take the bar review course somewhere other than in the Bay Area cannot take the first few weeks of the bar review course in the Stanford area and then move to wherever it is they are planning to move and finish up the bar review course at that location. Moreover, many of the students have leases on their apartments that end before the bar exam; thus, even those students who have the flexibility and financial wherewithal to change their relocation plans and remain in the Stanford area through the bar exam may not have any place to live (and how many of those do you think there are?) Stanford Law School refuses to address this issue head on, attempting to placate their students with vague promises that they’re “looking into it.”
We spoke to officials at Stanford Law School, and it appears that the school has “look[ed] into it.” Overall, the school feels that the benefits outweigh the burdens, and the burdens can be mitigated.
Look at it from Stanford’s perspective, after the jump.
A spokesperson for Stanford Law School provided Above the Law with a detailed statement explaining why the switch is being made to a quarters calendar. SLS has also made a special deal with Bar/Bri to help mitigate student concerns:
There was initially some concern about Bar Review courses, but we were able to address it. In a typical year, more than 95% of our students take one of four bars: California, New York, Illinois, and Texas.
The Bar Bri folks in all four states agreed to run special courses for the Stanford students, which will begin on our schedule and still end with time to spare before the bar exam. (As you know, the courses end weeks before the exam, so there is no pressure on that end.) Students who want to take the course may thus remain here to do so. They can also use the iPod version if they want to do this off site. The 7-10 students who are taking some other bar will typically need to use the iPod version.
While we viewed this as a potential inconvenience, we believe that it is more than offset by the various advantages Stanford students gain by being on the same quarter system as the University.
First, where students in a semester system can take, on average, approximately 18 electives over their three years, students under our new calendar can easily take 30 –meaning they gain greater breadth in their education or greater depth
or a better combination of both.
Second, by aligning our calendar with the University, students can take many of these extra courses in Stanford University’s other top ranked schools: business, engineering, medicine, earth sciences and the like. This is a significant benefit in today’s legal market, where the ability to understand the substance of what your client does is as important as knowing the legal doctrine that governs it.
Third, under the quarter system, we are able to make our clinics full time during the quarter a student takes a clinic. This enables us to add breadth and depth to the clinical experience, while the clinics remain essentially the same length as before (because without competing exams, the clinic runs through the reading and exam periods). It also enables us to do special things like run our international clinics abroad (this quarter, for instance, students in our International Human Rights Clinic will spend 11 weeks working in South Africa).
Fourth, because the opportunity costs of any individual course are smaller under a quarter system, we are able to create and offer a variety of new courses to address shortcomings in the current program: more advanced writing, legal practice skills courses, etc. Given the opportunity to take more courses, students can take these classes without sacrificing their general intellectual development, making them much better prepared to “hit the ground running” when they graduate.
There are other advantages as well, but the main point was that by aligning our calendar with that of the University we are able significantly to enhance the educational experience we offer students.
Come on, we’re talking about Stanford Law grads. Kids, you should be able to pass a bar with four weeks of prep time, tops. (Okay, maybe five if you’re the dean.)
Stanford law students, let us know if this argument addresses your concerns.
Earlier: Stanford Adopts ‘Retroactive’ Honors Policy; Students Complain In Real Time