Education / Schools, Law Schools, Peter Lattman

NYU Law Revamps 3L Year: This Pig’s Lipstick Has An International Flair

My, NYU Law’s new 3L program sure looks pretty.

The third year of law school is an utterly useless waste of time that exists only to fatten the coffers of American law schools and we all know it. The vestigial human tail is more useful for climbing trees than 3L year is for career advancement.

Of course, the third year of law school is never going away, unless you think that law schools are in the business of giving away a third of their income just because it’s the right thing to do. Like the coccyx, it’s so integrated into the whole system that we can’t really just get rid of it. The ABA mandates it, and everybody loves it when their primary regulator requires an artificial price floor.

Today, NYU Law School is announcing an interesting solution to this problem that it has with taking money from students without teaching them anything useful: it’s going to try not teaching them anything at all! That’s right folks, NYU is “revamping” 3L year to give students more opportunities to study abroad. Because whenever you are gouging students for an additional year of education that nobody needs, you might as well make some other university actually deal with them for the year.

Oh, and this plan comes to you with the Cravath stamp of approval. So you know it’s very prestigious….

Peter Lattman of the New York Times has the story on NYU’s new 3L year:

N.Y.U. Law’s changes are built around several themes, including a focus on foreign study and specialized concentrations. Some students could spend their final semester studying in Shanghai or Buenos Aires. Others might work at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, or the Federal Trade Commission. Another group, perhaps, will complete a rigorous one-year concentration in patent law, or focused course work in tax…

N.Y.U. Law’s new curriculum plan is highlighted by experience outside of the school’s Greenwich Village campus. While the school has dabbled in foreign study, it is now redoubling its focus on international and cross-border legal practice. N.Y.U. Law is preparing to send as many as 75 students to partner law schools in Buenos Aires, Shanghai and Paris, where the students will study the legal systems and the languages of those regions. With the ever-increasing influence of government and the regulatory state in private legal matters, N.Y.U. Law will also offer students a full semester of study, combined with an internship, in Washington.

Another key initiative gives students the chance to build a specialty. Called “professional pathways,” the program will offer eight focused areas of instruction, including criminal law and academia.

None of these programs will be mandatory, as students can still choose a conventional course load. But Richard L. Revesz, the dean of N.Y.U. Law, said that he hoped the students would take advantage of the new offerings.

This is better, I guess. When the alternative is sitting in an entirely useless “Law And [Fill In The Blank]” class, studying Ley y Masturbación in Buenos Aires at least gives you something different to talk about when you’re interviewing as an unemployed recent graduate for a job that doesn’t exist. It’s hard to get excited about programs that seem to be trying to distract people from the terrible legal economy, but it’s not like any one law school can change the economics of the legal market right now.

In fact, even Dean Revesz seems to be more pumped about the cosmetic nature of these changes than anything they will actually do to help graduating students. Check out this quote:

The reworking of N.Y.U.’s curriculum is the result of recommendations made by a strategy committee of alumni formed in May 2011 by Mr. Revesz. [Evan Chesler, N.Y.U trustee and Cravath presiding partner] was chairman of the 12-person committee, which included Randal S. Milch, the general counsel of Verizon Communications; Eric M. Roth, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and Sara E. Moss, the top lawyer at Estée Lauder.

“The group that came up with these new measures is comprised of leading lawyers who are creating the market to hire our students,” Mr. Revesz said. “Perhaps more than any of the substantive changes, I’m most proud of who has recommended them.”

I wonder if the spin that works for Dean Revesz will work for actual NYU Law students when they’re trying to get a job at, say, Cravath:

“More than my substantive experience helping Chinese lawyers violate U.S. copyright law, I honestly thought that doing everything that Evan Chesler told me to do would result in my being able to get a job at Cravath as a 3L. Because I didn’t go to a top five law school and spend a semester having my Facebook account read by a foreign government to work at the f**king EPA.”

Look, if the people at Cravath, Wachtell, Verizon, and Estée Lauder are more likely to hire NYU Law students than Columbia Law students based on this revamped 3L curriculum, then this is a great thing for NYU. If this leads to jobs, this is a great thing that will quickly be copied by all the best law schools.

But if it’s not going to change the jobs picture, if Cravath isn’t going to favor NYU Law students for hiring over Columbia or Harvard or whatever, then what are we doing here? What the hell is the point of going to Paris for a semester if you have to come home to a contract attorney job after graduation? This isn’t college. People aren’t in law school to expand their horizons; they’re in law school to get jobs.

Will this help 3Ls get jobs? If so, I hope NYU Law shows transparent employment figures showing the positive effect of this program.

N.Y.U. Law Plans Overhaul of Students’ Third Year [DealBook / New York Times]

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