Yesterday, I reiterated the point that the third year of law school is largely useless. Such a position is not novel. Recently, NYU Law announced a big change to its 3L curriculum because, in part, the current use of the time is silly.
But even changes to the curriculum still contemplate making most students waste another year of tuition while they wait to take the bar and start their job search in earnest.
Out in Arizona (I’m still allowed to write about Arizona without having to prove my status, right?), some are pressuring the state supreme court to skip ahead and allow 3Ls to sit for the bar exam in February. They argue that the change will allow students to pass the bar before they graduate; that way they don’t have to wait until the fall to find out if they’ve passed the bar in a state where there aren’t a lot of jobs for students who have their bar passage “pending.”
Sounds like a great idea, so of course some people have a problem with it. You know, because then students will spend time caring about the bar during their third year, instead of reading Above the Law in class…
The National Law Journal has the interesting story of people in Arizona actually trying to do something that will help law students while they steal their money for a third year of education. The plan, as initially conceived by then-Arizona law professor Gabriel “Jack” Chin (who’s now at UC Davis), is pretty straightforward:
Students would be allowed to sit for the February bar exam as long as they were due to graduate within 120 days of that date and had been certified by their respective law school as prepared for the test’s rigors. The students would not undertake a traditional course load in January or February; instead, they would take a bar preparation course. The remainder of their time in school would consist of nontraditional courses designed to help them enter practice, including clinics, externships or classes covering law office management or professionalism.
The concept has support from students. The University of Arizona’s Law Student Bar Association wrote to the Supreme Court urging adoption. “We also like the ability to start practice immediately after graduation, rather than having to wait until late in the year to be able to practice or start looking for work,” they wrote.
I still think it would be better for students to have to spend one less year on law school tuition, but you’ll have to pry an extra year of money out of the cold, dead hands of law faculty and deans.
This option seems like the next best thing. You study for the bar, you do an externship, you take a class that will help prepare you for the day-to-day challenges of actually practicing. What’s the downside?
Not everyone in Arizona was sold on the idea, however. The state Supreme Court’s Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee in May asked the court to reject the proposal, citing concerns that students would be overwhelmed trying to complete school and pass the bar exam at the same time. The committee noted that other states, including Missouri, Oregon and Virginia, had tried and abandoned the idea because they found it “disruptive and distracting.” Georgia, for example, began allowing 3Ls to take the February bar during the 1970s, but ended the practice in 1995 after concluding that students were spending more time studying for the test than attending classes.
I don’t really know how to put this nicely: passing the bar is important; 3L classes are not. If you are in the unfortunate position of not having a job lined up by the time you are a 3L, you want to keep your 3L grades high… but you have to pass the bar if you want to work as a lawyer.
Here’s the most nonsensical argument against allowing 3Ls to sit for the bar:
“My fear is that it will negatively impact the third year of the educational experience and essentially turn the third year into a bar prep course,” said Arizona assistant secretary of state Jim Drake, who sits on the committee. “I don’t think that’s the right way to go. I see this more as a marketing idea.” Getting students admitted to the bar sooner can only help the law schools’ rate of placing graduates in legal jobs, and thus their U.S. News & World Report rankings, he added.
Wait, so here’s an opportunity for U.S. News’s domination of legal education to help students, and now we’re criticizing it? Look closely at what’s being said here: “Getting students admitted to the bar sooner can only help the law schools’ rate of placing graduates in legal jobs.” So the guy who is against it is admitting that his will help people get jobs more quickly.
HOW CAN HE BE AGAINST THAT?
If even the opponents of this thing agree that it’ll help job placement, then doesn’t this have to happen? Or are law schools now looking to actively frustrate the opportunities for their students to find gainful employment?
We don’t know which way Arizona will come out, but there should be a proposal to allow this to happen in every state in the nation.
It’s the least law schools can do. Seriously, it’s absolutely the least impactful change to the overall structure of law schools that could have an immediate effect on the ability of graduates to get jobs.
A possible head start for law students [National Law Journal]