Legal Education Reform

3L year everywhere.

David Lat and I were on CNBC’s Power Lunch with Dan Rodriguez, Dean of Northwestern Law School, discussing whether law school should be two years. As I mentioned earlier today, this debate got started again when President Obama said that he thought law school should last only two years, at least in terms of classroom instruction. Please see my earlier post if you’d like to talk about why Obama’s thought bubble was literally the least useful thing he could have done to effectuate the change he desires.

Here, we’re going to talk about whether Obama’s idea is good in the first place. Should law school be two years long? Let me rephrase that question: is there any possible justification for forcing people to sit through a third year of law school if they don’t want to?

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To accompany Noam Scheiber’s big article on Biglaw — which I discussed yesterday, and Anonymous Partner analyzed this morning — the New Republic asked six prominent observers of the legal profession (including yours truly) for their ideas on how to fix law school. For all of the blame that Biglaw gets for the profession’s problems, some of the difficulties can be traced back to the legal academy and how it teaches and trains lawyers (or fails to do so).

Let’s check out the various reform proposals. Which ones do you agree with?

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Casey Anthony

* Right about now, the Second Circuit is wondering why authors are suing Google and crying infringement over the Internet company’s e-book project, especially since digitization could benefit so many of them. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* This is the end of an era of legal battles: Jeffrey Skilling, Enron’s former chief executive officer, is getting a little shaved off the top of his 24-year prison sentence thanks to a deal with the Department of Justice. He’ll be out in 2017. [CNBC]

* Biglaw expected to have a slow start in 2013, but no one expected it to be this slow. The latest Citi report wasn’t exactly encouraging; on average, firms saw a 0.2% increase in revenue during the first quarter. [Am Law Daily]

* In the past decade, the American Bar Association has created six task forces to explore changing the face of legal education as we know it. Funny… nothing’s really changed. [National Law Journal]

* Bail for Ariel Castro, the accused Cleveland kidnapper, has been set at $8 million. “Just think of how many ribs and salsa albums could be bought with that, bro,” said Charles Ramsey. [Chicago Tribune]

* Casey Anthony had a bankruptcy hearing yesterday, but that news was overshadowed because everyone cared more about the girl who wasn’t going to get away with murder. [Orlando Sentinel]


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….

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