FDR did fine without a 3L year

New York may let law students once again take the bar exam after two years.

, The National Law Journal

   | 13 Comments

The third year of law school has long been a punching bag for critics who argue it's a waste of time and drives up the costs of a law degree, but there have been few serious attempts to do anything about it. Until now.

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What's being said

  • Tom N

    FDR has little or no record of law practice and, in the list of Presidents to date, had little or no respect for the U.S. Constitution or stare decisis. Although it makes "good print," I wouldn't hold him up for the proposition of a 2 year legal program.

  • Tony Smith

    Except for that messy internment of the Japanese, he was a law god!

  • Anonymous


    Why not allow law schools to establish two degree programs for regular students -- e.g. a two-year L.L.B. and a three-year J.D.?

    Let students decide after one year which degree program they will pursue.

    Either degree program requires completion of a set of courses that will qualify the student to take the bar exam.

    Those students who are independently wealthy, who may want to teach law, who have judicial clerkships, who want to do clinical/internship work, etc. can get the three-year J.D.

  • Anonymous


    Why not allow law schools to establish two degree programs for regular students -- e.g. a two-year L.L.B. and a three-year J.D.?

    Let students decide after one year which degree program they will pursue.

    Either degree program requires completion of a set of courses that will qualify the student to take the bar exam.

    Those students who are independently wealthy, who may want to teach law, who have judicial clerkships, who want to do clinical/internship work, etc. can get the three-year J.D.

  • Charlie Katsu

    DO AWAY WITH 3L

    you guys are dinosaurs - have you seen the job market, crazy people?
    also, please don't be bitter that you had to spend $70K on your last year of school etc.

    if this was a public meeting, i would be there supporting the ability of law students to take the bar after two years.

    you idiots.

  • Lisa Lerman

    Many of those who assert that the third year of law school is unnecessary or a waste of time have not experienced the benefits of clinical courses, externships, and simulation-based skills courses, which offer challenging learning experiences to law students who might be a little bored with doctrinal courses. Query whether the advocates of a two-year JD program have thought carefully about the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career in any of the complex and specialized fields of law that proliferate in the twenty-first century. Could anyone launch a career in--say--environmental law, communications law, or in intellectual property law--with just a couple of basic courses in one of those fields under his or her belt? I don't think so; especially if the new lawyer in question did not attend an elite school and actually has to demonstrate proficiency in the intended field to get a job. Cutting off the last year of law school would be a disservice to our profession. To be anywhere near "practice-ready", our students need a full three years of well-thought-out legal education. Law schools do need to cut costs. The salary scales at some schools (not mine) may be inflated, but there are lots of other silly expenses that could be reduced. We should go back to need-based financial aid instead of falling over each other to offer free rides to the (usually economically privileged) students with the highest LSATs. We should stop squandering resources on publicity brochures and lecture series whose purpose is primarily US-news-related publicity. We should seek to trim expenses without sacrificing the generally high quality of education that US law schools offer. And we should be careful not to trample on our collective research capability, because it fuels good teaching and contributes much to the development on law and public policy. Lisa G. Lerman, Professor of Law, Catholic University Law School, J.D., NYU, 79

  • Ben

    There's no good reason not to do away with 3L. There is so little curricular planning in law school anyway that a student can take literally anything he wants in the third year. What's the point? More tuition dollars, more subsidies to faculty. That's all.

  • Dina Staple

    Jenn's suggestion to incorporate supervised pro bono is a good one.

  • Dina Staple

    I think a better approach is to revise the curriculum - - infuse more practical components and keep pace with changing times - - and make legal education much more affordable as well as accessible.

  • Albert Davenport

    Perhaps the third year curriculum could be altered to provide some options other than the traditional attorney route. A law school education provides a sound basis for work in many fields. Flexibility and more partnerships with companies outside the traditional legal fields could yield higher placement results and fewer impoverished law school grads. http://www.valhallapress.com.

  • Jenn

    Why not replace the conventional 3L year with required period of supervised pro bono work? That not only would save students money, but would benefit society and still achieve the goals the 3L year *is supposed to achieve* (i.e. cementing skills learned 1L/2L year). Obviously this is what "clinics" were envisioned to achieve, but why are students paying to do it? If it's restructured as pro bono, could it not be eligible for state/federal aid to compensate the supervising professors/attorneys? Or, since it's pro bono, attorneys can count it toward their nonbillables and professors should do pro bono anyway -- they are lawyers too.

  • Ronald Courtney, Esq.

    I think that it is quite easy. If a third year is not required, then those completing the degree should get something less than a Juris Doctor degree. The JD is awarded to those completing a BS or BA 3 years of credits minimum. For a BS or BA with 2 years of credits, they should not get a JD degree, but like in Europe, a bachelor of laws (with a post graduate certificate) or something equivalent.

  • J-NY

    The problem is not the 3rd year, but the quality and diversity of classes that are offered to 3Ls. I don't believe that internships are the answer either--students need to learn practical skills in a learning environment (where they can only do harm to their grades). Class topics that I could have used as a 3L were practical ones, how to draft pleadings, for example. Motion practice is another. Also, NY procedure can be like trying to figure out an ancient riddle. I could have really, really used a class in real, applied procedure--not memorizing CPLR sections. Instead I had to figure it out myself as solo--and that was painful.

    Although the goals are worthy ones, I am not sure that the new pro bono requirement will be successful. In my experience as a new grad I found it hard to get volunteer work. The organizations wanted me to carry my own malpractice insurance and as an unemployed graduate with no income, it was not something I could afford to do.

    Keep the 3rd year, just make it better.

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