Add a Fourth Year to Law School

Not everyone agrees that we should reduce law school to two years.  Tax Professor Edward Zelinsky (Cardozo) makes a pitch for a four year law school on the grounds that:

“First, there is today much more law to learn than there was in the past.  . . .
Second, through expanded LLM programs, we are de facto creeping towards four years of legal education.  . . .
Third, many of the same critics who favor a two year law school curriculum also support expanded clinical education for law students. Such expanded clinical education should not come at the expense of substantive legal education but in addition to it.”
Point 1: Can’t disagree.  And, it raises the complicated question of how much substantive law can and should be taught  and, more importantly, learned, in law school. How much of the law we teach will be retained by students?
Point 3 (yes, I realize this is out of order): Does a useful degree of information retention  require opportunities to put the information into practice? If so, that reinforces the need for experiential education broadly and clinical education more specifically.
Point 2:  Imagine this is true for tax lawyers.  How true for others?  I don’t know, but guessing the fabulous UW Law reference librarians will have an answer shortly!
Update:  As predicted, a quick response with data that suggest “creeping” is the correct verb for movement toward the LL.M. as a 4th year of law school:

In 2011:

Total JD/LLB degrees conferred: 44,495

Total LLM degrees conferred 2011:  5,967

Compare 1997:

Total JD/LLB degrees conferred 1997: 40,114

Total LLM degrees conferred 1999:  2,764

Sources: ABA-LSAC Official Guide, 2013 edition, p. 864 & ABA Official Guide to Approved Law Schools, 1999 edition

Note that the LL.M. degrees figure presumably includes some number of foreign LL.M.’s who are not planning to practice i the U.S.

7 Responses

  1. It’s hard to imagine condensing three years of core curriculum into two years. I would think that the success rate of the bar exam would decline dramatically if this change went into effect.

  2. Were you not able to answer his specific question or merely proving his point that you could not provide a single specific instance to support your hypothesis?

    • Don’t understand your comment. “His specific question”: what are you referring to? “Your hypothesis”: what do you understand that to be?

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