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Is Third Year Worth It?

Is the third year of law school all that valuable? Does it really require more than four semesters to take all of the truly meaningful courses? Some folks don't think so. See, for instance, this MSNBC article. An excerpt:

At many top law schools, the third year is famously relaxed, a halcyon interlude between rigorous introductory courses and the long hours that await graduates at law firm jobs. There is research and volunteer work, but also a lot of bar-hopping and little studying: 15 hours per week, according to one survey at 11 law schools, compared to 33 hours for first-year students.

But if it's an extended vacation, it's pricey: $30,000 or more at top private schools. And at many law schools, grads can't count on the six-figure salaries awaiting many at the most prestigious programs, so an extra year of debt is a big burden.

Some educators want to see the third year beefed up, arguing the law is more complex than ever and future lawyers need more preparation, both for the bar and exam and for their careers. But others want it dropped.

Critics say there's so much law that students will learn most of it on the job, anyway. They see the third year as a revenue racket, a full-employment scheme for faculty that comes at the expense of non-elite school students and discourages them from taking public service jobs.

I would be curious what VC readers think.

Jeremy (mail):
I agree with the critics that the third year of law school is, currently, pretty useless. Should it be dropped? Should it be beefed-up? Are there any other options?

If I were a law school administrator, I'd turn the third year into instruction about the practice of law, instead of instruction about the law itself. Law schools are great at teaching legal theories, but they don't teach people how to be lawyers. Knowing how the Commerce Clause works is less important than knowing how to do a deposition, in my humble opinion. With a revamped third year, law students could learn about the Commerce Clause and depositions.

Another option would be to tone down the first year curriculum slightly and use the third year to fill the gap. First year is too demanding and stressful for most students. The first year at law school shouldn't be the intellectual equivalent of boot camp at Parris Island. Maybe the pressure-cooker of the first year helps weed out the people who won't be good trial lawyers, but there's plenty of legal work that's just not stressful.

(However, as a practicing attorney, I'm embarrassed to admit that I like the fact that there are so many barriers to entry into the legal services market, like expensive tuition and a difficult first year. If an extra year at $15K or $20K keeps a lot of poor but smart people out of the profession, so much the better.)
8.21.2005 12:45pm
Bryan DB:
I've heard the same thing about third year, but can't speak from personal experience. If it really is that lackadaisical, they should fill it up with something. Practice-specific work would be good. How about moving the bar prep courses into the third year? I can imagine there are some companies that might be a little peeved, but the current set-up sounds like a scam. Go to school three years and then take a prep course because you didn't learn any law?
8.21.2005 12:55pm
Rex (mail):
I found third year to be very useful--that's when I loaded up on practical courses: criminal practice clinic, appellate advocacy seminar, trial advocacy seminar, etc. As well as a couple of other courses I hadn't had time to fit in before, such as Conflict of Laws and Secured Transactions.
8.21.2005 12:56pm
Peter Harwood (mail):
I would thinki the charitable view of 3rd year may see it as signalling; that is, the more demanding is the law school experience, in terms of difficulty, time and tuition, the better the graduates, since less-dedicated students are weeded out.

I'd think an equally valid view may see 3rd year as a barrier which primarily serves to reduce the number of lawyers (think of paralegals contemplating 3 yrs of law school rather than 2), which has the effect of raising lawyers' compensation. By this rationale, law school, defined by current lawyers rather than prospective lawyers, operates like any trade union, to limit entry to the profession in the name of maintaining quality.
8.21.2005 12:57pm
Keith Hilzendeger (mail):
I don't know how to solve this alleged problem, but I can identify one contributor to the ennui of so many 3Ls -- the employment market. Students with the best grades already have the security of jobs, or clerkships to be followed by jobs, locked in (not to mention a study stipend for the bar exam). The rest of students figure there's no point in looking until they've earned their license. Even if they could change their GPAs tremendously during their third year, 3Ls are well past the point where it matters to anyone -- except maybe the diploma engraver, who has to remember as many as three Latin words.

Law students, the prototypical rational actors, simply respond to the incentives around them. Thus, come Memorial Day, many 3Ls have a hard time shifting back into hard-work bar-review mode. (As an Arizonan, I can't also help but think that the oppressive heat had something to do with it as well.)
8.21.2005 12:58pm
Trent McBride (mail) (www):
Follow the "www" link above to see my similar thoughts about the final year of medical school.

(Sorry to post it here, but trackback did not work)
8.21.2005 1:01pm
Anonymous Law Graduate:
The problem is that the argument against the third year isn't truly on the merits of the extra year of education, but rather based off the current realities of the legal employment market.

The main reason people consider the third year useless is because the current practice of legal hiring is to extend offers to students prior to beginning their third year, making the final year "useless," since students have no incentive to take particularly difficult classes or otherwise work harder.

However, I think that this is a wrongheaded approach. While it is true that a student could easily study the basic law in two years, compressing the curriculum down to those two years would prevent students from pursuing more advanced studies in a particular specialty, or even a broad understanding of the law beyond the basics (Business Associations, Evidence, Criminal Procedure, etc.)

This would result, in my view, in the spread in the necessity of an LL.M. degree from Tax Law to most every major high-end area of practice. In other words, the law schools would be graduating poorly prepared two-year JDs to go give dubious advice to poor clients, while forcing students seeking high-level private employment would be forced not only to continue at least as far as the current JD must go, but also undergo extreme competition while in the basic law school for admission to the second level of education.

I also find the fetish for public service jobs that law schools have obnoxious. While I agree that it is important to support these career paths (particularly because I am an employee of the government myself), I find the monomania of most law schools for "public interest" law to be a tremendous waste of institutional resources- the schools throw so much money at a field that so few of their graduates are interested in, let alone actually become employed in, that they should reconsider their priorities before they decide to cut a third of their students' legal education, all in the name of "public interest."

The dodge that people are too poor to afford law school is just that, a dodge. I had no money to my name when I began law school, and funded my entire legal education with loans. Others can as well.
8.21.2005 1:09pm
Adam (mail) (www):
Like others here, I filled my third year with clinical work and law journal editing, and I found both (especially the former) to be incredibly meaningful and helpful in my career.

Maybe replace half of the third year with externships -- either at firms, public interest organizations or government service -- something to give students experience in the practice of law, as opposed to the study.
8.21.2005 1:23pm
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
I'm about to start my third year, so I can't tell you if it's more or less stressful than any other. What I can say, however, is that cutting it out won't make 1L any less of a pressure-cooker. Like others have said, the problem isn't the third-year, it's the hiring process.

So long as law firms hire out of their summer associate pools, and so long as those pools are determined by a set of on-campus interviews that occur only after 1L year, then 1L will remain the competitive benchmark of the law school experience. This brings up a further question, though: do law firms really find that the information given by 1L grades sufficient to figure out who will be a good or bad lawyer in their firm? If so, then the purpose of 3L year is questionable indeed. And if not, then why don't they look more towards 2L or 3L performance? Is there something about those years that make the grading information less important for law firms?

Anyway, my first impression is this: the workload doesn't feel like it will be much different. However, if you're approaching 3L year with a job offer in the bag and the biggest hurdle you have remaining is a clerkship offer, then the work just doesn't mean enough to you to cause 1L-level stress.
8.21.2005 1:43pm
The General:
The purpose of law school is to prepare future lawyers "how to think." It is pretty clear to me that this task has been accomplished by the end of the 2nd year. That isn't to say that 3rd year is a complete waste. It is what the student makes of it. But 3rd year is not absolutely required for one to become a good and effective lawyer, and it primarily exists as a cash cow (law schools in general are treated as cash cows by the university). This is the reason that the ABA from time to time floats the idea of adding a required 4th year.
8.21.2005 1:46pm
Public_Defender:
I agree with Keith's comment that a student with a job offer is less likely to work hard. But the third year is as useful as the student makes it. If it turns out to be a waste of time and money, that's the student's fault.
8.21.2005 1:47pm
Karen A. Wyle (mail) (www):
I like the approach several commenters have suggested, of devoting the third year primarily to externships. This might also ameliorate the situation one commenter mentioned as exacerbating the third-year problem: the tendency of employers to snap up top students early and ignore the rest until after graduation. If externships were standard for third year, they would provide students a later opportunity to impress potential employers -- assuming enough employers could be found to provide the externships.
8.21.2005 1:47pm
twwren:
When I entered law school in the '70's I was told:

1. The first year they scare you to death;
2. The second year they work you to death; and
3. The third year they bore you to death.

I found this to be true.
8.21.2005 1:47pm
Columbienne:
Intellectually motivated law students can always find plenty of rewarding seminars and clinics to fill up 3L, probably even a fourth or fifth year. The problem is with the big lecture/exam classes -- after 1L, that style of learning gets old real quick, and I don't blame students who want to get out immediately after 2L. It's like banging your head against the wall after a certain point... although an efficient way to stuff more content into your head, the lecture-exam structure doesn't entail much real intellectual growth after 1L.

And those lecture classes can be so demoralizing (regardless of the grade you end up with) that the intellectual life is sucked out of other, potentially more stimulating kinds of classes.

Personally, I had a rewarding 3L year, but I could just as well have done without it. I say we go to the Canadian articling system.
8.21.2005 1:52pm
Hugo Lloyd (mail):
Anonymous Law Graduate: I'm intrigued by your comment that law schools have a "fetish" for public interest jobs. That wasn't my experience at all. In fact, I thought my law school did everything possible to steer students toward big firm jobs, and largely paid lip service to other career paths.
8.21.2005 1:57pm
Anonymous Law Student:
Hugo-

Mine, at least did. The situation is similar for my friends at other law schools, which, admittedly, is not a representative sample.

As far as my own school goes, our career services office actively discouraged students interested in private practice. I blame it partially on the school's practice of staffing the career office not with HR professionals, but with failed attorneys and big-firm burnouts.

That said, the resources devoted to the public interest programs were, per capita, far in excess to those devoted to any other program at the institution.
8.21.2005 2:02pm
Anon Atty:
I was had an internship with a judge my third year and hung out at court a LOT outside of that. I learned much about evidence, criminal law, working with opposing attorneys, drafting jury charges, etc. [I think that Vinny in My Counsin Vinny had planned to do the same thing.] I'm not a litigator now, but it was a great learning experience (esp. compared to large firm junior litigators who never seem to get unchained from their desks). Plus, I had a ton of contacts that seemed to appreciate a student who was interested in what they did.
8.21.2005 2:12pm
Joel B. (mail):
Third year can be interesting, and I'm happy with the classes I took, but I think it is an expensive year that the benefit is not commensurate with the cost, and that makes it annoying.

My personal preference would be to have (at least) your last semester be the bar review course. Am I the only one, I find it inexplicable, that I would pay $60,000 (over 3 years) for law school, and have to pay another hefty sum for bar review after graduation. Why not just make that the last semester. That way too, if I haven't taken W&Ts, or CP, I can at least get an important overview of all the different major subjects in my 3rd year.
8.21.2005 2:14pm
Jeremy Richey (mail) (www):
If the third year of law school ever vanished, a law degree should not still be called a "Juris Doctor" degree. A two-year degree should never sound like a doctorate. It would be more appropriate for two-year law schools to grant "Master of Jurisprudence" degrees. I don't like the "J.D." label now, and I would like it even less if it took two years to earn one.
8.21.2005 2:22pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
I think this post raises another question that is both more general and more important. Why does law school have to be so expensive? Are faculty salaries much higher in law than in other disciplines? Are law libraries really so dear? I don't think so. It seems to me that law schools should have very low fixed costs and a relatively strong ability to raise money from alumni. Please correct me if I am wrong.
8.21.2005 2:24pm
Anonymous Law Student:
Law school is an expensive proposition to run.

On the first hand, professor salaries, while still lower than private employment, are fairly high for academics, due to the alternate careers available to holders of a J.D. (unlike, say, an English Ph.D.).

Additionally, law libraries are expensive, and are required to be maintained by the ABA. This could possibly disappear when Lexis/Westlaw becomes a commonly accepted alternative to books, but then the school would be doing a disservice to its students- not everyone will have clients who can afford to, or are willing to, pay for such services on a regular basis. They'll need to know how to hit the books.

Plus, most law schools attached to universities are forced to pay tribute to the main university system, and thus subsidize the rest of the campus. Its often this way for medical schools and business schools as well. Its often less difficult to gouge pre-professionals than it is to gouge undergrads majoring in Performance Art.
8.21.2005 2:30pm
Kilroy:
Given that the U.S. law school curriculum doesn't appear to be particularly more rigorous, nor (despite perhaps by way of professorial ego) the scholarship of the typical law school faculty any more impressive, than in other nations where the law degree is still deemed the "L.L.B." instead of the "J.D.", perhaps the "solution" is to revert the initial law degree back to the undergraduate level. Those who wanted to pursue a more specialized curriculum could continue to do so, by obtaining an L.L.M. (the title of which we strangely maintain, despite simultaneously contending that the (L.L.B. qua) J.D. is a doctoral degree.)
8.21.2005 2:53pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
To fix that problem, I took an 1L elective and summer classes. Now I scheduled in graduate a semester early, so I will only have half a 3L year. And, what I am doing in that last semester is clinic (6 hours); Independent Study (3 hours which will be my writing requirement) and whatever 3 credit course I feel I could use. (Which I'll only take for credit, not a grade). I prepared for this 3L boredom year, and I recommend that incoming 1Ls or future 1Ls do the same.
8.21.2005 3:18pm
Zak Sharman (mail) (www):
Although substantively I tend to agree with A. Rickey above, I can't help but wonder whether the Institute for Justice will take on this protectionist racket with the same vigor they've exercised in challenging other irrational protectionist schemes...
8.21.2005 3:58pm
ajf (mail) (www):
i, too, am about to start my third year. glancing at my schedule -- law students in court clinic, a bunch of four-credit classes (IP, conlaw 2, corporations, admin law), and a few classes purely for the interesting factor (national security law, int'l terrorism, etc.), i'd have to say that if 3rd year was supposed to be a slacker year, i must've missed that memo.

i, for one, would appreciate a whole year devoted to practice. perhaps replacing the third year (if it is really a gut) with a one-year apprenticeship?
8.21.2005 4:05pm
Simon (391563) (mail) (www):
The standard curriculum should span 2 years resulting in an LLB. (I don't think law is an appropriate undergraduate degee -- too many lawyers are ignorant of other disciplines as it is.)

The third year should be spent in an Americorps-style practicum for underserved areas (geographic and substantive) of the law. I can think of a few hundred state defenders who would be happy for the help.

-and/or-

Options should remain open for an additional year/two years/three years of schooling to attain a LLM or LLD, for those who want to teach, specialize in a particularly complex area of the law (ERISA? tax?) or who just can't get enough of school.
8.21.2005 4:56pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
Why not allow some competition? Let some schools keep at 3 years, let some treat the 3rd year in more creative ways, and let other schools drop it down to 2? If the 2 year graduates were worse prepared that would be reflected in hiring practices, since your resume has your school as well as your degree.
8.21.2005 5:12pm
JohnAnnArbor:
If it's reduced to two years, you should stop calling the degree "Juris Doctor." At most, it's a master's degree.
8.21.2005 5:32pm
Andy Morriss (mail):
A couple of points. Those interested in the question of why the third year of law school exists should read Robert Stevens' excellent book Law School. The third year was a key element in the ABA/AALS campaign to shut down the proprietary schools and make the law degree more academic. It was also one of the hardest to get adopted. Stevens gives a good account of it, which makes clear that there has never been an academic justification for it.

On why law schools are expensive: think accreditation standards, lots of which raise costs, and university "taxes", which tend to run in the 20-30% range. George Shepherd, in an article in the Journal of Legal Education, estimated that the ABA library standard alone cost about $4,000 per student per year by comparing some accredited and unaccredited schools' spending. That number may vary a lot depending on the school, but since his estimate came from looking at newly accredited schools, it doesn't reflect having a Cadillac library.
8.21.2005 5:55pm
Stephen M (Ethesis) (mail) (www):
Nice link above, perfect comment:

The problem is that law students basically have their post-graduation jobs lined up by the end of their 2L summer. If you eliminate the third year of law school, the whole hiring process will move up a year and the 2L year will be just as lazy as the 3L year is now.

Comment by Xav — August 21, 2005 @ 11:04 am
8.21.2005 7:07pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I'm a current 3L and my class schedule for this semester is:

1. Federal Securities Regulation (3)
2. Individual Income Tax (3)
3. Land Use Control (3)
4. Criminal Defense Clinic (3)
5. Criminal Defense Skills (3)

I've already accepted an offer, but I'm not mailing in the third year. It's all about what you want to get out of the degree. I could take a bunch of useless junk classes, I suppose, but then I *would* be wasting my money, and why would I want to do that?

Some people coast, yet that's an indictment of the entire system? If you really want to fix this stuff, return to the mandatory curve. Then you can't take a cake class where 50% of the class gets an A for mailing it in.
8.21.2005 7:19pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
The information revolution and the open source movement are challenging proprietary infosystems all over. Someone could come up with a "law schools for dummies" program which at low cost/low barriers to entry would prepare people for the bar exam and the responsibilites of practice. The current high barriers to entry tend to attract students who are smart, hardworking, rich, confident, and connected, and this set would continue to have advantages over somebody at random. The paralegal trend is a bit like the nurse-practitioner, who now does some tasks which used to limited to doctors, and thus priced out of many people's reach. My own third year included a court externship, in which i finally learned to write like a lawyer, and a clinical program which was some help in combating my ivory-tower tendencies. My 4th year, as an llm, i developed a concentration that i've built my (mostly failed) career around.
8.21.2005 7:25pm
Larry (mail):
Can the professors who are reading this blog please give a list of the useless 3L junk classes that they teach, so that those are classes that can be eliminated if the TTTs reduce their program to only two years. (Kids who go to real schools, of course, would need three years so that they can understand the law on a much deeper level.)
8.21.2005 8:39pm
cfw (mail):
Third year might be modified to give some sort of special credential, such as in securities law, federal court procedure, appellate procedure, intellectual propety, etc. Something to put on the resume, on an optional basis, could help.
8.21.2005 9:59pm
Nathan Moore (mail) (www):
Since I can't resist an opportunity to express my opinion, and since Todd Zywicki, an oft contributor here, was my bankruptcy professor (note, as a 2L), I feel safe to comment.

Third year is easy - so what? Many PhD programs in their entirety are jokes, and MBA's are typically a couple years of fun and drink. I seldom feel inferior talking to a PhD (short of say, physics) about academic topics. Like most things we do in life, there are phases, and there purposes for those phases. Shortening the JD is silly. We might as well shorten BA's to three years, too, because seniors in undergrad don't care about that last year. It's the same logic. It's the same flawed logic.

Nothing is wrong with any of it.

Third year of law school I did a lot of other stuff because I had time, but that was primarily because after second year I had mastered the schedule required of a law student.
Anyhow, many commenters are correct - the entire job process would just move up a year if third year were eliminated. No one benefits from that, as first year is indicative of next to nothing. You finally get it third year, and ought to enjoy it.

In summary, I wouldn't recommend changing anything.
8.21.2005 10:11pm
Jed (mail) (www):
I think it all depends on the law school. I attended Baylor, where, in their 3L year, students are required to complete a 6-month Practice Court program that focuses on trial advocacy (even if the students have no intention of ever setting foot in a courtroom).

Living hell. Yes. But also invaluable during the first year of actual practice.
8.21.2005 10:14pm
Cedric Richeson (mail):
Instead of asking whether 3L is needed, a more fundemental question is whether any "L" is needed?
Why not eliminate law school as a pre-requisite to take the bar?
If the bar exam is to screen who should be licensed to practice, then what difference does it make that the process that an attorney to be uses to get to that point may vary? One year, two years, three years or more? apprenticeship as in days of yore? Isn't the point of licensing that a person meet a minimum standard of knowledge? Why not get rid of the ABA accredited barrier to entry to the legal profession and use certification instead to indicate competence in subdisciplines of law?
8.21.2005 10:22pm
Cato Renasci (mail):
Law school is a somewhat contradictory beast: it's a trade school which wants to think of itself as doctoral level graduate work. Most of the law students who were my contemporaries had little interest in that which was not directly useful to them for practice, although there were perhaps 10-15% who were interested in the law for itself or as part of larger theoretical interests.

Unlike some of my contemporaries at UCLA some 25-odd years ago, I found the third year remarkably valuable. Having studied most of the core subjects in the first and second years, I was able to focus on courses and seminars related to the transactional practice I was planning to undertake (corporate tax, mergers and acquisitions, "deals", entertainment law) as well as seminars in such things as law and economics, philosophy of law, and constitutional law, and the odd course or two that hadn't fit in my schedule in earlier years. Some courses and seminars brought in distinguished practitioners who talked about what really went on in their practices. An M&A seminar working with senior LA firm M&A partners was remarkable in teaching us to function as part an integrated deal team functions and called upon a wide range of skills including negotiation theory. Other more academic seminars brought in distinguished scholars outside the law (economists, philosophers, historians), helping provide context in which legal argumentation and thought proceed and raising the level of rigor in our our discussions. So I wouldn't have traded it for anything!

My law school experience was probably not typical: it was remarkably inexpensive to begin with (about $1,000 a year plus books and living expenses) and I worked some 30-40 hours a week all three years. Thus, it was hardly a great financial burden other than the foregone income from practice. And, of course, I already had a job offer from my summer associateship.
8.21.2005 10:30pm
Spoons (mail):
3rd year should definitely be junked. I've had most every kind of law job imaginable (clerkship, megafirm, small firm, prosecutor), and there isn't a single one of those that made me glad I had and extra year of school rather than a head start on being a lawyer.

I'm surprised at how many people are saying that the problem is that most student's get their job offers lined up during their second year. That's true for some students, of course, but they're a relatively small minority. Not everyone does a clerkship or a megafirm job. A decent number of people don't get hired onto their first job until after graduation.
8.21.2005 10:32pm
Redman:
Tuition is tuition. The third year is going to cost the same no matter what courses you take. Even if you already have a job lined up -- and perhaps especially if you already have a job lined up -- students are ill advised to waste the third year. Take the challenging courses, even those not in the field you THINK you want to spend the next 40 years working in -- you might be surprised.
8.21.2005 10:41pm
Larry (mail):
Most of the people I know that wasted their third year ended up as contract attorneys (i.e. Temps) or quit to raise children. This goes for people of both real schools and TTTs. Everyone else seems to love the law. If only there was a way to screen out the people that take temp jobs BEFORE they enter law school, life would be better.

Those who took their third year seriously never had to lower themselves to such unspeakable depths.

(I wish more professor bloggers would disclose the number of students they know that took temp jobs.)
8.21.2005 10:46pm
Jeremy (mail):
Larry,

Why the hatred for contract work? I've done some through my career and I usually enjoyed it. It often gave me a chance to get a taste of parts of the law I hadn't worked with before. Your obvious distaste for women who raise children and those who go to third tier schools discredits you.
8.21.2005 11:04pm
Jessica:
I agree that two years is probably not long enough, but from an academic standpoint the third year leaves a lot to be desired. I graduated in May, and most of my classmates were burned out early in the year, regardless of how the job search was going for them.

Unfortunately, most law students never get the opportunity to build the skills that will be an essential part of their career. That's why I think externships/clinics/part-time jobs are necessary for a well-rounded legal education. At the end of my second year, I was in the top 50% of my class. That summer (and through my third year) I clerked for a small firm. It was an incredible confidence booster. I got consistent feedback on my skills and performance. Despite mediocre grades, I realized that I would make a good attorney. It made me feel good about my decision to come to law school. Too many students become dejected with their grades and never realize that they will be competent attorneys.

I think students who don't work part-time for a firm/lawyer, or who don't do a clinic or externship are really shortchanging themselves. I would support a practicum for the third year. It would save students money and give them both practical experience and networking opportunities before they're licensed.
8.21.2005 11:36pm
Cato Renasci (mail):
I think students who don't work part-time for a firm/lawyer, or who don't do a clinic or externship are really shortchanging themselves. I would support a practicum for the third year. It would save students money and give them both practical experience and networking opportunities before they're licensed.


I absolutely agree on the importance of part-time work with a practitioner! And it should be a real job, not a glorified "summer lawyer" stint at a big firm complete with summer outings, wining and dining and nights on the town. Been there, done that. Great fun, but not much relation to actually being a junior associate. More to the point, my third year I worked for a solo criminal defense appellate specialist as a clerk: doing research and writing briefs, but on real live cases with often inconvenient fact patterns and the defendant's liberty very much at stake. Focuses the mind, as they say. Didn't directly relate to my career plans as a corporate lawyer, but the insight into actual practice and how it affected practitioners was invaluable.

I wouldn't substitute it for the third year of academic work. The combination of the academic and practical work gives you a sense of perspective that neither will alone. Not to mention the absolute excitement of the chance to actually apply an abstruse academic point in a live brief, and have it make the Supremes, even if it didn't win.
8.21.2005 11:51pm
Larry (mail):
Why does having a distaste for women who raise children discredit me? I think that part of the reason for the lack aggressive and competent defense counsel in some criminal matters is because women dropped out of the profession to have babies rather than defending accused people. In essence, they betrayed the country by thinking of their biological clock rather than thinking of the people facing a deprivation of liberty. If they had let someone else take their place in law school, then perhaps we wouldn't have to deal with the constant (credible) suggestions that criminal defendants are being reprsented with less than complete competence.

Therefore, I think that your suggestion that somehow my views are "discredited" is nothing more than a shallow insult. Insults are not allowed. I think it is a waste for a woman to take a seat in a law school away from someone and then deprive the country of a lawyer. If they are going to screw around in their 3d year, then they might as well not bother with law school in the first place!

In my firm and in my family it is considered dishonorable to have worked as a contract attorney because you are expected to have been hired as an associate (or higher). You don't see real lawyers (e.g. John Roberts) or professors (e.g. Volokh) working as temps. They clerk. They take real jobs. They work as associates or in the government.
8.21.2005 11:56pm
wooga:
I spent my third year with practical (for litigation) classes involving loads of higher level trial, advocacy and negotiations type courses. Although certainly less stressful than first year, it gave me a huge leg up once I entered the field. Third year remains necessary for students who can't get an ideal job out of their 2L summer, or who realize that they hate their 2L big firm atmosphere (like me).

If you can't find a use for your third year, you either aren't trying hard enough, or your law school needs to update their courseload. If you can't find some way to enjoy learning about the law, you shouldn't have gone to law school in the first place!
8.22.2005 12:04am
nk (mail) (www):
It should be four years: Two years of law school and two years of clerkships. There is no substitute for hands-on experience. As for the three-year system, I don't know if it's changed in the twenty-three years since I attended it, but think of it as a bell: It sounds only as loud as you ring it. If you want to take only BS electives to waste time or if you want to keep on learning law -- it's up to you.
8.22.2005 12:09am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
You are not going to get rid of the JD, so you are not going to get rid of the third year. The trend is in the other direction - moving terminal programs up to the doctoral level. When I was an undergraduate, most pharmacists had BS degrees. Not any more. Most, if not all, pharmacy schools give PharmD degrees instead. Yes, it takes a little more time, but the ability to put "Doctor" by your name makes up for it (esp., in their case, in dealing with MDs).

Indeed, I have a male bonding ski group with 4 MDs, 2 PharmDs, and 1 JD (me). When everyone is calling each other "Doctor", I make sure that it is reciprical. Gains some crediblity (which I sorely need there, given their general view of attorneys due to malpractice considerations).

When I went to work for a semiconductor company, I was surprised to find that entry level attorneys were brought in at the doctoral level - i.e. at the level they brought in newly minted PhDs. In situations like this, the masters level starting salaries were significantly lower.

Add to this, if you ever deal with foreign attorneys, etc., having the J.D. is quite helpful. I have dealt with attys. in a number of countries that addressed me as "Doctor". It is somewhat of an international "esq." - but only if applicable. The only problem really is with the English based systems, where many of the attorneys don't have doctorate degrees, and where esq. apparently has a different meaning. But in dealing with German, Russian, and Romance countries, in particular, being a "Doctor" is useful.
8.22.2005 12:11am
Larry (mail):
NK is right. It takes a rather devious kind of person to go to law school and then decide to stop learning after the 2d year. I just wish more professors would fess up and admit to teaching BS courses aimed at 3Ls.
8.22.2005 12:11am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
In at least some Universities, Law schools, as well as Business Schools, are the cash cows that pay for much of the rest of the University system, in particular, undergraduate education.

Yes, the ABA requirements, esp. as to libraries and adjunct profs, cost money. But the former costs are somewhat fixed, and, thus, increasing the size of the law school student body is often quite cost effective.
8.22.2005 12:14am
Zhid (mail) (www):
I think I was a bit atypical as students go...I was studying hard up to the last day of the third year. I went to non-first tier school in New York City and wanted to finish as close to the top of the class as I could (for career purposes and because I loved law school and enjoyed the intellectual challenge). So I was briefing cases to the end, reading everything and staying up late at night to prepare for classes. Our school also didn't hand out good grades (as some do) and if you didn't prepare, it showed up as a C grade or worse.

Most of my third year classes were not fluff-I took Fed Tax, Copyright/Patent/Trademark, Evidence, Securities Reg, Banking, Secured Transactions and a few others of substance.

I assume that I could have skated in the last year and graduated without a problem, but to get the top honors that I wanted and to make the most of law school, I worked hard the entire time. It was worth it for me.
8.22.2005 12:16am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Final comment. I have both an MBA and a JD degree. I found more drinking, etc., in law school than in business school. And I found the work easier in law school too. Maybe it is because the MBA is typically a two year program, that I just didn't see the ability to slide that I saw in 3L. I don't ever remember a quarter or semester in B. School where I could do that. Rather, the subject matter was challenging enough throughout the two years to keep me busy.
8.22.2005 12:17am
Larry (mail):
I have an MBA (finance), too. I found more drinking in b-school and I found the work to be easier. I can't imagine how much easier it is for the people in even fluffier MBA programs.
8.22.2005 12:22am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Whoops, another one.

I spent 3L on a corporate internship in a computer company and taking classes that I thought would be useful for a career in IP or computer law. Such classes as anti-trust, complex litigation, patent prosecution, etc. The subject matter of the classes was a lot harder than in my 2L classes, on average, and in combination with the corporate intership (where I spent a lot more time than I got credit for), I had about the same level of difficulty and work in 3L as I did in 2L.
8.22.2005 12:22am
Xrlq (mail) (www):
Drop it. There's nothing valuable learned in the third year that couldn't be learned on the job or in MCLE.
8.22.2005 12:39am
Zhid (mail) (www):

Drop it. There's nothing valuable learned in the third year that couldn't be learned on the job or in MCLE.


If that's accurate, isn't that true, to the same extent, about the first and second years?
8.22.2005 12:54am
TLRmonkey (www):
I am having trouble fitting in all the classes I feel I should take in three years. I am a 3L. My fall schedule is:

Federal Courts (5)
Remedies (3)
Oil &Gas (3)
Seminar: American Legal History (3)

Like all formal education, 3L is what you make of it.
8.22.2005 12:55am
EvilDave (mail):
I would allow you to stand for the Bar Exam after your first year. That was the year I really learned something. I learned how to think like a lawyer.

My 2L &3L years were generally a waste. I essentially home schooled. I have spent 11 years in higher education (3 degrees). I have taught courses. My father is a Dept. Chair. Both my mother and my wife are public school teaches. Law school soured me on formal higher education. What a scam!

Before I rant, I should point out that my company sent me to law school. I had no choice where to go, but no tuition bill I had to pay (post-reimbursement). I found tuition to be out of control. $40k a year for a third tier school was ridiculous. If I had to pay that, law school would have been the largest regret of my life. As is, I just consider it a wash.

The tuition is certainly not "value for money." Especially given the time and energy the professors put into the classes. Frequently the professors refused to give out syllabi. That was because when they did, they got MONTHS behind. My epiphany occurred during first year Torts. I didn't remember a case because I read it when the syllabus told me I should, 1 month ago. I walked out mid-class, and spent the rest of the semester in the library with a hornbook, the Restatements, and some flashcards. I got one of three A-s in the class.

In my 2L &3L years I attend about 50% of my classes. I got an A in Wills and only spent 1 hour in the class the entire semester. I have no clue what my Crim. Law professor looked like. I would go to the class at the beginning of the semester, see if the professor had anything enlightening or entertaining to contribute, and see what the calibers of the students were. Frequently, I had better things to do with my time. I really gave them a try and they failed. Of all those missed courses, there is only one course I felt I missed out on. I would have learned more and been better educated if I had attended Business Associations II (it was the only class on a Tue/Thu, I didn't want to drive 30 minutes one way). I self-taught myself everything using the library, hornbooks, Restatements, BarBri outlines, and flashcards. Still I was in the top 10% of my class.

I don't agree that we should move the JD back into undergrad an make it an LLB. Too few of my fellow students had the maturity to handle real world problems. They just didn't have enough real world experiences. I would actually not allow anyone to enter law school until the age of 25. Let life kick you around a little before you are allowed to try to solve other people's problems. The president of the SBA was a declared Anarchist who proudly told everyone that she had never had a job in her life. And, these are the popular people who's pontifications I missed by skipping class.

I would also allow you to sit for the Bar Exam after the first year. The requirement to stay in law school is only there to limit the number of lawyers (which I selfishly like) and the residency requirement in law school [FN1] is only there to milk as much cash from the cash cows students as possible.

The idea to have a program involving 2 years of class time and 2 years of clerkship is interesting. In my undergrad they required 50 weeks of internships before I could get my BSEE. I learned so much during that time. And, it kept me focused on why I was in school. (Fortunately, my undergrad was viewed itself as a pre-professional institution.) However, given the self-righteous focus on pro-bono and "moral" work at my law school, I fear what clerkship I would have been forced into. With my school's esteemed SBA president, I can only imagine my choices would have been ALF, ELF, or PETA work.

[FN1]
My school had both a credit and residence requirement. To graduate you had to have X number of course credits and 6 semesters of residency credits. So, even if you had 2X course credits you were not allowed to graduate unless you had attended 6 full time semesters at the school.
8.22.2005 1:47am
L.G.Hawk (mail):
I'm old enough to remember law schools as being designed to prepare the student to think like a lawyer, not to rush out and open a practice. Although we were not required to do so, we were encouraged to spend some time after graduation and the bar exam in a law office or in a judge's chambers. And after three years of "solids" with bloody few electives, we were expected to learn how to find the courthouse on our own. As a result, many of us thought law school should be four years, with only the fourth year devoted to practical lawyering/interning. No interning, no license.
8.22.2005 2:15am
older law student (mail):
Well, my personal view is that anything beyond the first year was largely a waste for me if the purpose is to get me to think like a lawyer.

I feel pretty qualified to say that I've learned more by doing than sitting in class (I never miss class). Law school amounts to little more than the start of a skeleton that a growing lawyer will hang the meat and substance around to grow into a functional real life lawyer. The thing is, that skeleton is relatively easy to build even without law school. In a few hours of reading a well written treatise, I can get what takes days to teach in class combined with the hours to read through those dry casebooks.

I have completed three externships with judges. I also worked full time during the summers and about 20 to 30 hours a week as a law clerk. In reality, I can say that regardless of how well I did in torts class (highest grade in the class) that grade is irrelevant in real life, because it only takes me maybe a couple of hours of reading in a treatise to learn what it took the professor days to teach in class. In fact, I, like everyone else who practices law, pretty much have to relearn what the actual law is in my jurisdiction because the professor doesn't teach it. The one exception was a very state specific community property class, but that was the only one.

Once a person understands how to read the law and analyze cases, the greatest mission of law school has been completed. This is why law school will be too long for some who quickly get "how to think like a lawyer", but could never be long enough for a few, who never get it.

It doesn't matter how much the professor teaches you about the theories of torts, it takes a real life case with real life facts, in a real life jurisdiction to "learn the law." Only bona fide practice in the real world prepares a person for practice. I would much rather have learned law the old fashioned way...... but that is me.

And for those that speculate it is because students already have a job secured by the end of the third year, I don't believe that happens for the majority of law students. That presupposes that there are enough of the highly competetive big firm jobs that recruit early so that all coasting 3Ls have a job. Remember, most lawyers do not start in the big firms and the government, from my experience, does not make such early offers.

At my school, which is high in tier two, fully 80 to 85 percent of graduates don't have jobs when they graduate. I daresay that my "offerless" classmate's attitudes are much different towards the third year than those who can skate by because they have a job in the bag.
8.22.2005 2:20am
Xrlq (mail) (www):
"Drop it. There's nothing valuable learned in the third year that couldn't be learned on the job or in MCLE."

If that's accurate, isn't that true, to the same extent, about the first and second years?


Definitely not true of the first year. The second year is debatable, but on balance, I think a good idea. The third year, by contrast, is little more than a second second year.
8.22.2005 3:15am
Larry (mail):
Hawk, Ironically, most people complain that law schools still don't teach people how to open a practice but rather teach them to think like a lawyer at a large firm. In fact, if any law school seriously did teach people how to open a practice their students would be mocked. So, I don't know where you get the idea that law schools actually have changed in this regard in the past 50 years.
8.22.2005 7:01am
Jed (mail) (www):

In fact, if any law school seriously did teach people how to open a practice their students would be mocked.


We are Baylor, and we are mocked.
8.22.2005 8:59am
Public_Defender:
Any smart junior or senior undergraduate could pass the bar exam with a BarBri class. So if that's the measure of a law school's worthiness, the whole thing should be dropped.

The third year gives students the opportunity to get a well-rounded view of the law. A lawyer can get by OK with only an understanding of his or her own field, but the best lawyers have a broader understanding of the law.

How does a broader understanding of the law help? First, good lawyers need to understand the system as a whole to understand the part in which they practice. For example, insurance law taught me the concept of moral hazard. Understanding moral hazard can help me to counter a prosecutor's argument that a certain client should not get the break I want her to get. Another example is corporate law, which teaches us how to think about the allocation of responsibility within an organization. I can use corporate theory (without expressly saying so) to argue that gang member A is less responsible than gang member B. I have also found that comparing my clients' legal position to that of civil defendants can dramatically increase my chances of winning in appellate courts dominated by conservatives.

Second, you never know when you're going to need to know something out of you main area of practice. Even though I'm a public defender, when I stop making this post, I'm going to work on a summary judgment motion in a civil case.
8.22.2005 9:14am
Larry (mail):

Any smart junior or senior undergraduate could pass the bar exam with a BarBri class


Everyone says this, but has this ever been tested. I am sure that someone could find a few Gs to pay some undergrads who want to spend their summer as BarBri guineapigs. Of course, many law students who were considered "smart" (i.e. they had social skills) fail the bar.
8.22.2005 9:36am
Pubic_Defender:
I should have said "many smart undergraduates, not "any smart undergraduate," could pass the bar exam by taking BarBri. You're right, it would be interesting to test the hypothesis.

I base my statement only on my personal experience taking my state's test. There was nothing on the exam that wasn't in my BarBri book, and the BarBri book is not that big.

The bar exam was grueling, but not that tough. I'm sure law school would increase the passage rate, but by how much, I don't know. My guess is that most of the law grads who passed would have passed after their senior year of college.

Maybe that's an argument for putting the bar exam before law school. That way, the people who can't pass won't waste three years of their life and a lot of money.
8.22.2005 10:49am
Larry88@mailinator.com (mail):
Maybe, PD, a solution would be to expand law school to four years, but the people that can't make it past the second year get some consolation degree that can be used to get into other graduate programs. Perhaps the bar could be given after the second year, and the next two years would build on theoretical knowledge with practical knowledge and specialization.

Like most lawyers I have had my moments when I thought that the bar was easy or easy enough for a smart college student to pass. But, I think that there is a lot more to it then just memorization. But, we should really try to test this somehow or other.
8.22.2005 11:08am
Observer (mail):
I concur with Older Law Student's comment that "Once a person understands how to read the law and analyze cases, the greatest mission of law school has been completed. This is why law school will be too long for some who quickly get 'how to think like a lawyer', but could never be long enough for a few, who never get it."

The idea that you can learn the substantive law in any serious way in law schools is for the most part silly. On your first job, researching your first brief, you'll read more cases in an afternoon than in a semester of law school.

The notiion that you can learn the lore of law, that is, how to practice law, in school, is also ridiculous. The practice of law can only be taught by apprenticeship, which is what the first 3-5 years of practice in any big firm amounts to. In this respect it is the same as medicine, in which the internship/residency is the apprenticeship during which doctors start to learn how to practice medicine. It's unrealistic to think that you can graduate from an academic institution and know how to practice law or medicine, dealing with real clients or patients, with real problems.

As for the initial question: is the third year necessary or useful? Well, it gives you a chance to edit the Law Review, which is pretty valuable experience. And it's fun dabbling in various upper level classes. And I suppose for those students who know they want to be tax lawyers, it's a chance to read the regs. and proposed regs. at leisure. But otherwise it doesn't have very much to do with becoming a lawyer.
8.22.2005 12:20pm
Robert Ropegun:
Nathan Moore nails it. I think there is a touch of myopia in the entire analysis. Third year seems like such a breeze, but I suspect this is in comparison to 1st and 2nd year. The workload and pace from the year 1 and 2 skew a law student's/attorney's opinion of 'busy' is. If you disagree, go talk to someone who works in-house.

I suspect that even laziest 3L, when pressed, has a lot going on with clinical work, journal, _real work_ and whatnot. It just seems less by comparison to year 1 and 2.

If you want to see lazy, go ask someone getting their masters in social work. That stuff is profoundly useless.
8.22.2005 12:32pm
Guest72 (mail):
"I suspect that even laziest 3L, when pressed, has a lot going on with clinical work, journal, _real work_ and whatnot. It just seems less by comparison to year 1 and 2.

If you want to see lazy, go ask someone getting their masters in social work. That stuff is profoundly useless."

Two things. First, I'm gearing up for my 3L at a top law school, and I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of my class is going to completely slack this last year. Your suspicion, at least at my school, is dead wrong.

Second, your disparaging comment regarding a Masters in Social Work couldn't be more off the mark. My fiance is getting her MSW and I can say without a doubt that she is getting a more rigorous education than I am. An MSW is a two-year program where you spend half your time in a clinical placement and half your time in classes. (Personally, I'd rather see JD's go the way of an MSW with half clinical/half classroom.) I've never met busier people than my fiance and her classmates. And I would hardly call learning to be a social worker who is drastically underpaid to do important work "profoundly useless."
8.22.2005 2:09pm
Robert Ropegun:
So you are telling me that your three year JD education at a 'top' law school is not as rigorous as a two year masters in social work. That is unfortunate for you.

I'm familiar with masters social work classes. I took several masters level social work classes in elder policy while I was in law school at Wash U in St Louis (top 25 law school, top 3 social work). They were nothing like I expected. While we read a variety of articles on elder policy issues (health care, poverty, demographics, etc), there was a complete lack of meaningful discussion. Instead the class focused on the how evil the pope is, how horrible female circumcision is, and how evil republicans are (Clinton was pres at the time). In just about that order. Maybe valid topics of discussion, but not necessarily in elder policy.

I appreciate your thoughts on your up-coming third year. Good luck with it. But maybe you ought actually complete it before you can comment on it. My point is just that the slowdown in work and responsibilities merely feels like laziness, when actually it is not that different from how most (normal) people operate.

Best wishes with your 3rd year. Enjoy it.
8.22.2005 3:04pm
Aaron:
Robert, I think you're missing the point of those social work classes. The professors know that you'll learn what you need to know to work as a social worker in your first job, or when you study for your licensing exam.

You see, your professors were performing the much more important task of trying to teach you to think like a social worker.

[Insert smiley here for the sarcasm-impaired.]
8.22.2005 3:29pm
Guest 72 (mail):
"I took several masters level social work classes in elder policy while I was in law school at Wash U in St Louis (top 25 law school, top 3 social work). They were nothing like I expected."

You sitting in on MSW policy classes then declaring that getting an MSW is "profoundly useless" is like an MSW student sitting in on a JD seminar (the least rigorous of JD classes from my personal experience) then saying that the whole JD program is useless. You also neglect to address the fact that social work students are spending half their time learning on the job. I understand and respect your opinions about 3L year, but your generalized comments about an MSW degree after sitting in on the least rigorous type of MSW class is pretty weak.
8.22.2005 3:50pm
Rich in NYC (mail) (www):
I disagree that the 3rd year of law school is useless. Frankly, as a recent graduate who just sat for the NYS bar exam last month, I was an evening student and the evening program is 4 years!!! So, for those students bored in a three year program, all I can say is suck it up.

Even so, there were many, many classes I would have liked to have taken, but simply couldn't due to scheduling, etc. If anyone is bored in the three years at law school you probably have no business either becoming a lawyer or going to law school in the first place. The amount to learn is nearly endless; the materials boundless. If you aren't up to focusing on it, that's no one's fault but your own. I do agree more "clinics" and hands-on skills taught in law school would be very valuable, but, again, there are many opportunities for students willing to go above and beyond the set curriculums to learn all they can.

From my own ad hoc observations I'd say 50% of people in law school probably shouldn't be there, and either have no great love for the law, nor a deep interest in specific areas.
8.22.2005 5:50pm
Half Sigma (mail) (www):
I've previously written about this exact issue at my blog.

So I'll quote myself:

"The next biggest problem with law school is that it's too long. Law school doesn't need to be three years. The third year of law school was pretty much a big waste. Two years is more than enough to train students to read appellate cases and "think like a lawyer." A third year of the same really doesn't accomplish much.

"The real purpose of law school is to serve as a barrier to entry to the legal profession, thus keeping wages high for those who have passed through the barrier. The third unnecessary year of law school creates that much more of a hurdle to pass over (but given the huge numbers graduating each year, it's apparently not a very effective hurdle).

"The suggestion to shorten law school to two years probably won't be greeted very enthusiastically by law professors, because essentially it means that one third of law professors will have to lose their cushy jobs."
8.22.2005 5:56pm
Lostingotham (mail):
My third year at Georgetown was mostly devoted to a litigation clinic (landlord/tenant court). It was fun and I suppose that had I become a litigator it might have been good experience. But it did almost nothing to prepare me for my career as a transactional attorney.

As it stands, law school provides fair-to-middlin' preparation for litigation and legal scholarship, and no preparation whatsoever for any of the other paths down which a J.D. can lead. Bar prep is mostly crammed into the first year (and what's left over BarBri handles admireably), and the 3rd year is mostly useless. Were it up to me the third year would be devoted to clinical training in adminstrative law, arbitration and transaction practice.
8.22.2005 6:39pm
Tom J (mail):
I can't resist ...

Larry wrote:

I think it is a waste for a woman to take a seat in a law school away from someone and then deprive the country of a lawyer.

Some would argue that said woman is in fact doing the country a service.
8.22.2005 8:48pm
JCA (mail) (www):
I too have posted on this before, and admit that as a transfer student my perspective is a bit skewed since my third year of law school was only my second at my degree-granting institution. Basically, though, I agree with Adam and company: the third year is best spent working on things like clinics and journals and moot court. I did not have a single magical classroom experience as a 3L, but oh, those wonderful afternoons in the library and glorious mornings in federal court.
8.22.2005 10:11pm
KMH (mail):
Lately the value of a third year of law school seems to be quite controversial, I hear people say you can get it all from an ICLE book at work, law schools just want more money, I don't learn anything useful, etc., but the whole idea of an Apprentiship doesn't make much more sense.

#1 As in law school, your interest is only peaked if you have a good teacher, your odds of getting stuck with a bad prof or bad attorney are about equal in my opinion. Also with the 3rd year you pretty much get to choose the subject matter you learn, whereas with an attorney you only handle issues that your client has.

#2 Maybe I missed all the jobs out there for first year grads, but there are many lawyers that don't have law clerks or summer associates. Why take on one when your workload doesn't increase? Either you pay them and lose money or the "apprentice" is going into debt while working for free, kind of like being indebt for the 3rd year of law school.

#3 Why don't we just let law students be lawyers after 2 years? As a client would you rather have someone have 2 or 3 years of education? Also, as stated many times above, people that will be better than average lawyers aren't going to waste their 3rd year, they will work hard and put the knowledge to good use. It is my belief that the best lawyers never stop being students of the law, when you stop learning you're doing yourself and your client a disservice. How is one more year of learning going to hurt you?
8.23.2005 2:56am
A Person:
You know what? I don't know the answer. You know why I don't know the answer? Because I could go to freaken law school like I could go to the moon. Yeah, gee, I guess I'd hate to waste that extra 30 large on the third year of law school. Right after I pay for my mom's oral operation, which I can't do because I can't even get my car back, which I can't do because I'm already late with the rent, which I don't have because I was laid off from my job which I had to take instead of going to college. OK?

Why don't you have an article on whether we should all go to Corfu or Ibiza next year for the yacht races.

Sheesh. Freaken spoiled babies.
8.24.2005 11:15am
Jelani B (mail):
I am a little late on this topic, but as I approach graduation, I began to delve into the purpose of law school. I spent 3.5 years working as a high school math teacher and going to law school at night. As was common with most of my evening classmates, we had very little tolerance for BS hypos and professor scare tactics. I give credit to the full-time students who make law school their life and excel at that task. Honestly, if I could afford it, I would do the same. I, however, give more credit to the part-time student who works 40 hours a week, raises a family and still excels at law school.

On that first day of orientation, I was prepared to go to law school and get the highest marks possible. I thought it was a race for an A and I was ready. Then a professor, in quite the eye-opening speech, said, "You need to go to law school so you can get certified to take the bar." To which a student asked, "What do we have to do to get certified?" The response, "Remain in good standing throughout graduation." Good standing is a 2.000. Now for the ranked law school a 2.000 is unheard of when the lowest dispensed grade is a B. In the bottom feeder law school or the proprietary law school, a 2.000 is hard to come by. Not because the students are any less intelligent, but because the grading curve is set so that the average student is inches away from academic probation.

So I put more effort into my work. I worked hard at being a good teacher and making sure my students walked out my classes with a strong foundation of basic math. As for law school, I did what I had to do to pass. I studied the "fat points", put those on the page and walked out of the room. Just to prove that I had the ability, one semester I worked at school and made the Dean's Scholar's list (top 20% for semester) and booked a class (highest grade). Then I calculated that a D from that point on would still certify me for graduation. Would that get me to the bar? Yes. Would get me a high paying job? No. Do I care? Not at all. I find it hard to believe that a licensed lawyer would be unable to find a job somewhere.

I think the third year is a waste if you spend it filling your head with legal theories when you can spend the time learning how to practice the law. Externships, clinics, part-time jobs (as many have said before) are the ticket to letting you know whether you will make a competent attorney. I was an engineering major in college and my engineering internship told me that I was not cut out to be an engineer. Not that I lacked the ability, but I am a people person and my office was three floors underground. My legal externship (as someone else has already said here) gave me the confidence that I could do this job and that taking the bar was worth my time. I still do not put forth any effort in law school, but I have already started studying for the bar. The bar matters. Law School in total is a joke. You can get information anywhere. The information is not worth the debt. If it were allowed, I would simply take a bar review course and take my chances.
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12.20.2005 9:04am
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7.4.2006 11:40pm