Some law schools offer a way to save a year

    20 March, 2013

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report in Special English.

    Recently, we told you how some medical schools in the United States offer future doctors a way to finish in three years instead of four. Some law schools also offer a way to save a year.

    People who want to become lawyers traditionally attend three years of law school. Like medical students, many law students are deeply in debt by the time they finish their Juris Doctor, or JD degree. Those who take out loans borrow an average of around 125,000 dollars to attend a private school. The average for public law schools is about 75,000 dollars.

    Almost all graduates must pass a bar examination to get a license to practice law. This is a professional test administered by states. New York University Law School professor, Samuel Estreicher, has written a paper about bar exam requirements. It appeared in the school's Journal of Legislation and Public Policy.

    Professor Estreicher suggests that more students should be allowed to take the bar exam after two years of law school. He notes that this was more common in the past. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo and President Franklin Roosevelt both took the bar exam after two years.

    Professor Estreicher also suggests a more professional instead of a more academic program of study. Learning more about professional skills, he says, would better prepare a lawyer to serve the needs of average Americans.

    Some schools offer a two-year program, in addition to three-year traditional courses of study. Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, established a program called SCALE in 1974. It says this is the oldest two year JD program in the country.

    Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago became the country's first top law school to add an accelerated program -- that was in 2009. Northwestern has the same requirements for accelerated students as for three years students. They must learn the same material and pay the same price as students in the traditional program.

    Why then would someone want to do that? We asked Northwestern's Law School dean, Daniel Rodriguez.

    "For some of them, it is because they have a very clear sense of what they want to do when they get out the law school. Maybe they have a job lined up, or more likely, they have a strong sense of what their next days in their professional career would be. And they may be more urgent, a little bit hurry about it."

    Some lawyers argue against two year programs. They question whether many law firms would want to hire lawyers without that third year of law school.

    And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I am Faith Lapidus.