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August 24, 2013

President Obama weighs in on law schools

by Dan Rodriguez

Wall Street Journal on Obama’s recommendation that law school be just two years.

As the WSJ reports, I register disagreement with this recommendation, but now welcome the President into this debate.  Moreover, I continue to believe that the option being discussed actively in New York, which would give students the opportunity to sit for the bar after two years, is a sensible one.

While acknowledging the President’s contributions, the debate requires a nuanced, serious engagement with questions concerning what students can, do, and ought to get out of the third year of law school.  There are real opportunities for innovation and creative, practical programs and curricula in the third year of law school.  Many law schools are deeply engaged in this enterprise; and there are some good ideas emerging.  Before we get onto this bandwagon of “two is enough,” we need to think carefully, and with the benefit of hard data, about what we really expect out of newly-minted lawyers.  Is the problem that new lawyers are over-educated?  Yes, debt looms large — very large — in this debate.  And law schools must find ways of dealing with this predicament.  But how should we best configure the relatively short time available for serious training, in an ever-complex world?  That is the heart of the question.  And simply insisting that law school is one year too long is, with due respect to President Obama, a quick and dirty response to what is a complicated subject.

But props to the President for amping up this debate.  Let’s seriously debate this question.

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