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Bar Exam

No more 3Ls? Proposal would let law students skip their third year

Posted Jan 14, 2013 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A law professor who says two years of law school is sufficient preparation for the bar exam is getting a serious hearing for his idea.

New York University law professor Samuel Estreicher is proposing that New York change its bar exam requirement to allow students to take the test after completing two years of law school, the National Law Journal reports. Students would still be allowed the option of completing the three-year degree and earning a JD.

On Jan. 18 legal educators and top New York state court officials will meet to discuss Estreicher’s idea, the story says. Among those slated to attend is Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. "I don't know what will happen with this,” Estreicher told the NLJ, “but there is enough interest from some of the decision-makers to come to the meeting and hear more.”

Estreicher outlined his proposal in an article published by the New York University Journal of Legislation and Public Policy (PDF). New York, he argues, could serve as a model for other states. Students who take the two-year option would have less educational debt and greater wherewithal to represent low-income clients, he says. These students would not receive a juris doctor, however, unless the ABA changes its accreditation standards. Meanwhile schools trying to keep students in school for three years would have greater incentive to make the curriculum more useful.

“The cost of a third year is a large consideration since private law school tuition in New York nears $50,000 a year, not counting room, board, and books,” Estreicher wrote in the article. “The problem is exacerbated by the worsening employment prospects of many graduates of New York law schools.”

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