Law Schools

Northwestern Offers a Quicker, 2-Year Law Degree


Updated: College grads with work experience now have the opportunity to go to a top-tier law school and graduate in only two years.

Northwestern law school has announced it will offer a two-year degree beginning next year, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Students who enter the program will start taking courses next summer, the story says. During the regular academic years they will take an extra course most semesters. They will not have to take courses the summer between the first and second years so they can obtain internships or summer associate jobs.

In total, students will attend school for five semesters.

Northwestern is the first top-tier law school to offer a two-year J.D., according to TaxProf Blog. Southwestern Law School and the University of Dayton also offer two-year degrees, the blog says. The move was made possible by the ABA’s 2004 decision to drop a requirement for six semesters at accredited law schools, the Inside Higher Ed story says.

Northwestern dean David Van Zandt told Inside Higher Ed that the accelerated program will only admit students with two to three years of substantive work experience after college.

University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone, the school’s former dean, told the Chicago Tribune that two-year program is “irresponsible.”

“My sense is that compressing the educational process is likely to seriously derogate from the quality,” he said. “What is lost is likely to be much more than anything that is gained by hustling the students through more quickly.”

Northwestern also announced it is offering three new required courses on quantitative analysis (including accounting, finance and statistics), dynamics of legal behavior and strategic decision making. The requirement applies at first to the two-year students but will eventually apply to all students.

Van Zandt told Inside Higher Ed that a theme of the new courses is communications skills. He said employers have complained that new lawyers are unable to write a concise one-page client memo that does not appear to “waffle.”

New programs will also allow third-year students to participate in experiential programs for up to a semester, including working in a legal clinic or in a law firm outside the United States.

Updated at 9:12 a.m. to include Chicago Tribune coverage.

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