Law Schools

Two-year JD idea gets a high-profile supporter: President Obama

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President Obama has joined the ranks of observers who say law students should spend only two years in the classroom.

Obama addressed the issue on Friday at Binghamton University in New York during a town-hall speech about reducing education costs. “This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck. I am in my second term, so I can say it,” Obama said. “I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.”

The third year, Obama said, students would “be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren’t getting paid that much. But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student.” Among the publications covering the president’s remarks are the New York Times DealBook blog, The BLT: the Blog of Legal Times and Inside Higher Ed. TaxProf Blog lists stories reacting to the proposal.

“Now, the question is,” Obama continued, ” ‘Can law schools maintain quality and keep good professors and sustain themselves without that third year?’ My suspicion is, is that if they thought creatively about it, they probably could.”

Obama is a Harvard law grad and a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. The Times asked Indiana University law professor William Henderson for his reaction. He welcomed Obama’s remarks, but noted a benefit of his 3L year. “I took Obama’s class in my third year,” Henderson told the newspaper in an email. Under Obama’s two-year plan, “I would have missed out!”

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