One of several inane and useless classes I took during my 3L year was Antitrust Law. The class taught by an adjunct professor who did Antitrust work during the day. There must have been at least 30 people in the class – a mix of 2Ls and 3Ls and it was easy to tell the difference.
Most of the 2Ls were the starry-eyed hopefuls taking the class seriously. They were sitting in front of the class, paying attention to lectures, doing the reading assignments and trying to earn as many participation points as possible by asking the strangest and dumbest questions. Some wanted to maintain their high GPAs. Others sought that one elusive “A” in the hopes that the professor may hire them or recommend them to others thus saving them from an otherwise miserable and pathetic future in unemployment.
Most of the 3Ls in the class came with a different attitude. They knew that were not going to practice antitrust law after graduation. Many of them enrolled to accommodate their “I’m coming to this shithole only twice per week” schedule. Others just plain didn’t care. Their futures – either in a firm or the unemployment line – were set. 3L was a formality.
Recently, as more 0Ls are wising up to the law school moneysuck, people were discussing how to improve the 3L curriculum and for some schools, whether the third year should be eliminated altogether. Those advocating the elimination of the third year of law school rightfully claim that it is useless and only adds to law students’ debt burden. Note: This argument has been made for about a hundred years.
Those favoring the status quo claim that law students need additional classes in order to better understand the legal system and give them more time to explore their options. And of course, the “secret” discussion among the LawAdmins was whether eliminating the third year would reduce the school’s profit margin:
Perhaps inadvertently, Rodriguez and Estreicher implicitly make the real point: only the threat of losing significant third-year tuition revenues will dramatically change most deans’ behavior. Deans may say that they’re in the business of trying to get students through law school economically, but when they have opportunities to act accordingly, few seem to make the effort. That’s because they’re actually in the business of maximizing their schools’ short-term metrics, including revenues and U.S. News rankings.
A consequence of eliminating the third year would result in some law schools charging more tuition and forcing students to take summer classes.
There has been a proposal to let law students take the bar exam after completing two years of law school. And if they choose, return to law school for the year before obtaining the JD degree. But why would they want to? If this system is implemented, I seriously doubt that most firms (especially small firms) will require obtaining the degree before hiring them. No smart law student will want to pay additional tuition and living expenses while taking mostly useless classes. The JD will colloquially stand for Just Dumb.
If it were up to me, I would maintain the third year. However, for students attending shit schools with pathetic bar passage and post-graduation employment rates, I would add an additional requirement for 3Ls: To obtain 3L status, the student must be employed at least part-time and the employer must pay the student’s tuition. This will reduce the 3L’s overall loan debt, give her some semblance of practical training and motivate the student to find a job. Also, if students are having difficulty finding an employer willing to pay the students’ 3L tuition (which will be the case in most shit schools), schools will be forced to lower 3L tuition substantially or they will face a severe student backlash. An exception to this rule can be made for top students.
So I would like to see how schools collectively address this issue. I have no problem with law schools eliminating the third year. Especially if it results in schools eliminating classes in practice areas in which the students will never practice.