Friday, June 20, 2008

Sign of the apocalypse? NU offers J.D. in 2 years

It's on the front page of the Chicago Tribune this morning: Northwestern University will offer a two year program leading to a law degree. Jodi S. Cohen's article says that NU will satisfy the ABA's 24-month enrollment requirement and 20 credit hour per semester maximum by squeezing "the credits into five semesters by starting in the summer, taking extra courses each semester and picking up one or two credits through mini-courses between semesters."

According to Cohen, former University of Chicago Law School Dean Geoffrey Stone labels the two year program "irresponsible," saying it may produce "inferior lawyers who haven't had time to develop intellectual and analytical skills." Other scoffers were also quoted.

Pardon me while I scoff at the scoffers.

Mind you, I'm not buying into Northwestern Dean David Van Zandt's sales pitch. He says, according to Cohen, that the new program will be different in that it will require courses in "quantitative reasoning, including accounting, finance and statistics; and the dynamics of legal services behavior, including skills such as teamwork, leadership and project management."

News Bulletin for Ivory Tower Academics such as Professors Van Zandt and Stone and their other, equally prestigious colleagues quoted in Ms. Cohen's story this morning:

None of that junk is on the bar exam!

Ladies and gentlemen, law school is a scam. Law school is three extra, entirely unnecessary years of tuition leading to a degree that is completely useless unless you pass the bar exam. (The "better" the law school -- that is, the more highly ranked and expensive the law school, the less likely it is that you will ever take even a single course that provides helpful preparation for that inevitable bar exam. Even at "second tier" schools, the snobs who run the places frown on so-called "bar courses" -- but the folks who attend these institutions are smart enough to take these courses anyway. This is why the pass rate for the allegedly "best" schools often lags behind those of the "lesser" schools.)

Every state requires would-be lawyers to take and pass the bar exam. But in order to get a seat for the bar exam -- in almost every state -- you have to have a degree from one of these ABA-accredited law schools.

So -- you get a degree and mountain of debt and all you have to show for it is a ticket to sit in on the bar exam. But, especially if you went to a fancy-pants law school, you have no way of actually passing that exam without taking the bar review course. So... you sign up for that, too.

And, now, finally, at the end of this process, after blowing your parents' dough or mortgaging your future to the hilt (or both), you have passed the bar. And what do you know about the practice of law? Three little words:

Zip, zero, nada.

I suspect that a bright high school graduate with decent language skills could take the bar review course and pass the exam in virtually any state. I'd bet money that almost every reasonably bright college graduate could do so, without ever listening to even one lecture by some professor who's never seen the inside of a courthouse claim he's teaching you to "think like a lawyer."

One other point about today's Tribune article.

The article reveals that students in Northwestern's traditional three year program faced a $42,672 for the academic year just concluded. I'll pause while you let the enormity of that number roll around in your head.

$42,672! My first year law school tuition, some 30 years ago (and not at Northwestern), was just under $2,000. And it was outrageous then.

$42,672! And here's the punchline: Van Zandt told the Tribune's Cohen that school officials 'have not decided' whether students in the two year program will pay the same as those in the three year program.

Does anybody want to make a bet?


Jean-Luc Picard said...

What a tough thing to calculate!

Ellee Seymour said...

I thought you had to study/train for about six years before qualifying as a lawyer. I'll have to ask my niece who is a legal beagle, just like yourself.

Dave said...

Much of what you say is absolutely right, one of my professors said that any bright college graduate could take the bar review course and then pass the bar.

That said, I think there is something to "thinking like a lawyer" in the classical sense.

A place in the middle? Two years of school and a year of internship along the lines of what physicians do.

Oh, my last year,$8,000.00, sucks to be getting old doesn't it?

Mother Jones RN said...

Holy cow! I'm speechless, and scared. My youngest wants to go to law school at NU.

Gulp! I'm sending her a link to your post.


Shelby said...

mortgaged the future all right.. I gotta go back to law school so I can graduate eventually and get a better paying legal job so I can pay off at least the first year of law school that was last year. now i'm tired.

Kacey said...

Geeze! My oldest grandson just finished his first year at University of Pennsylvania Law School. He had a completely free ride college education, never had anything except an A, had a semester in Scotland at Paisley University, was in the top 3% of the LSAT's and worked three years for a govenor in his Washington office. Now, he is over $40,000. in debt and that was with a $30,000. scholarship for the three years. They wouldn't even allow him to work during his first year and he said it was really tough. Two more years and he will be ready to file bankruptcy.... but he won't have any lawyer fees! His biggest problem is that the kids at Penn are mostly relatives of rich and famous families and he is the son of a divorced third grade teacher. The other kids are interning at big law firms for the summer and he is working for the Attorney General of New Jersey. (for peanuts) I should send him your blog site.

Cristina said...

Friggin' amazing. There are no words to properly express my utter shock and awe.

Anonymous said...

$43k for 3 years? That's about what I'm paying for my CIS degree at DeVry (it'll come out to about $60k and change when I get my Bachelors'), and I'm looking at Keller for a Masters' because it's cheaper than IIT...
Although, a law degree from Northwestern would look pretty cool next to an MBA from Keller, yes? (Actually, I was looking into a dual-degree thing with one IT and one MBA). Hmmm, IT, business, and law...hell, after that I'd be unstoppable...where do I sign? Do they have distance-learning???
Seriously though, I can see both sides of this; everyone around Chicago knows DeVry is a solid tech school, but once you get out here in the sticks, it's "Oh, one of those online degrees"...The degree just gets your foot in the door; after that you rise and/or fall on your own merits. After all, a degree in any field is worthless if you can't keep a job.