The New York Times reported that President Obama urged law schools to offer only two years of study, “wading into a hotly debated issue inside the beleaguered legal academy.” The President suggested students would be better served by gaining work experience in their third year, although he also acknowledged the change “could possibly hurt a law school’s finances and ability to maintain a strong faculty.” Law schools are in “a time of crisis” due to “graduates struggling with soaring tuition costs, heavy student debt and a difficult job market.” Meanwhile, an increasing number of professors and administrators are calling for reforms.
The Wall Street Journal reported Obama’s comments strengthened longstanding criticisms of law schools. However, other critics argue that three years of schooling still doesn’t provide the practical skills law students need.
The National Law Journal reports that President Obama “got legal educators buzzing last month by remarking that law school should last for two years rather than the traditional three,” but American Bar Association President James Silkenat “isn’t so sure the president really meant it.” Silkenat said Obama “likely meant that a J.D. should be more affordable,” and “noted that the President’s remarks came during a speaking tour about college affordability. ‘His real emphasis was the cost issue – so if we can find a way to reduce the cost of the three-year degree, that’s a plus,’ Silkenat said during a panel discussion Tuesday at Brooklyn Law School. ‘Employers want more training, not less.’” The event “was focused on alternatives to the three-year J.D. and the challenges facing law schools and their students.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.