October 18, 2012

"NYU Responds To Attacks That The Third Year Of Law School Is Utterly Useless."

Is the response: We get 50% more tuition with 3 years? No. It's: We're going to make 3d year different and special.
The school is expected to announce vast changes in its third-year curriculum, including the option of studying abroad—Shanghai or Buenos Aires—or working for the Environmental Protection Agency or Federal Trade Commission....
Including study abroad and internships? That's vast? Let's get see what else is included. Here's one more:
[Give] students the chance to build a specialty. Called “professional pathways,” the program will offer eight focused areas of instruction, including criminal law and academia.
I love the idea of "academia" as a specialty. Somehow that seems to underline the complaint that the 3d year isn't there for the students but for the law academy itself and those odd lawyers/not lawyers who find their way into the comfortable cul de sac that is lawprofdom.
There has been much debate in the legal academy over the necessity of a third year.... While classes like “Nietzsche and the Law” and “Voting, Game Theory and the Law” might be intellectually broadening, law schools and their students are beginning to question whether, at $51,150 a year, a hodgepodge of electives provides sufficient value.
Step into my seminar and experience the life of the mind... the life of my mind.

NOTE: I fixed the math in the first sentence. I'd had "30% more." Shamefully typical innumeracy. Thanks to Panachronic in the comments for correcting me, a law professor.

47 comments:

Quayle said...

How about teaching students to actually, you know, be an attorney and practice law.

1. Office processes and systems
2. Client relationships (i.e. you are the servant, not the boss.)
3. Working to deadlines and project plans.
4. Balancing competing priorities
5. Not being a complete arrogant jerk

Useful stuff like that.

Emil Blatz said...

$51,150 a year? Sheeeeit, that's 5150!

Patrick said...

So are they acknowledging that the third year has been worthless for the last 50 years or so? And they're finally doing something about it?

Lyssa said...

As a fairly recent law grad, I really wish that the 3rd year had focused on some sort of "real life" issues - perhaps working out a way to intern for a firm (or agency or whatever) while having professor support to help you work through the real questions that come up (very different than what you learn in school), along with practical applications of rules and such.

Even though I'm 3 years out, I clerked for a judge, and took a clinic course in LS, I still often feel like I'm really struggling with rules and civil procedure questions. I really wish that there had been more of that.

KJE said...

Quayle for the win.

-Actual small firm general practice attorney that has to make payroll for his office staff.

But I didn't build that.

Rob said...

The first year of law school is very important. Legal writing and research is the most important class, but the basics of Torts, Contracts, Property and Criminal Law (for those so inclined) are essential. The second year is also good, especially if you have some idea about what sort of legal career you desire. The third year is a waste of time UNLESS you are certain you know what you are going to do and you can take classes (taxation classes, for example) which will help you. I really think three semesters of law school would be sufficient.

Shouting Thomas said...

The Occupiers need to picket and protest in front of college administrative offices.

Student loans are, basically, free money for college administrators and professors. Since the Fed is ponying up the money, why concern yourself with cost?

The lack of any fiscal restraint leads inevitably to the creation of babysitting courses, diversity courses, and all variety of "enrichment" BS that is actually designed to enrich administrators and professors.

It's a hell of a scam, with the student playing the fool holding the bag for hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt.

My only regret is that I didn't get in on the scam.

carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

However, I also agree with Quayle.

carrie said...

I think that NYU's proposed changes sound like a rich kids dream but a waster for anyone who is paying for law school themselves. I think that the value of the third year depends upon your career path. I think most clinicals are a waste of tuition because you can replicate the experience with a paid clerkship. In fact, Professor Jones at the UW Law School wouldn't let me into his Labor Law clinical program because I was clerking at the DOJ and he said that I would get nothing new out of the clinical, which made me mad because I viewed the clinical as being an easy class and I was looking for an easy class. I ended up taking a lot of tax courses and other substantive business law courses which were very useful to me, but which are the type of courses that students avoid because they are hard. However, if you are going to be a business lawyer, the third year is valuable. If you want to be a criminal prosecutor (which is a low paying job anyway), then the 3rd year probably doesn't add much to your skill set.

Panachronic said...

They don't get 30% more tuition by adding a third year. They get 50% more.

chickelit said...

The UW-Madison Chemistry curriculum had a program which placed promising students in active research groups for a semester early on. Successful ones were often able to continued until graduation. A parallel in the legal field are so-called Summer internships for law students, which pay interns what seems to them like a lot but which less than what 1st associates make. Why not try this in the 3rd year for more students?

Deirdre Mundy said...

Without the 3rd year, they couldn't dignify the program by calling it a 'Juris Doctor.' It would have to be a Master's program. Therefore, the third year is necessary so that Lawyers can pretend that they're superior to MBAs, MLSs, and MAs.....

chickelit said...

I understand that Law Schools need the 3rd year tuition money. If students were compensated the equivalent at an internship the, the law firm would in effect be paying that tuition.

This could be mandated and called "Michelle's Law" in memory of how the first couple met.

Tank said...

Quayle said...

How about teaching students to actually, you know, be an attorney and practice law.


Well, my recollection is that at least two-thirds of the prof's at my law school would not have had the slightest idea how to teach this and/or would have been insulted to be asked to teach this.

Overall, the article seems like a good argument for two years of law school. I don't know, I managed to work part time to full time the last two and a half years of law school, and picked up lots of hands on experience that way, plus good contacts for when I got out. I still work for and with some of the attorneys I clerked for - 30 years later.

Ann Althouse said...

"They don't get 30% more tuition by adding a third year. They get 50% more"

You are right. Thank you. Will fix.

Bob Ellison said...

At Harvard College 25 years ago, "3L" was code for "doesn't have any work to do, so sitting in this dumb undergrad class".

Rob said...

The JD is a manifestation of the inferiority complex lawyers have about medical doctors. The Law school degree should be a master's degree. My Grandfather and Dad received bachelor's degrees from their law schools.

Lyssa said...

Rob said: The third year is a waste of time UNLESS you are certain you know what you are going to do and you can take classes (taxation classes, for example) which will help you.

Yeah, but that only works if you happen to actually get a job in what you planned to do. I had what seemed like a great what I want to do in mind (big field of law), and took a lot of classes on that point, but there still weren't any jobs for me in that field when I got out, and now my practice has virtually nothing to do with all of those classes.

Dave said...

"Education" has been oversold for years. It's partly due to the success of liability lawsuits of giving functional employment tests. Degrees are effectively one of the only legally permissible screening criteria for jobs while competency tests invite lawsuits. So the academy becomes one of the only gateways to employment. Add in excessive government subsidies and regulatory mandates and no real market/price controls and you have tuition outpacing inflation for decades. The money goes to layers of excess admin and frivolous courses and pointless degrees not so much to profs BTW. The result is excess debt that is now so severe that the cost of education may exceed it's value for many. Student debt is the next looming debt crisis and education is in an unsustainable bubble. On top of all that the lack of intellectual rigor in favor of political correctness and prolonged adolescence the campus culture does today's students no favors.

Paddy O said...

So, NYU law school is going to make the third year unique--and apparently felt as necessary--by having students go elsewhere, working for other people. Why can't they do that and not pay NYU tuition?

Bob Ellison said...

"And you, a law professor!" needs a tag. Probably an acronym. AYALP seems unique.

Tank said...

Dave said...
"Education" has been oversold for years. It's partly due to the success of liability lawsuits of giving functional employment tests. Degrees are effectively one of the only legally permissible screening criteria for jobs while competency tests invite lawsuits


Well put, but another thing you're not supposed to say.

Bender said...

Quite a few of my third-year classes were how-to and experience courses, e.g. a class in trial practice, working in the law clinic for credit, etc.

I think I took my Remedies class third year too, where we finally looked at things in a logical order -- first considering what you want to do, and only then figuring out how to do it (elements of causes of action). This is where law school is completely upside down. They should teach Remedies in first-year.

buster said...

The radical (but probably most sensible) solution is to copy the legal education scheme in Britain. Make law an undergraduate subject, ending with a B. A.or something similar, and the require one or two years of apprenticeship before taking the bar exam. Teaching law as an undergraduate subject will give students the opportunity to study it as a genuinely intellectual discipline (which it is - or should be). The apprenticeship would make young lawyers able to actually practice law after they pass the bar, which is not the case under our current system. The scheme would save a great deal of time and money, as well as produce better-educated and better-prepared lawyers.

chrisnavin.com said...

Maybe it's partly due to the coming 'war' between generations.

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians. Too many law schools and law professors, not enough paying students. Too many lawyers, not enough clients willing to play by the old rules.

I watched English departments (much less analysis and logic required) become overrun with interest groups and the same kind of solipsistic thinking.

It could be what happens when you're becoming less relevant, and everyone is seeking to live off the grain in the storehouse and not planting the fields.

chrisnavin.com said...

And...maybe not.

Bruce Hayden said...

At Harvard College 25 years ago, "3L" was code for "doesn't have any work to do, so sitting in this dumb undergrad class".

Reminds me of a joke by my Con Law prof while learning about vagueness with PAPACHRISTOU v. CITY OF JACKSONVILLE, 405 U.S. 156 (1972).

The rejected Jacksonville ordinance provided that ""Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, [405 U.S. 156, 157] persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children [or parents] shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses." "

The prof suggested that this ordinance could apply to many 3Ls.

rhhardin said...

Dilbert female innumeracy strip.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that the problem is a combination of the up-certification of professions and needs of the law school faculty.

My father received his BS in 1947 or 1948,then his LLB in 1949, after maybe 5 1/2 years of college, after using his business school classes to cover his law school electives, and visa versa. Then, a decade or so later, got his JD in the mail. A lot of other countries are still using the undergraduate model (but, some are also doing so with medical school).

More recently, pharmacists have done the same thing, moving almost entirely from a BS to a PharmD degree. Their justification seems to be that they need a doctorate degree to attempt to deal as peers with physicians. I think that something similar happened with the law field - the desire to gain respect in relation to other learned professions, such as physicians and dentists. And, note, that it has also happened with K-12 teachers, who get raises for additional education, and now have doctorate programs tailored for their needs and schedules - it can mostly be done through summer school.

Converting a BS into a doctorate degree though did leave the legal profession in the weird position of having a master's degree (LLM) as an advanced degree over the entry level doctorate degree (JD), and a second doctorate degree (LLD) available for even more advanced study.

The other thing though is that the JD degree is essentially needed by law school professors for legitimacy in universities in dealing with other faculty. Until recently, most law professors only had a JD degree, and would likely not get treated as peer academics by other professors if they didn't have a doctorate degree.

So, my theory is that the 3 year requirement is there to justify granting a doctorate degree, and the doctorate degree is required to practice law to help lawyers compete in the community and law school professors to compete in academia.

bagoh20 said...

" working for the Environmental Protection Agency or Federal Trade Commission...."

Oh, just what we need - more lawyers killing jobs. How about work on clearing out the patent office backlog, or work for a corporation's legal team. If you can't be productive, at least, leave our damned people alone. Go on a vacation and read some books. Here's an idea: pick up a tool and learn how to actually do something useful. The chattering class's circle jerk lifeboat is full.

Megaera said...

We used to call them the "Law-AND" classes, and they were universally agreed to be massive timewasters, inserted simply to give a professor something to fill his schedule and sort of justify his/her paycheck. The latter, well, not so much. And Lyssa, you're absolutely right, especially in these times. Unless you're some kind of golden legacy with a safe spot guaranteed for you somewhere, taking a bunch of "My Goal" courses is sort of sweetly pathetic.

Real American said...

better idea: make everyone eligible to take the bar once they've completed a year of (ABA accredited) law school. if you pass the bar in any state, the school gives you your diploma and you are eligible to practice law. problem solved.

Inga said...

Arrrrggggg! So my daughter's third year, spent as a visiting student at UW from Florida State, cost her 50% more tuition?! She shouldve stayed in Tallahassee, at least there it was warm.

Bruce Hayden said...

Finally, I must add that my 3L year was not wasted, possibly because I somewhat knew where I was going. At the time, I thought that I was going into "computer" law, and took classes accordingly, including anti-trust, corporate taxation, complex litigation, intellectual property, etc., plus had a corporate internship at a computer company. Finding after graduation that attorneys specializing in this area lost clients to patent attorneys, I became one defensively, and have been practicing patent law ever since. And, those "computer law" classes I took continue to be helpful. I really can't think of an elective that I took that I don't use on occasion in my practice.

The problem though is that most law students are 15 or so years younger than I was, and don't really know what they want to do when they get out, or, if they do, find that they can't do what they wanted to. Very few openings are available for attorneys who want to concentrate on gender studies, etc.

The related problem though is that law school faculty are becoming ever more politically correct. Friend of mine continues to overfill his corporate and IP law classes, while his college continues to hire based primarily, it seems, on skin color and sexual orientation, which means that there are too many profs wanting to teach classes in subjects that have little use for attorneys, and too few teaching those that are relevant.

Up until recently, this has been a decent business model, since law schools are cash cows to most universities, often helping to carry the rest of the schools. They have comparatively low need for plant and equipment (even including the ABA's insane library requirements), and can run comparatively large classes, esp. when compared to other graduate schools.

So, everyone was happy, until graduating students discovered that they couldn't get jobs as lawyers, and applications started crashing this year, as a result of prospective students realizing that they would have a second unusable $100+k degree.

FleetUSA said...

My third year was so-so useful other than I realized I had to go to NYU and get a graduate LL.M. tax degree to be on top of the subject.

To boot, as the Vietnam era was upon us I spent 3 years as a Naval officer which certainly helped my maturity for courses at NYU.

I know law school and laws have changed a lot since then but most of the courses sound like window dressing in a PC world.

Jane said...

How about: take the Bar Exam whenever you want. If you can pass after 1, 2 or 0 years of law school, great. If you want to acquire further specialized knowledge and additional classes will help, also good. If law firms want to hire self-starters, they will benefit from looking at a variety of applicants.

virgil xenophon said...

Law professors have to justify their existence--just like Chemistry professors--which is why pre-med students are required to take organic chemistry. Without the pre-meds to fill their classes, the organic chemistry staff couldn't justify its existence as the numbers would be so small..

virgil xenophon said...

@Jane

It used to be the case that one didn't have to go to law school at all--one could simply "read law" and if one passed the bar you iz one..Then lawyers got smart and unionized. Now one needs the union card..

Nice racket..

jimbino said...

Law Profs who can't do math need to undergo having their sentences extended by judges who can't distinguish 33% from 50%.

The Godfather said...

Third year broad for law students is one of the silliest ideas I've heard since the last Presidential Debate.

PatCA said...

"working for the Environmental Protection Agency or Federal Trade Commission..."

Okay, it's not useless, it's destructive. Do away with it.

I also agree with Quayle. I once taught a new lawyer how to put the phone on hold, back when I was temping in college. He sat there staring at the ringing second line helplessly, and then I showed him. He was so relieved!

Skipper said...

I never understood the purpose of separating undergraduate work from Law. Law ought be an undergraduate major. Finish off the BA and JD in, say, 5 years total. Enuf is enuf.

Bruce Hayden said...

Finish off the BA and JD in, say, 5 years total. Enuf is enuf.

Except that we can't have 5 year doctorates - not in law, and not in medicine. A doctorate in this country has come to mean some 3 or more years of study beyond a 4 year undergraduate degree. Maybe practical, but isn't going to happen, with lawyers and physicians demanding parity in academia and society with research doctorates. (And, yes, this is probably most true for the academics teaching in medicine and law).

G Joubert said...

It was my experience 35 years ago that if the law student made sure to take the courses covering all bar exam subjects there really wasn't room to fit in much else as an elective, even in 3rd year. A course or two, but not much more. Is it different now?

Texan99 said...

The third year was universally understood to be worthless when I was in law school, 30 years ago. I haven't heard that anything's changed since then. Most of us were working part-time by then and learning much more that way.

Panachronic said...

"Thanks to Panachronic in the comments for correcting me, a law professor."

You're welcome. And I'm just a high school grad.