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How Many Years Does It Take to Learn to Be a Lawyer?

(Photo: Mathieu Marquer)

(Photo: Mathieu Marquer)

President Obama recently proposed an interesting solution to the skyrocketing cost (and declining popularity) of law school: make it shorter:

“This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it,” Obama said during a stop at the State University of New York at Binghamton. “I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years because [….] in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom.”

In the third year, he said, “they’d 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.”

The Daily Dish reports on various responses to Obama’s suggestion.  For example, law professor Matt Bodie wonders if the change would really decrease costs:

If someone magically changed the J.D. program at my law school to two years, I wouldn’t shrug my shoulders and go, “Oh well  guess we’re only two years now!” I would work with my colleagues to figure out how we could make those two years meet the needs of our students  and pack as much in as possible. If the same U.S. News rankings remained in place, don’t you think schools would continue to compete on class size, expenses per student, and educational reputation? And wouldn’t that drive up costs? What if, in the new two-year law school, we added a clinical component, an externship component, and a 10-person small section component to the basic Contracts class, and then assigned it to a doctrinal professor, two clinical professors, and four adjuncts? That would be a better class, no?  But it’d also be a lot more expensive. A school could easily justify spending $60,000 or more a year per student  again, if the market rewarded schools for offering such classes.

While we’re on the topic, it seems only logical to ask: which other college or professional programs deserve to be shorter (or longer)?