A nationwide survey of 1,400 pre-law students by Kaplan Test Prep found growing support for a two-year law school program, as opposed to the standard three-year curriculum, and increased opportunities for clinical experience in courtrooms.

According to the survey, 58 percent of the students favored the change to a two-year program, and 97 percent favored increased amount of clinical experience in law school.

Georgetown University Pre-Law Society President and Founder Adam Kaldor (COL ’14) discussed the effects of switching to a two-year plan.

“It would cost a lot less obviously, although if they cut it down to two years, they’d probably make the school year longer and bring the cost up for each year. It’d still end up costing significantly less, I’m sure,” Kaldor said.

The change to a two-year program would remove the pressure for many law school graduates to pursue careers with large salaries to pay off student debt.

“Because people would have less student debt, they might be willing to go into the public sector and do more pro bono work or the types of law where you’re helping people and might make a little less money. You might be a little more willing to do it since you’re not $150,000 plus in debt,” Kaldor said.

The idea to switch to a two-year model originated with President Barack Obama’s call for education reform.

“It was during a press conference and [the] president made an off-the-cuff remark and said that he would be in favor of law schools moving to a two-year model to get students out in the workforce sooner and make legal education more affordable for students,” Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs at Kaplan Test Prep, said.

Thomas discussed the implications of the change to add more clinical opportunities.

“Many schools have opportunities for an externship at their school, and a lot of law schools are offering even more of those by partnering with additional law firms or government agencies to let students practice with real clients,” Thomas said. “The change really comes down to finding more ways for students to get this kind of experience and maybe even mandating that students avail themselves of those particular clinical options.”

Kaldor demonstrated support for providing students with opportunities for clinical experience.

“I think it’s great because it gives you more hands-on experience. Clinics give you practice and prepare you for a job better,” Kaldor said.

However, any change to the law school curriculum cannot originate within law schools themselves because the curriculum is set by the American Bar Association.

“[A change] is not allowed because the American Bar Association has to mandate the regulation. The Bar Association will have to make a sweeping reform to what they mandate schools to do,” Thomas said.

However, Kaldor has doubts about the likelihood of such a large curriculum change.

“I think it [a switch to a two-year program] would be pretty hard to implement. A lot of schools are pretty set on their three-year program,” Kaldor said.

“The process for changing legal education is a fairly involved one. The American Bar Association has oversight given by the Department of Education to regulate what happens in law schools,” Thomas agreed.

The third year of law school has a much more open curriculum than the first two years — much of which would likely be cut if the change were made.

“In the first two years they tend to work you very hard, and the third year is generally pretty easy, although that’s also the year that people are doing clinics and law reviews, so the third year is a little bit up in the air and I could see why people may want to cut it out,” Kaldor said.

According to Kaplan, 319 Georgetown seniors applied to law school in their most recently recorded year. Kaldor favors law schools offering the option of a two-year program but not across-the-board change for all law schools.

Law students currently have the opportunity to graduate in two years by way of an accelerated program in which summer sessions are incorporated. However, they must take the same number of credits as the three-year program requires.

Maggie Cleary (COL ’14), who will attend the University of Virginia School of Law in the fall, weighed in on the prospect of a two-year program.

“A two year program may seem advantageous because you save a lot of money and you’ll go on to get a good job and get out of debt faster,” she said. “I’m 22, so one year’s difference isn’t that important for me, but I do see law school as more of a trade school, what with all of the intense studying and classroom time learning hard facts and approaches. That lends itself more to a two-year experience I think.”

However, Glenda Dieuveille (COL ’14), who plans to enroll at the Georgetown University Law Center in the fall, preferred the status quo.

“I’m not interested in a two-year program because it’s less time to make internship connections, to engage in networking. I just feel like it might be harder to find a job once out of school, especially considering the high supply of law school students,” Dieuveille said. “Also, I don’t like thinking of law school as a two-year trade school because law is more than a trade to me, it’s a way to become a better person and positively change my environment.”

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