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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Two Cheers for the President's "Two-Year" Proposal

I seem to be more favorably inclined toward President Obama's proposal to make law schools two years than Matt, who posts below. I think he raises some sensible concerns and that there is nothing wrong with doing so. I agree with his urging us to consider questions of pedagogy, although 1) law schools, which still insist in the main on hundred-percent end-of-semester finals, are a little spotty on serious consideration of pedagogy, and 2) when Matt writes that "choices about the required program of legal education should be based on pedagogy," I'm less certain that this should be the only consideration. I can appreciate the logic of his speculative statement that "with increasing legal complexity, most of us would likely need more education, rather than less, to be properly prepared," although 1) it's not self-evident to me that this education necessarily needs to take place within the law school, and 2) as Matt acknowledges, we must still ask whether the costs of this additional education outweigh its benefits. In short, I think he raises some valuable cautions, but they are just cautions; and I tend to have a more positive view toward two-year legal education than Matt appears to have.

Why only two cheers, then? I withhold one cheer because of the seemingly uniform nature of the President's proposal. ("Typical command-and-control Democrat!") I tend to think that there are a variety of different models that law schools could pursue if they went to a two-year program. And I tend to think that there is equal room for a variety of other approaches, including traditional or modified three-year programs, programs that perhaps involve very little classroom time at all, and even doctoral or doctoral-type programs that involve longer stays. Assuming that proper information is publicly provided about these programs, their price, their purposes, their employment outcomes, their different costs and benefits--and that is a huge and probably currently unwarranted assumption--then I think there is room for diversity, differentiation, specialization, and competition here. (I agree, of course, that questions of cost and the sources of financing are also highly relevant.) I think the arguments for a uniform three-year program are weak and am more sympathetic to a two-year program than Matt currently seems to be. But I think the best answer to the problems the President raised is unlikely to be a single answer or another uniform proposal.    

Posted by Paul Horwitz on August 25, 2013 at 11:51 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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