Reasons Why Two-Year Law Degrees Aren’t Worth the Hassle

Law schools across the United States are scrambling to find ways to entice students to choose law over other degree programs. One such tactic, that President Obama himself endorsed in 2013, is for law schools to offer an accelerated degree program that would span two years instead of the standard three to four.
In the beginning, this incentive seemed like the ace up the sleeve to get law school attendance back on track. However, after several years in practice, many law schools (and students) are realizing that a shortened timeframe isn’t the winning hand they thought.

two-year-degreeTwo Will Get You…

Although some students have had success with two-year programs, recent findings show that the disadvantages trump the benefits—at least as the programs are currently set up.

Short-term Benefits

  • Shorter commitment. Obviously the commitment required for a two-year program is going to be less than the commitment for a three-year program. This allows students an extra year to develop skills and find internships for practical education, rather than wasting another year taking unnecessary courses to meet the third-year requirements.
  • Lower living expenses. As the commitment to the school is a year shorter, campus housing and living expenses are reduced. Instead of paying higher campus prices, once the degree is completed students can look for cheaper accommodations away from the school.
  • Better opportunities for older (experienced) students. A two-year program is ideal for older students who are rejoining the educational field after already acquiring real world experience. In addition to the program being accelerated (which gets them back to work sooner), it doesn’t affect their already established work experience. For example, after graduation, a younger student still needs to build up her resume before a firm will even think about hiring her. However, if the older student already has a decent resume (he was merely lacking the educational credentials), than he’s all set to begin his applying for higher-end jobs.

Long-term Disadvantages

  • Application difficulties increase. In order to qualify for shortened programs, students must undergo a formal interview, either in person or via Skype. The purpose of the interview is to ensure that they understand the amount of work that will be required, as well as to determine if they are physically and mentally prepared for the challenge.
  • School loans remain high. Even though the program’s timeframe is abridged, the American Bar Association’s requirements for a degree remain the same. As such, instead of getting rid of unnecessary courses, a two-year degree simply stuffs more credit hours into each semester. Therefore, students are still paying the same amount per credit hour, they’re just forced to pay it back sooner, as loan pay-off generally begins a year after graduation.
  • Workload increases. Since the number of courses remain the same but are required to be finished in a lesser timeframe, students’ workload increases by approximately 66% each year.

Call or Fold?

Considering the high price—both financially and mentally—do you think an accelerated law degree program would be good for future attorneys? Would you have gambled your sanity for the potential benefits, or would you have waited for a better hand?

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