Streamlining Law Degree Programs for Better Efficiency and Outcomes

As law school applications continue to fall, law schools are finding it more and more difficult to secure their student rosters. As a result, they’re trying desperately to reconfigure their programs and come up with new ways to encourage high school and college students to choose law as a profession.

The most current enticement dealt with shortening law programs in order to decrease tuition and promote a faster degree. Unfortunately, many schools had mixed results—some good, some bad—with two-year law degree programs.

However, even Tomas Edison succeeded in discovering 99 ways how not to make a light bulb before he succeeded. Some critics may argue that the disadvantages of a two-year program outweigh the good and call for an end to this experiment. But there’s another way: law schools can use the emerging evidence of what works (and what doesn’t) to refine and streamline their two-year degree programs.

college-graduationRevamping, Revising, and Learning From Experience

It’s certainly arguable that a student who plans to go into criminal law won’t benefit much from a mandatory course on maritime and admiralty law. One of the main problems with two-year law programs is that the American Bar Association requires the same amount of credits to be completed, no matter the timeframe. Students are overwhelmed with irrelevant classes that fail to prepare them for the real world. They become “burned out” on impractical and useless workloads, instead of using that time and energy to acquire real-world experience.

It’s true that real-world law firms want lawyers with the critical-thinking skills they learn in law school, but they also want to know that those skills have been practically used. As such, law schools are beginning to revamp their law degree programs not only to condense studies, but also include to opportunities to acquire professional experience in lieu of unnecessary credits. These changes include the potential for the following:

  • Third-year internship advancements. Rather than being forced to take miscellaneous courses to get the requisite graduation credits, students have the opportunity to participate in a school sponsored internship program in order to complete credit hours. Due to time constraints, this usually adds a year to the two-year program…but it’s a year of practical experience, not a year spent in the classroom and library.
  • Practical education enticements. Some schools, such as the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, have begun programs that lop off the last year of academic classes altogether. Instead, students gain hands-on experience by spending their final year in places like a district attorney’s office, where they learn tasks like taking depositions and filing legal motions.
  • Workplace commitment incentives. Students commit to continue working for their internship apprentice for a year following their graduation. Once committed, they’ll receive an annual stipend from either the school or employer (approximately $35,000), as well as invaluable experience that can be put on a resume.

For more information on law school incentives or practical law experiences, feel free to browse our blogs.

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