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Friday, September 06, 2013

The Proposal for a 2 Year Law Degree: Deja Vu All Over Again?

Brian Tamanaha

From Robert Stevens, Law School: Legal Education in America From the 1850s to the 1980s (1983) p. 242:

Demands for some structural change--especially from a handful of reformers in the elite law schools--were, however, a continuing phenomenon of the 1970s. The structural changes being advocated at the end of the 1960s, especially the two-year law school, for a while seemed close to being accepted early in the new decade. The well-funded and visible AALS Curriculum Committee, chaired by Paul Carrington of Michigan, argued, in its 1971 Report, for a basic standard two-year J.D. degree, followed by a series of post J.D. alternatives designed to respond to the different types of legal practice. From a more elitist perspective, Bayless Manning, the dean of Stanford Law School, called for a two-tiered system of legal education, although who belonged to which tier was a matter of doubt. The 1972 Carnegie Commission report suggested the two-year model, again as part of an overall freeing up of the alternative structures of legal education.

In light of this, the [ABA] Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recommended to the mid-year meeting of the ABA in 1972 that Rule 307 of the law school standards be modified to allow the two-year law school. Many assumed the change would go through. They could not have been more wrong. In his witty article, "The Day the Music Died," Preble Stolz chronicled what actually happened. The deans of the leading law schools extolled the virtues of the three-year law school. Dean Albert Sacks of Harvard, arguing a position redolent of the longest traditions of academic life, suggested that the "time was not yet ripe," since Harvard was apparently about to make a great breakthrough in legal education. Dean Bernard Wolfman of Pennsylvania, reflecting the follow-my-leader view of legal education, opposed the idea because, he argued, if one school went to two years, all schools would follow. Dean Michael Sovern of Columbia rejected the scheme on the ground that it would increase the supply of lawyers at the very moment there was a glut, and at a local level he noted that his students would have to sacrifice $20,000 to stay on for the third year at Columbia. Dean Abraham Goldstein of Yale, emphasizing that lawyers had to be trained as generalists, opposed shortening law school at the very moment that law was becoming more complex and students needed to be trained in history, philosophy, and the social sciences. Only Dean Thomas Ehrlich of Stanford supported the proposals.

The two-year law school may have been dead, but the debate about the lockstep of seven years of higher education continued. Dean Sovern of Columbia proposed the 2-1-1 idea--the three-year law school with a year of practice after the second year--and Columbia had already developed a six-year B.A.-J.D. program with a group of elite colleges. Sniping, however, continued. Justin Stanley, president of the ABA in 1975-76, continued to argue for a two-year law school, and once again the profession's heightened interest in professional competence kept the pressure on. In 1978, Chief Justice Burger called for a two-year conventional law school followed by a year of clinical work. Again the law school establishment was not amused. The two-year law school, which had seemed so vigorous in 1970, seemed virtually dead by 1980.

Comments:

Back then, I don't think that student debt was the push but rather overdue reform of legal education per the 1972 Carnegie Commission report. Objections at the time included the fear " ... it would increase the supply of lawyers at the very moment there was a glut ...."

Check out at Concurring Opinions Frank Pasquale's 8/25/13 post "Accelerated Learning in an Era of Deceleration" which was a critique of Pres. Obama's recent statement about 2-year law schools. Frank's post there for some reason did not allow for comments although there was no statement that comments were off. Frank did not reference the efforts in the 1960s and 1970s that Brian focuses on in this post. In the 40 years or so since the Carnegie Commission report, the same question is being addressed with the added factor of student debt issues associated with law school education. Are there fears of a glut today as well, other than a glut of student debt? Those in legal academia who do not welcome Pres. Obama's statement may challenge him on his approach to Syria to bootstrap their arguments against a 2-year J.D. (Frank brought the ACA into his recent post.)
 

Brian, Prof. Ackerman's post seems to take the tack that even 3 years of law school may not be enough. Perhaps this is a new counter-insurgency.

In your post, you made reference to the 1972 Carnegie Commission report addressing 2-year law school. There is a more recent (2007) of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching titled "Educating Lawyers Now and Then - An Essay Comparing the 2007 and 1914 Carnegie Foundation Reports on Legal Education." You may be familiar with this report. Perhaps the debate should also focus on the 2007 report, keeping in mind that it came about just before the 2008 Great Recession that had and still has an economic impact on the legal profession and legal education. It's not just the length of law school but also effective teaching that have to be addressed.
 

CORRECTION: The title in my preceding comment is that of an Essay by James R. Maxeiner, not the Carnegie Reports. Vandeplas Publishing issued this Essay in 2007 and the book includes a reprint of the 1914 Carnegie Report. The Essay is 56 pages in length and I hope to finish reading it later today. So far it is an interesting read, especially comparing legal and medical clinical educations in the 2007 Report. While high law school tuitions are referenced, so far no mention of student loans.

Sorry for any confusion.
 

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