A New York proposal seeks to cut the law school program from three to two years
UNLV officials do not agree with a proposal to reduce the time in law school from three years to two.
The Boyd School of Law at UNLV, like other traditional law schools nationwide, is based on three years of study.
In some other states, law school faculty are considering reducing the requirement to two years.
John Valery White, executive vice president and provost of UNLV, and former dean of the Boyd School of Law, believes the authors of these proposals are sensitive to the fact that law school is so expensive but doesn’t believe there is a reason to cut the third year.
“They see this as a way to reduce the cost of a legal education,” he said. “My sense of legal education is not really consistent with that.”
If this proposal passes in New York, Nevada might be under pressure to follow suit due to competition between law schools.
The National Law Journal reports that New York University law professor Samuel Estreicher is proposing the two-year option. Estreicher argues the third year is an unnecessary expense, exacerbated by worsening employment prospects for law school graduates. Critics of the third year argue that a two-year option would provide young lawyers with adequate training to get their careers started, lift some of the financial burden students face and improve third-year curriculums.
Kenton Eichacker, a third-year law student at the William S. Boyd School of Law, thinks he could pass the Bar after two years, but is learning important things during his third-year internship. He said that his third year has given him “more of a real-word perspective instead of what’s in a classroom.”
He does not feel that the change will have any influence on the Bar, but the reduced debt would be a benefit of a two-year program.
White believes that a reduction in the cost of law school would be welcome by many people but thinks there are other ways of reducing the cost without cutting the third year.
He said that in France, graduates owe no money after completing their undergraduate law degree because college is free.
“The apprenticeship programs pay them,” he said. “I’ve heard no one here say we should have an apprenticeship program and the law firms will come together and offer students $35,000 to $40,000 a year while they work their way through law school. Instead, most of these proposals are ways that reduce the legal education that people get as the only mechanism for reducing the cost.”
Kimberly Valentin, a Boyd law school alum and practicing attorney in Nevada, doesn’t believe two-year specialized programs would be beneficial because most law students don’t know what type of law they want to practice until they get their first job.
She believes that a required internship or work credit would improve the third year of law school.
“I like the idea of treating your third year the way doctors have a residency,” she said.
Valentin does agree that thirdyear curriculums still have room for improvement.
“I do like the idea of having a more practical experience, but I wouldn’t agree with eliminating the third year,” she said.
White believes that the twoyear option would work for the best students who are more readily prepared for law school, but those solutions aren’t necessarily appropriate for everyone else.
“I have some concerns about allowing people to graduate before they’ve fully digested the law and whether those would be the graduates we want,” White said.