Accelerated law degree

June 26, 2008
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Northwestern University School of Law just announced it’s creating a two-year law program in addition to offering the traditional three-year term. The school – which is only the third in the country to offer an accelerated law degree – believes the quicker turnaround in getting a J.D. will help attract more students by appealing to those who want to get a head start on their future career and enormous law school debt. (The school hasn’t decided whether the tuition for the accelerated program will be the same as the traditional three-year program.)

Critics of the two-year track argue that cramming law school into a shorter timeframe will hurt students’ ability to learn how to think critically and explore job opportunities during the summer. One critic even went so far to call it “irresponsible” and said it risked creating inferior lawyers.

Inferior lawyers? I think that’s a stretch. I’ve seen my share of disciplinary actions involving attorneys who got their degrees in three years that may have done some things that could label them as “inferior.”

Accelerated degrees have been around for years – those with a college degree can take courses to become a teacher in two years or less at Indiana University Purdue University – Indianapolis instead of having to go back to school for four more years. Numerous nursing programs offer accelerated degrees to those who already meet prerequisites and there hasn’t been a huge uproar in the medical community or by the general public regarding a nurse who got his or her degree in 18 months as opposed to four years.

Chances are those law students who choose to go the accelerated route know that they will have to spend more time studying and attending class throughout the year than they would if they were going the more traditional route. While having an extra year to prepare for your future profession is ideal, it’s not always necessary and many people are capable of becoming excellent attorneys in just two years.

Click here for Northwestern University’s press release about the change.
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