New Hampshire Approves New Two-Year College For Potential Law Students

New Hampshire legislators have approved a new two-year college for students who want an accelerated path to law school. I am steadfastly opposed to such abbreviated undergraduate programs and believe that law schools should oppose such efforts — as they should oppose proposals for two-year law schools. It is part of the “cheaper, faster” approach to American education that is destroying our intellectual foundation. It is treating education like instant cream of wheat.

The new two-year college is the brain child of Lawrence Velvel, the dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, here. He is not alone. Deans and University Presidents are eager to cash in on abbreviated law school training, including Dean David Van Zandt at my own alma mater Northwestern University. While I have great respect for Van Zandt, it is in my view a market-driven as opposed to an education-driven innovation, here.

This trend is, in my view, a dangerous one. It treats law school as little more than a bar training course. If you cut out a full year, you are left with a majority of basic courses with little room for legal theory or history or a broader curriculum. Students are likely to focus on their expected area of practice as opposed to experimenting with a wider range of subjects.

The abbreviated undergraduate is even more worrisome. It is in college that people are exposed to a wide range of ideas and disciplines. It allows for development of not just broad thinking but ideally an intellectual curiosity and tolerance. With pressure from remote learning colleges, universities are moving toward trade school models to stay competitive. Underlying the moves on both the law school and undergraduate levels is a certain dismissal of the educational and intellectual foundations for such degrees. We do more than teach the bar courses at law school. We try to produce lawyers with a broad understanding of not just the law, but an inter-disciplinary knowledge of history, philosophy, and science. We already have too many lawyers who view the law as merely a meal ticket and little more. These proposals are likely to produce more lawyers with fast degrees and little knowledge.

16 thoughts on “New Hampshire Approves New Two-Year College For Potential Law Students”

  1. “Does anyone have an economic efficiency argument for the extra schooling?”

    You just made this college instructor’s head explode.

    A 2 year pre-law degree is a ridiculous idea. A college education is much more than job training. A college degree isn’t so much about the content of what you learn; the goal of a college education is to learn how to think critically and objectively in many areas of human life. You can always look up factual information. Higher education teaches you how to process that information critically and objectively.

    There is absolutely no way that a college sophomore or junior has the critical thinking skills or the communication skills to go to law school. I have been teaching in higher ed for 12 years now. Even my brightest sophomore students are not ready for law school. To think that any program could prepare high school grads for law school in 2 years is absurd. This is about money. This is about scamming young people who want a fast track to make good money. Now, I have no problem with people trying to get into a high paying field as quickly as possible. But the law is too complicated for a college sophomore or junior to begin learning in earnest. Lawyers need to be expert critical thinkers as well as gifted communicators. The foundations for these skills are learned in college, not a 2 year trade program.

    Colleges require students to take a range of classes, some of which they might hate and resent being required to take. How many sociology students really want to take college algebra? Very few; I hear social science majors gripe about that all the time. Why are they required to take college algebra? We require it because it teaches a form of critical thought that can’t be taught in any other way. While a student might not use college algebra later in life, they learned to analyze information in a way that helps them on any critical thinking task.

    NH is setting up a system where undereducated students will only be accepted by really poor law schools. These law schools might help educate students learn enough to pass the bar; maybe not. But these students will never be gifted lawyers; some won’t even be adequate lawyers. And these students will still graduate with a tremendous amount of debt but will be unable to find the higher paying jobs because of their inferior education. There is a huge glut of law students right now. Those who try these accelerated programs will not be pleased with the end result. They may have saved $10-20K. But they have decreased their earning potential significantly. In the end, once the cost analysis is finished, those students who went through an accelerated program are likely to find that they lost more than they gained.

  2. Turning a J.D. into a four year undergraduate degree makes complete sense. Hopefully someone takes the bold step. There are already 6 year B.S./M.D. programs, e.g. NEOUCOM. It is silly to think there is some magic to the 7 years to get a J.D. formula.

    You learn far more by working than you will by taking classes–at every level of education. The purpose of higher education (again at any level) should be to give you basic knowledge/skills you need to get started in the field and (much more importantly) the ability to teach yourself the rest.

    Does anyone have an economic efficiency argument for the extra schooling?

  3. The 3rd year and the fourth year in my part time studies were just as important as the first year. I do understand the cost issues, but what would be the effect on bar exam pass rates with this kind of abbreviated tenure in law school?

  4. Did someone just say “Orly Taitz”?

    She just filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision by t Chief Judge, Royce Lamberth, dismissing every single count of her Quo Warranto and other claims.

    This is incredible. She filed originally pro se, so she did not have to be a bar member. Now she added crazy failed presidential candidate Alan Keys as a plaintiff.

    So now she must be a lawyer in the courtroom, not just an ignorant pro se filer. So she asked for admission to the bar, limited to the particular case [pro hac vice]. If the Judge denies it, she will have to get a Member of the DC Bar to join her as counsel, and by so doing risk his or her bar membership, or be subjected to sanctions for frivolous filings, or both. See what happened to that poor shlunk in Hollister v. Soetero.

    More fun than a barrel of birfers.

  5. The function of law school is not to teach me how to practice law. It is to teach me what the law is, what it means, how it developed and how it has shaped history and society. Three years is enough to barely scratch the surface, but one hopes to come away with an understanding at least sufficient to enable rational thought and the ability to ascertain and analyze legal issues in a variety of contexts. Learning how to actually practice law only comes through that combination of exhilaration and abject humiliation which we term “experience.” I have a great deal of respect for auto mechanics, but converting the study of law into something akin to 18 months in a GM technical institute can produce nothing other than legal technicians. It does a disservice to the profession. More importantly, it will harm society in the long run.

  6. I am just thinking of one CA lawyer, who could have done well with some real studies: Mrs Orly Taitz (who has become known as the “Birther Queen”).

  7. A two-year law school could be a great idea, if there was a requirement for an additional year or two as an apprentice before being permitted to represent clients.

    Most of the puppy sharks of today are not ready to represent clients, and the third year increases the financial burden without increasing their preparedness.

    Watch for other schools to follow suit.

  8. I have yet to meet a law student or lawyer who thinks the third year of law school (or the fourth, for part-timers as I was) is a useful way to prepare for being a lawyer.

    Further, given the downturn in the economy and the total lack of legal jobs, tons of lawyers aren’t practicing right now and never will. There are many others who never intended to practice.

    So why not have a two-year master’s program in law in addition to the traditional JD? It doesn’t need to end in a Bar admission for those who aren’t interested in seeking one. Yet it will distill the important parts of law school into an experience that’s less expensive and time consuming.

  9. It is the same kind of mediocre thinking that led the State to name its only existing law school after the incredibly mediocre President Franklin Pierce.

    What were they thinking?

  10. And to the article?

    Simply a bad idea, Hew Hampshire.

    “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.” – Ben Franklin

    So by all means, give them half full purses. Penny wise and pound foolish.

  11. Jericho,

    You weren’t thinking of Rehnquist, were you? 😀 Because the phrase “never-in-touch near-demented judges” always makes me think of the Rehnquisition.

  12. Hey listen, if you can allow never-in-touch near-demented judges to sit forever in the supreme court, I guess you can allow some ignorant pampered kiddies to rule and advocate the already ridiculous cases of current prosecutors…

  13. “…a market-driven as opposed to an education-driven innovation…”

    if you want a greater rift between those who can access the justice system and those who can not…this certainly does help in that direction.

  14. Northwestern now prefers students that have at least 3 years work experience and want an accelerated path to a law degree. The student body is much older than comparable law schools. I am going through law school admissions with my daughter now.

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