The first alternative would involve making the J.D. a two year degree. Students would graduate after two years, and would be able to immediately take the bar and practice. As I mentioned in my last post, on moving part of legal education to the undergraduate level, I could imagine circumstances where a two-year J.D. might work – for example, if students came to post-graduate law school with some legal education, or if law school was followed by some sort of formal apprenticeship program. I worry, however, that two years standing along are enough to get law students to a level of basic professional competence. I realize that reasonable minds can disagree on this point. I think, though, that it would be better to try to achieve more education at a lesser cost than to just cut out part of the J.D. educational program.
The second alternative would allow law students to take the bar in the February of their third year. Arizona recently decided to allow this approach on a trial basis. This approach is a step in the right direction, but I think it has three drawbacks. First, it would push students to take the bar during the academic year, which has the potential to disrupt the students’ final semester. I should note that this would be a worry under my proposal, because people who failed the bar the first time under my proposal would have the opportunity to take it a second time in the February of their third year. I would prefer a system, however, where most students could take the bar in the summer. Second, an advantage of my proposed system is that people who fail the bar the first time would be able to get academic support while they are still in school. Under the February of third year system, students would have graduated by the time they get their bar results. Third, the majority of the bar exam tests subjects taught in the first year of law school, and I think it is better for students to be able to take the bar closer to when they take those classes. Under this metric, July after the second year would be better than February of the third year.