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May 22, 2013


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Brian Tamanaha

Well said. And to take your thoughts a step further, if law schools really believe in the stand alone merit of this degree, then we should allow students to decide after the first year of law school whether they want to stop, and let them walk away with the MSL, or continue on for the JD. (I believe Debbie Merritt proposed this some time back.) At the end of the first year they will know whether they like the law, and whether they will have a decent chance at landing a lawyer job upon graduation. If not, they can still leave with a degree--and they can land that "JD Advantage" job without the two years additional expenses.

Not only does this make sense for law students, the logic of the MSL compels it. Schools will have a hard time explaining why someone can get an MSL after one year of basic study, while a regular law student cannot. Schools won't like this idea because they will likely lose students after the first year. But allowing this option might actually be beneficial for some law schools in the current environment of falling applications because it will be more attractive to students who are reluctant to attend owing to the cost and risks of the three year commitment.

An enterprising law school (struggling to meet its enrollment target) will make this move.


I have been impressed with the dialogue on TFL recently. Unlike my comment, this article was constructive.



Your suggestion is interesting but may not be practicable given the current nature of these Master's programs. At least at my school, non-JD Master's students don't take just the 1L curriculum, nor do they take the entire 1L curriculum. Rather, depending on the area in which they wish to specialize, they take a selection of some 1L classes and some upper-level classes within their speciality area. They also take at least one class specially designed introductory for Master's students that JDs don't take at all.

The point is, the 1L curriculum wouldn't translate to the requirements of the Master's program, so a student who finishes her 1L year and wants to drop out and "convert" the 1L year into a Master's couldn't do so. Granted, one could design a Master's program that consists solely and entirely of the 1L curriculum, but that would be quite different from the shape of those Master's programs. (And, in my view, would be of less value).


I should also add that Master's students at my school receive different and separate career counseling, both because they enter with different professional goals than JD students (and tend to already be fully-formed professionals in some field) and because they're not subject to the same NALP guidelines/restrictions as 1L JD students with regard to the timing and nature of their career counseling.

Serious question

If the MLS grads develop a reputation as being the people who couldn't hack it the first year in law school, does anyone really think that they'll be hireable as compliance officers or human resources people? Especially because they'll be overwhelmingly drawn from the lower tier schools (because people in the bottom of the class at top schools will stick with the JD because they still have a fighting chance at a job). So it's not only a 1L failure, it's a 1L failure at a bad school. Seems to me that employers will run kicking and screaming from those types.


I've seen little evidence that employers are willing to fund these one year programs, which would seem to be an indicator of low technical value (the direct application of the knowledge gained to the workplace) as opposed merely to their signaling value (their usefulness as a proxy for certain types of intelligence). Is there any data out there on how many of these degrees are employer funded?

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