In a town hall-style meeting at Binghamton University in New York last Friday, President Obama said, “This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck. I am in my second term, so I can say it. I believe that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.”
His remarks were in the context of a nationwide campaign on college affordability. In connection with the President’s comment, Brooklyn Law School announced three months ago that it is the first law school in the New York metropolitan area to enable students to earn a J.D. in 2 years. The new Brooklyn 2-year offering is designed for select students seeking a rigorous legal education in an abbreviated timeframe. Candidates interested in, and qualified for, this type of intense program might be, for example: 1) mid-life or mid-career professionals, including CPAs, MBA graduates, or those from academia desiring legal credentials and a new start; 2) foreign-trained lawyers with strong English-language proficiency; 3) individuals with established career plans following law school; or, 4) adults who seek to reenter the workforce.
“The President's support for a 2-year J.D. is not surprising,” Dean Allard said. “There is not a legal educator in the country who is not considering making law school better, more efficient, and more relevant to the new world of law. That’s why at Brooklyn Law School we are offering a rigorous 2-year accelerated J.D. program to students who can handle doing three years of work in 24 months. But, a 2-year program is only one piece of the puzzle.”
Dean Allard added that simply adopting a 2-year program does not in itself provide the answer for every student. “There is no one size fits all,” he said.
With the creation of the program, BLS will offer, starting in 2014, a range of flexible 2-, 2.5-, 3-, 3.5- or 4-year options – called “Brooklyn 2-3-4” – to adapt to prospective students’ needs. Brooklyn Law School is the first in the New York metropolitan area to enable students to earn a J.D. in 2 years.
Dean Allard said, “An academically sound 2-year J.D. program fits the demands of today’s world – and being old-fashioned is not an option. While our faculty and board demand innovation, and this 2-year program is just one of several such examples, they also insist and ensure that any new educational initiatives be high quality and prudent. We have to answer to the American Bar Association, the American Association of Law Schools, and the rules governing Bar admission to practice law in each state.
“These high standards assure that all law schools avoid innovations that are fads. We don’t implement academic versions of passing fashion or dance crazes like the Nehru jacket or the Macarena,” he said.
Allard also noted that it is important for other law schools to adopt innovations such as2-year J.D. programs.
“When you look at the demand for jobs where a J.D. is preferred in areas like compliance and risk management, energy law, and privacy rights, increasing educational programs that offer more flexibility for people to get a J.D. will be important. There will be added pressure to get law students ready for practice as quickly as they can be trained. More law schools offering a 2-year J.D. will be an important part of the solution.”
Beyond the 2-year J.D., Brooklyn Law School has innovated programs to ensure that the third year of law school is even more valuable – including those that, as the President has encouraged, give students more work experience. Examples are a Business Boot Camp providing basic training in business fundamentals, fellowships in public sector legal services that lead directly to employment, a year abroad to earn a foreign LLM degree, and a semester in Washington, DC, for experience in government service.
Read more about Brooklyn 2-3-4.