For quite some time, there has been chatter about whether the third year of law school is really necessary. Some have proposed just cutting it out altogether, while others suggest the third year to be used as an opportunity to gain meaningful work experience. Either way, most lawyers and current law students would probably agree that the final year of law school is not crucial to one’s success in her legal career
The first year of law school is dedicated to learning how to “think like a lawyer,” master the Socratic method, and get an overall feel for what this mystical thing called law school is realy like. The second year gets even busier, as extracurricular activities are added on top of a heavy course load. Summers are filled with internships and externships. And then . . . there is the third year.
Admittedly so, it is called “3LOL” for a reason. Most law students have already taken their substantive bar courses by the second semester of their second year of law school. Most third year students aim for pass/fail courses, short courses, courses without finals, and courses that do not require much effort. As a current third year student, I can admit to doing all of the above.
Some view the third year as a reward for how hard students work during their first and second years. However, is the reward of having an “easy” third year really worth the extra fifty thousand dollars of tuition? Probably not!
So, is there a solution? Realistically speaking, the third year of law school is not going anywhere anytime soon. Law, unfortunately, is a field which does not embrace change as much as it should. Some law schools have however, tested out two-year law programs. For instance, Indiana University Maurer School of Law—a top 25 ranked law school—used to have a program that allowed students to graduate from law school within two years, so long as certain requirements were met. However, this program has since been terminated.
In my biased-opinion, law schools should do away with the third year of law school. Students have ample time during the first four semesters of law school to take the classes they need for thebar exam and to learn how to “think like a lawyer.” The third year could be replaced with a six to nine-month internship or externship program, where law students are paired with legal jobs to get a feel for what the real world is like before entering corporate America.
This program should also be voluntarily. If law students want to opt out of the program and travel or even have an opportunity to work outside of the field of law, they should be able to do so. After taking the bar, law students will likely be working until retirement, so it is understandable that some students would want to use the third year for something non-law related.
The third year of law school may eventually vanish, but for now, I along with my peers will continue to enjoy 3LOL while paying fifty thousand dollars to do it.