Northwestern Law's 2-Year JD: Good or Bad?

Our colleague David Yi reports:

There are many questions and speculations about the soon-to-be-implemented accelerated 2-Year JD Program at Northwestern Law School. I recently spoke with two of my contacts at Northwestern Law to dig in and get some "insider info." Here's what I've learned:

* Currently there is a 2-year JD program already in progress for foreign attorneys. The new 2-year JD program for American law students will probably parallel that program closely.

* The 2-year JD program will primarily be for older applicants with significant work experience. Remember, Northwestern Law already prides itself for admitting students with at least 2 years of work experience. So when we're talking students with significant work experience, we're talking people who have really committed themselves to a career.

* An applicant must give compelling reasons and demonstrate why she needs the accelerated JD as opposed to the normal JD.

* In addition to the typical mandatory 1L courses, 2-year JD students will also be required to take business and leadership classes, such as accounting, finance, statistics, and project management.

The benefits are (I think) obvious — becoming a lawyer more quickly, and a more focused and tailored curriculum for people who know exactly what they want out of law school.

Here are the drawbacks that my contacts mentioned (in light of the 2-year program for foreign lawyers):

* The cost of the 2-year JD program is equivalent to the cost of the 3-year JD program, so you save no money.

* 2-year JDs will have only one summer (between their 1L and 2L years) for work opportunities. That means they have to take part in on-campus interviewing (OCI) with the regular 2Ls (when they've just started their accelerated program the May before) OR they have to apply the way regular 1Ls do, by sending hundreds of resumes and cover letters throughout Dec—Feb. Given the two options, it makes more sense that they partake in 2L OCI with the 3-year JDs. But…

* Although school starts in May for the 2-year JDs, these students will only have a semester's worth of grades for employers to consider (and it might not even be clear yet that they'll have grades from that summer; it's assumed they will, but we're not sure). Moreover, given the steep learning curve in law school, first semester grades might not necessarily demonstrate students' full abilities. In short, 2-year JDs might find themselves in the unfortunate situation of having to interview with only pre-law school grades, mediocre grades from one law school semester, and a pre-law resume. That could be a HUGE disadvantage compared to the regular 2Ls who will (by OCI time) have had at least one summer's worth of legal work experience under their belt and an entire school year's worth of law school grades.

Despite the drawbacks of Northwestern's accelerated 2-year JD program, I am generally in full support of it. Time is money — the extra year gained from pursuing a 2-year JD can be immensely valuable. It means breaking into the job market more quickly without having to suffer through the third year of law school, which some people have come to identify as a waste of time (see here).