President Obama urged law schools on Friday to consider cutting a year of classroom instruction, wading into a hotly debated issue inside the beleaguered legal academy.
“This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck. I am in my second term, so I can say it,” Mr. Obama said at a town hall-style meeting at Binghamton University in New York. “I believe that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.”
Obama is right that two years of law school is plenty. Three years is too long. In fact, you could learn everything you need to pass the bar exam in a few months. Many lawyers have been saying this for years. Third year electives usually cover materials that aren’t tested for on the bar exam anyway.
As a lawyer, I would go further and argue that people should be able to sit for the bar exam without any law school attendance at all. I explained back in 2011 why this would benefit the public and the legal system at this link. Moreover, the growth of law schools can be harmful to the economy.
Ironically, federal income-based repayment programs effectively encourage prolonged law school study, and increases in tuition, by wiping out all student loan debt for certain borrowers beyond a certain amount of indebtedness, at taxpayer expense, a system that law schools like Georgetown have figured out how to game at an enormous potential cost to taxpayers of well over $100,000 per student. (The Washington Post earlier explained “how Georgetown Law gets Uncle Sam to pay” some of “its students’ bills,” averaging $158,888 over three years, taking advantage of perverse incentives in a federal student-loan program.) The Obama Administration has previously sought to make these programs even more costly to taxpayers by making ill-conceived changes to the tax code and student-loan programs.