Because law schools are cash cows for universities, shortening the time it takes to get a degree is a subject institutions have always avoided.
Question: Do you think law school should be two years instead of three?
David Lat: I probably want to think a little bit more about the issue. But right now, my gut instinct is law school could be shorter. I think that you could probably get away with two years and then have perhaps some kind of apprenticeship program where lawyers might go to law firms and receive a somewhat lower salary than they do now, but be focused on training and professional development without having to worry about billing hours. So this is something we're seeing from a couple of firms that are already trying this. I think that law school does need to be shorter and less expensive.
Now, the law schools don't like to hear this because oftentimes law schools generate a lot of revenue for their universities. Law schools are often cash cows. It doesn't tend to be a very capital-intensive kind of education. It's not like you have to create multimillion dollar laboratories and you can charge an arm and a leg for it. But now that the law firms are having a hard time giving people jobs – the jobs that with the lucrative year-end bonuses would help people pay off law school loans very quickly – the law schools, I think, need to rethink their business model, too. So I think that if law firms need to become more efficient at delivering legal services, law schools need to become more efficient at delivering legal education to people.
Recorded on November 6, 2009