Polsby in Time: Two-Year Law Programs a Major Change

Saying, "This is a major change, not a minor thing," Mason Law Dean Daniel Polsby told that the idea of an accelerated two-year law program "is generally a good one and there is going to be a demand for it, but how much I don't know." Polsby has asked his faculty to consider offering a similar compressed program and believes other law schools will investigate the idea, as well.

Polsby's comments were contained in an article regarding Northwestern University's recent announcement that beginning in May 2009 it will offer an accelerated JD program to be completed in two years, in addition to the traditional three-year program offered by U.S. law schools. Only the University of Dayton School of Law and Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles currently have two-year programs, and Northwestern will become the first top-tier law school, by U.S. News & World Report rankings, to offer such a program.

Fast-Tracking Law School,, July 23, 2008. By Kristina Dell. 

"Northwestern decided to offer the accelerated program after conducting a nationwide two-year study in which focus-group participants were asked how its law school could be made more competitive with other top schools. The suggestions resulted in new required courses (on such things as accounting and leadership skills) as well as the launch of the two-year program. 'Part of our thinking was to be competitive and open up a whole new market of applicants,' says David Van Zandt, dean of Northwestern Law, which is vying for students with its prestigious neighbor, University of Chicago School of Law.

"Northwestern's compressed program requires the same amount of credits as a traditional three-year program. But it squeezes them into five semesters instead of the usual six -- the first one taking place during the first summer before the start of the first law-school year. Applicants must have at least two years' post-undergraduate work experience, which is meant to attract older candidates who administrators believe will be better prepared to handle the grueling schedule. In addition to the heavier course load, the students get only one summer off -- between their first and second years -- in which to work and hopefully line up a post-graduation job."

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Read an earlier related article in the Chicago Tribune