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Polsby Comments In Chicago Tribune on Two-Year Law Programs

Other schools are likely to follow Northwestern University School of Law's initiative in creating a two-year program leading to a degree in law says Dean Daniel Polsby, commenting in a Chicago Tribune article. Northwestern becomes the first top-tier law school in the country to offer a two-year law program, which is currently offered only at the University of Dayton and Southwestern Law School.

"What they are doing, in effect," said Polsby, "is trying to recognize where they are in the market and what kind of lives they need to be preparing their student body for."

Under Northwestern's proposal, a subset of students will have the opportunity to earn a law degree in an accelerated program that compresses the traditional three-year program into five semesters by beginning the program in the summer, increasing the courseload each semester, and taking a small number of credits through mini-courses held between semesters. The planned program will introduce two new courses to the accelerated student group: quantitative reasoning, including accounting, finance, and statistics; and the dynamics of legal services behavior, including the skills of teamwork, leadership, and project management.

Northwestern alumna Terri Mascherin, a partner at Jenner & Block and an officer of the Chicago Bar Association, served in a focus group studying the proposal. "We don't intend to put out a generation of accountants or business analysts, but we do hope to put into the workplace alumni who have a better grounding in the kinds of issues that they will face from their client's perspective," Mascherin said, adding, "Clients don't like lawyers who can spout legal analysis but can't do strategic analysis."

NU law school to offer 2-year program, Chicago Tribune, June 20, 2008. By Jodi S. Cohen.

Excerpt:
"Becoming the first top-tier law school -- and the third in the country -- to offer an accelerated program is the latest change at a school that is departing from the traditional focus on legal reasoning and case-law analysis to also teach skills such as accounting, teamwork and project management.

"Law dean David Van Zandt has been considered a maverick as he reshapes the law school to more closely resemble a business school model. He encourages applicant interviews, relies on focus-group feedback from employers when rethinking the curriculum, and has praised consumer rankings as other deans have shunned them.

"During Van Zandt's 13-year tenure, Northwestern's law school has climbed to No. 9 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Van Zandt's decision to add a two-year program could give the school an additional competitive advantage by attracting students who want a quicker path to a law salary.

"In a profession that thrives on argument, the Northwestern change is already inspiring intense debate."

Read the article