NYU Law School: Third Year, PROFIT!!!
There is one immutable fact about the third year of law school: it means that the law school gets a third year of tuition. Apparently, beyond that, it doesn't mean much else at New York University Law School, Via Peter Lattman at Dealbook:
The usefulness of the third year of study ranks high among the growing chorus of complaints — which includes soaring tuition and a glutted job market — about law schools.
New York University School of Law is now trying to address those questions about the utility of the third year. On Wednesday, the school is expected to announce an overhaul of its curriculum, with an emphasis on the final two semesters.
N.Y.U. Law’s changes are built around several themes, including a focus on foreign study and specialized concentrations. Some students could spend their final semester studying in Shanghai or Buenos Aires. Others might work at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, or the Federal Trade Commission. Another group, perhaps, will complete a rigorous one-year concentration in patent law, or focused course work in tax.
If you get the sense that students at NYU Law can pretty much do whatever they want in their third year, you're not alone. Stay here and work. Go abroad. Get an internship or take focused course work. Or just stick with the standard third year curriculum.
There has been much debate in the legal academy over the necessity of a third year. Many students take advantage of clinical course work, but the traditional third year of study is largely filled by elective courses. While classes like “Nietzsche and the Law” and “Voting, Game Theory and the Law” might be intellectually broadening, law schools and their students are beginning to question whether, at $51,150 a year, a hodgepodge of electives provides sufficient value.
You never know when "Nietzsche and the Law" will come in handy. No, really.
On the bright side, a top tier law school like NYU has the coin to modify its approach, thereby opening the door to lesser law schools to follow suit. After all, if this happened at a T4 school, ridicule would ensue. But not with a school as admired as NYU.
On the other hand, the variability of the curriculum available suggests that there really isn't any necessity for a third year at all, the tuition of $51,150 notwithstanding. If it's unnecessary to take standard elective courses rather than a trip to Buenos Aires, then the standard courses aren't needed. And if its equally unnecessary to take the trip to Buenos Aires, then that's not needed either.
Which results in only one possible conclusion: the third year of law school must not be needed by anyone except the bursar.
Of course, there are certainly arguable benefits to a third year of legal education, assuming a law student chooses education over the grand tour. There's even benefits to taking the grand tour, as one can eat unusual foods, perhaps learn a few phrases in another tongue, and certainly be better prepared to select vacation spots after they make partner. But it isn't needed.
The issue raised by this modification of the third year curriculum is whether a third year of tuition brings a sufficient return on investment for the student. It seems that $51,150 could bring an awful lot of fun travel with some pocket change to spare if these students just took the year off and did the grand tour on their own.
But then, the school would be deprived of its much needed tuition money to fund lawprof scholarship on important academic issues like "Nietzsche and the Law." Would we not be a poorer profession without such scholarship?
While utilization of a third year of law school presents a huge issue, and one clearly worthy of scrutiny from both the bar and academia, the NYU approach doesn't address the problems at all. If there is nothing that students need to learn in that third year, then there is no legitimate reason to hold them for a third year and charge them for the pleasure. Either it matters or it doesn't. And if it matters, make it count.
Hasta luego, 3Ls. Come back as lawyers, please.