Law Students

Considering a Possible 4th Year of Law School
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While many critics of modern legal education are assailing schools and rallying to the war cry of “cut law school’s 3rd year!” the Oxford University Press blog has one writer who dares to publish his contrarian view.

OUP’s Edward Zelinsky dares to say that law school shouldn’t be shortened, but instead should be lengthened. He believes that the standard curriculum should be increased to four years from its current three – a slap in the face to all critics who think two years is the appropriate amount of time for a proper legal education.


Zelinsky cites three important reasons why law school should move on into another year. Firstly, there are more laws and new fields of law which didn’t exist in the previous generation, like certain technology or health care laws for example. He feels that even with pre-existing areas of law, there is much more to learn as the literal amount of law has grown tremendously.

Secondly, Zelinsky feels that the LLM programs are growing in prominence and are ultimately delivering 4 years of legal education in certain areas, like tax for example. Rather than have only LLM holders knowing the law fully, Edward thinks that “it would be more sensible to require universally a fourth year of education for all law students.”

Thirdly, the critics who support the idea of a two year law curriculum favor “expanded clinical education for law students.” Edward feels that clinical education should be an addition to legal education rather than a substitute for it.

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While Zelinsky notes that law school is “already too expensive” he considers the additional cost. He recommends “controlling the expense of law school” and making it more affordable so that another year doesn’t add too much more of a financial burden to prospective students; disincentivizing them from considering their future in the legal industry.

He finalizes his exploration into the benefits of an additional year of law school by discussing the benefits of more education. Firstly, being more educated in a complex and competitive world is its own reward. Secondly, he feels that the number of law school graduates would be reduced in the short run. Finally, Zelinsky notes that students under pressure would have more time to engage their future employment “by giving students another bite of the employment-related apple after their third year.”

Zelinsky is the Morris and Annie Trachman Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University. He authored The Origins of the Ownership Society: How the Defined Contribution Paradigm Changed America. His monthly column is featured on the OUP blog.

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