License Lawyers Without Law Degrees?

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Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A proposal to allow law students to take the New York State bar exam after two years is getting serious consideration. The state's chief judge is expressing interest, but no date for a decision by the state's highest court has been set.

While the idea has been around for decades, law schools are at a crossroads now. A legal education is more expensive than ever and many graduates take on six-figure loan debt. The time See more +

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A proposal to allow law students to take the New York State bar exam after two years is getting serious consideration. The state's chief judge is expressing interest, but no date for a decision by the state's highest court has been set.

While the idea has been around for decades, law schools are at a crossroads now. A legal education is more expensive than ever and many graduates take on six-figure loan debt. The time may be right for a change.

NYU Professor Samuel Estreicher points out in a recent law review article that neither President Franklin Delano Roosevelt nor Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo completed a third year of law school; both passed the bar without law degrees.

Estreicher proposes making the third year optional. Students who leave after two years without a degree could practice if they pass the bar exam. He argues that, among other things, this would make law school more accessible to low-income students. Critics fear schools would expand first-year class size to make up for lost revenue.

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