Applicants considering law school have a lot to think about when selecting a particular law school. Something that you might come across as you apply to law schools are programs offering Accelerated J.Ds with shortened timeframes. The traditional law school JD is on a three year track but in recent years law schools have begun experimenting with accelerated JD programs.
Law school students can complete law school in two years at some law schools. Less than 10% of law schools offer a two year or a two and a half year accelerated JD program. Some law schools also offer 3+3 JD programs, which allow students to begin law school during their senior year of college.
So it is possible to complete law school on a shortened timeframe. Read on to find out how these accelerated JD programs work, the benefits and costs to such programs for law students, and a chart of which law schools offer these programs.
How do Two Year Law School Programs Work?
Generally, there are two types of accelerated JD programs. The 2-year accelerated JD program and the 3+3 JD program. There are also a few law schools experimenting with 2.5 year JD programs, but these are even less common than the 2-year and they have only begun emerging recently over the past few years.
The 2-year accelerated JD program
The 2-year Accelerated JD program is typically offered separately from the undergraduate degree and there is no requirement that you attend a particular law school’s undergraduate institution. Out of approximately 200 ABA accredited law schools, less than 10% offer an Accelerated JD and many of these law schools have less than stellar reputations. It is important to thoroughly vet any Accelerated JD program that you consider. Some law schools do offer relatively successful programs, but it is on you to perform your diligence and confirm that a particular law school’s Accelerated Program is up to par.
You can find a list of law schools currently offering accelerated JD programs below.
Accelerated JD programs are known to be incredibly rigorous and fast-paced. These programs compact 3 years of course load into a shorter timeframe. Accelerated programs have an earlier start-time with students typically starting law school in May instead of August, and they are typically year-round with no summers off.
The 3+3 JD program
The 3+3 JD program combines the requirements of a bachelor’s degree and the requirements of a law degree. The program allows students to study for their bachelors degree for three years instead of four, and then they begin their senior year in undergrad as a first-year law student.
This program is usually only available to the university’s undergrad students, but some universities allow transfers to enter the program. The 3+3 JD program is a more popular program than the accelerated JD program, approximately 50 law schools over the 3+3 JD program.
The 3+3 JD program is not really a two year JD program. Students still attend law school for three years, but they earn their bachelor’s degree on a shortened timeline. These programs are not very different from what a typical university will offer their students if they take heavy course loads and add in a few summer courses.
Should You Complete Law School in Two years?
Now that you know that an Accelerated JD is an option at some law schools, the next thing to consider is whether graduating under an Accelerated JD program is a good idea.
Accelerated JD programs are less expensive than traditional 3 year JDs. They reduce the amount of time that students are not earning a meaningful income and tuition will typically be less. This is an important consideration given the fact that many law students graduate with over $100,000 in student loan debt. Law school is unpleasant to say the least for many law students and achieving graduation on a shorter timeline is a major advantage for some students.
The Cons of Accelerated JD Programs
Weighing the cons to Accelerated JD Programs should be an important part of your decision. There are quite a few negatives about these programs that may outweigh the positive of finishing law school sooner for many law students.
Lack of Internship Opportunities
One of the advantages of the 3 year JD is that students are typically given a variety of opportunities to pursue internships. Most law students intern for a full two summers before they graduate and many intern or participate in clinics during the school year. This is not necessarily the case in an Accelerated JD Program setting.
Most Accelerated JD students are unlikely to have the extra time needed to participate in internships. Students do not have summers off so you will have to find time around your expansive course load if you wish to participate in any meaningful extracurricular activities. This is a major con of Accelerated JD programs as practical experience has become more important over the years for legal employers.
Lack of Opportunities for Social Connections
The traditional 3 year JD program offers lots of opportunities for law students to participate in social gatherings and network with peers and law firms. There are also law-school sponsored events and frequent guest speakers. The typical law student graduates with a host of life-long friendships and connections that frequently pay dividends in the development of their career. As an Accelerated JD student you will likely miss out on many of these social events and opportunities simply because you will have a busier schedule and more classes on your plate.
The Quality of Education is Not Equivalent to a Three Year Degree
3 year JD programs are difficult enough. They require a tremendous amount of memorization and students learn new concepts at an often blistering speed. Accelerated programs operate an an even faster pace with more hours packed into a shorter timeframe and less room for error. Burnout is a real thing in law school and it is even more likely in an Accelerated Program with no summers away from your studies. What you learn in an Accelerated Program is less likely to really sink in, as opposed to a 3 year program where you are given more time to learn new concepts.
We now know that a relatively small number of law schools do offer Accelerated JD Programs to students who are interested in them. These programs have a number of pros and cons in comparison to a 3 year JD. Accelerated Programs will save students money, reduce the amount of student loans you will need, and get you out of law school in less time. On the other hand, that shortened timeframe comes at a cost, and that cost is that there is a lack of opportunities for social connections and internships, and the quality of education will likely not be equivalent to a 3 year program. Hopefully, you have enough here to help you make a decision about whether an Accelerated Program is worth pursuing.