Those pursuing lawsuits against New York Law School and other law schools have noted refund tuitions as part of their end goal. However, tuition refunds instituted throughout all law schools may be an impossible dream, considering that a policy like this would undermine the law school business model.
Instead, I would like to propose two reforms to the law school system that would necessarily require our support, the school’s support, and a change in ABA regulations. These types of policies could help combat some of the problems students face from the front end instead of in retrospect with lawsuits and demands for tuition refunds. Now then, let’s shake hands and attempt to make a deal here.
1. During 1L year, we generally learn a broad array of subjects tested on the Bar: Contracts, Property, Constitutional Law, Torts, Criminal Law (aka 1L core courses) and writing courses (though for some schools skills/electives also may be included, and one or two of the aforementioned courses may happen during 2L or 3L year instead of during the first year). Let’s imagine that all law schools and the ABA decide that the core courses (of Ks, Property, Torts, Crim and Con Law) were requirements for all first year law students. With the knowledge fresh in our heads as hardworking and eager 1Ls, wouldn’t it make sense for the Bar Exam to be split into two parts (Part I and Part II), so that 1Ls could take “Part I” of the bar right after first year? This way, those who have already started feeling suffocated and/or at risk for failure can gauge their chances at passing Part II of the bar (which would still happen after graduation and carry the bulk of materials), as their performance on Part I of the Bar would provide them with objective criteria to help decide whether to stay in law school or drop out.
2. If a student wishes to drop out after first or second year, instead of asking for tuition refunds right now (though this may be completely reasonable considering what some argue ought to be termed “educational malpractice”), as a first step, why not offer dropout students a degree that honors and reflects their work and achievement during their first or second years. It could be an “MSc of Law” for a 1L dropout or an “MSc of Advanced Law” for a 2L dropout. (Terminology and summa cum cloudies TBD). Why should law students who have invested $60,000 – $120,000 in law school, passed their courses, yet discovered that law school doesn’t suit them, have to be left with nothing but a gap year in their résumé? Why should students who must leave after the first or second year for other reasons like a death in the family, illness, or financial incapacitation be left with just a year blip of “I went to law school, dropped out and now got nothing but the need to explain myself in interviews”? How difficult really would it be for law schools to grant these students Masters degrees, provide them with a leg up in the market for a different job (perhaps paralegal but why not something non-law related?), and in the process mollify the resentment that dropouts tend to feel? (Throw a Dog a Bone already!)