Combined B.A. / J.D. Programs

I was wondering whether some schools have experimented with combined B.A. / J.D. programs, which take 5 or 6 years rather than the usual 7. I’d think these could be useful to students who know they want to be lawyers, and who’d rather be spending the extra year or two earning money as lawyers rather than paying money as students (likely a difference of over $100,000 per year, if one counts opportunity costs as well as direct education costs).

Naturally, many students might want to spend more time in college, especially if their parents are willing to pay; but I would think that some students would on balance prefer to cut out the extra year or two. Also, I can see how a year’s worth of growth and seasoning might add maturity, though again that’s one benefit of taking that extra year to be weighed against the substantial cost of taking that year.

More broadly, my sense is that in the ever more competitive world in which we live, there’ll be pressure to cut out the flab — even the enjoyable flab — from many things. And it seems to me that for many students (not for all, but for many) the educational system is full of flab. This is particularly so for lawyers, who I think for the most part rarely use most of what they learn in their undergraduate studies.

But before theorizing, I thought I’d ask for some concrete experiences. Apparently such programs exist, at least at Penn, Rutgers (Camden), and St. Thomas; each is a 6-year program. Have any of you gone through those programs, or known well people (family members, colleagues, students, or others) who have done so? If so, I’d love to hear your comments about them.

Also, I understand that a law degree is basically an undergraduate degree in most countries outside the U.S. Do any of you both have such a degree, and know enough about American lawyers to have a sense of how your educational program has worked for you, compared to how theirs has worked for them?

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