The NWU 2 Year Program

Josh Wright —  21 June 2008

Bill Henderson has some thoughtful commentary on Northwestern University’s announcement of its 2 Year JD.  He likes it.  Here’s an excerpt:

So let’s get this straight:  NWU Law is going to attract applications from all the experienced, motivated students who want their elite JD degrees in two years versus three.  Then it is going to give them, through mandatory coursework, business training that will bridge the traditional gap between lawyers and their MBA clientèle.   Sorting plus training.  Why would an employer prefer a 25 year-old fresh out of another elite law school?  Because the education was stretched over 32 months rather than 24 months–that trumps work experience and mandatory business training?

Read the whole thing.  Bill looks to the market for evidence that the NWU program is a good idea (and finds it).   As an economist, I am inclined to agree with Bill that this approach is superior to ” taking a poll in the faculty lounge.”  Along those lines, there is a rule of thumb in antitrust analysis that a fairly reliable indicator for assessing the competitive effects of some proposed conduct: if customers complain, the conduct is likely to be anticompetitive, but if it is competitors that are complaining, the proposed conduct probably makes the firm a more effective competitor and is good for consumers.  Through this lens, the critical comments from representatives of Northwestern’s in state rivals University of Chicago and University of Illinois (Chicago Professor Geoff Stone went so far as to describe the program as “irresponsible”) look like good news for consumers of legal education.