Buying Time With A Two-Year J.D.

Katherine Stranz linkedin

Katherine Stranz is part of Pepperdine’s first batch of two-year J.D. candidates.

To vet applicants, both Southwestern and Brooklyn Law require interviews. At Northwestern, the interview is optional, but the AJD program has its own application. Pepperdine is the exception—the application is virtually the same. “I don’t think [the two-year J.D. students] are any different from our regular J.D. students,” Tacha says.
Harriet M. Rolnick, the director of the SCALE program, explains that there’s a counseling element to Southwestern’s interview process. “One of the reasons why we interview people is that we want them to fully understand what the program’s about, what the demands are, what the advantages are, what the disadvantages may be for their own personal situation,” she explains. “We want to make sure that they can envision getting their objectives met in this program.”
Allard says he’d rather not admit students who might dampen the school’s graduation and bar passage rates. “We get smart students, but with this two-year JD program, in addition, we want to make sure that those students are going to be able to go through and be successful,” he says. “We’re not going to set anybody up for failure.”
In keeping with the AJD program’s mission, Northwestern looks closely at applicants’ resumes to determine who would be a good fit. “Our AJD students tend to arrive after several years of work experience and are more advanced in their careers—six to seven years on average,” says Don Rebstock, associate dean of enrollment management. “Because of the compressed timeframe, students need to be highly motivated, and their prior work experience can serve as a good indication in this regard.”
Both Stranz and Ravid received scholarships, and they’re both fairly ideal two-year J.D. students—but for completely different reasons. Stranz enrolled at Pepperdine a mere six months after finishing college, but she’s used to being on the academic fast track. “I graduated from undergrad early, and I didn’t find that very hard,” she says. She’d rather keep plowing through than delay her entry into the working world. “Going to school for seven years—you know, with three more years on the end—is a long time,” she says.
By contrast, Ravid has had plenty of work experience. She founded a nonprofit called The Film Collaborative, she was a vice president at Senator Entertainment for two years, and she’s even worked for the famed Sundance Film Festival. Being in the workforce gave her time to think. “Going to law school is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” Ravid says. Still, having seen a friend get a Ph.D. and promptly lose interest in what she’d studied, she wanted to make sure she was truly ready to commit to law—and if she could take a year off that commitment? All the better. “The lawyers that I know that went to traditional programs, they always said, ‘Yeah, in the third year you sort of coast,’” she says.
Having no time to coast means having little time to try out different electives and internships. Both Stranz and Ravid agree that it’s helpful to enter a two-year program with an idea of the kind of law you’d like to practice. “I’m one of the rare ones who knew exactly what I wanted to do, and knew I didn’t want to go criminal,” Stranz says. “I’ve always been into business, so that was my mindset.”
Ravid is especially clear about what she doesn’t want. “I’m not particularly focused on trial work,” she says. “In fact, I’m certain that’s not of interest to me.” She also knows she doesn’t want to be a solo practitioner. “I want to learn from working with others,” she says. “I am interested in having a firm experience. Big Law is not a focus of mine, but a firm that’s sizeable enough where there’s just enough experience to go around.” She’s looking to build on her previous career: She’s interested in civil litigation, entertainment law and transactional law.
Tiller agrees that the AJD program is best for people who can quickly find their paths, largely because they have to start interviewing for summer associate positions right after their first round of classes, which takes place in the summer.
Though Allard notes that two-year J.D. students who want those kinds of internships will face extra challenges, he believes summer associate programs are “sinking into the La Brea pits as a standard approach to job placement.” Instead, he highlights alternative sources of experience. “In the summer after their first full year, they earn eleven credits,” he says. “Six of those credits will be in externships. So, their academic credit will be earned working as lawyers under faculty and lawyer supervision.”
The one thing everyone agrees on is the rigor of the two-year J.D. program. “In the beginning it was overwhelming,” Ravid says. “It was an extreme amount of reading, and a lot of studying, and a lot of finals preparation, and then test-taking—which is something I hadn’t done in a while, and I’d never done it in the manner that one does it for law school, so, you know, the first year was really stressful.” Ravid also participates in a number of extracurricular activities, including law review. Fortunately, she’s gotten used to the grind. “I’ve got a rhythm going,” she says.