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‘Risk-Free’ J.D. Offers Students a One-Year Escape Hatch
“Risk-free J.D.” Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it. Let’s face it: Law school is a big step. You’re committing three years of your life – and six figures of debt – to become a lawyer.  And all so you can enter a job market where nearly one out of every two lawyers is out of work? That’s pretty scary! And let’s say you wash out or lose interest. You still have to pay back the loans. And dropping out is like a dishonorable discharge to employers. It makes them wonder if you’re a quitter who can’t cut heavy workloads and pressure.
But what if you didn’t have to go through all three years? And what if you could still get something out of your education if you decide to leave before you complete the curriculum? That’s the premise of a first-of-its-kind program from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Here, student can earn a master of legal studies (MLS) degree for completing the first year foundational courses (though degree holders wouldn’t be eligible to sit for the bar).
Why would anyone want a one year degree? For starters, a lot can change in three years according to Dean Craig Boise. “(Students) might have financial concerns, family or personal issues, or they may realize that though they still have an interest in law, a career in traditional legal practice is not right for them…With this program, that year won’t be a waste of their time, and the degree would be attractive to employers,” For example, the National Law Journal cites human resources, compliance, and health care as potential areas where 1-year degree-holders could apply their legal skills.
In addition, this new degree track makes business sense, especially with enrollments continuing to decline. While law schools would prefer three year enrollees, they also recognize that a 1-year program can help them better position themselves among fence-sitters by reducing the risk. “This new opportunity removes at least some of the financial and personal risk inherent in a large educational undertaking, and comes at a time when people appreciate more guarantees,” adds Boise.  
Source: National Law Review

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