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A few months after the American Bar Association altered its rules for law schools late last year�lowering the required number of semesters to five from six�the University of Dayton School of Law wasted no time implementing a new program. Starting this fall, students at the Ohio law school have a new curriculum option: they can graduate in two years, rather than three. “We were ready for this,” said Lori Shaw, the dean of students at the law school. “We’ve been thinking about various reasons for reforming our curriculum . . . and we think there are motivated students out there who’ve been waiting for this,” Shaw said. Students would take classes for two school years and a summer, totaling five semesters. Under the previous ABA rules, in order to earn a law degree, students had to take a total of six semesters. It was still possible to graduate in two years then, if both summers were dedicated to classes as well. Shaw said that they are marketing the accelerated option to two groups: students who want to graduate as quickly as possible, and “nontraditional students,” such as those who have been out of school for 15 or 20 years and have children. “We’re trying to attract some highly motivated students,” said Lisa Kloppenberg, the dean of the law school. “So far, the trends [in applications received for fall 2005] look very positive.” So far, the University of Dayton School of Law is attracting a higher number of applicants. As of Jan. 7, applications were up 23% compared with those at the same date last year. Nationally, law school applications are down 0.6% as of the same date, according to Janet Hein, the director of admissions and financial aid at Dayton’s law school. Dayton officials are not yet sure how much of the increase in their applications was triggered by the accelerated curriculum. No reduction in work The law program may end quicker, but the course load is still the same. In the accelerated option, which starts for students in the fall of 2005, students would take the same amount of credits as those in the six-semester program. Kloppenberg said that if students cannot keep up with the pace of a condensed curriculum, then they will be slowed down to six semesters. Tuition will be the same, “but they will perhaps save on cost of living, and they’ll get a jump-start on the job market,” said Shaw. “They’ll be working on a salary that’s a year ahead of your contemporaries, and that plays out through [their] entire career.” John Sebert, the ABA consultant on legal education, said that he doesn’t see a downside, as long as there are both accelerated and normal education options. “I think that schools, if not follow[ing] suit, will think about other or similar ways that they can shorten the time of the degree,” Sebert said. “One thing that we’re all concerned about is lowering the cost of a law degree,” he added. Fortado’s e-mail is [email protected].

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