preLaw - Winter 2011 - 15
Northwestern Law Professor Stephen Presser told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin recently that Van Zandt is “a great favorite” with students. That may help in his new job, where he will succeed former U.S. Sen. Robert Kerrey. Kerrey’s tenure at The New School has been defined by some controversy, including student sit-ins reportedly regarding his top-down management style. Van Zandt left his post, however, with some concerns about the future of law schools across the country, including their cost. “Law school is way too expensive, and at a lot of law schools, the cost has not been justified,” he said. “The reality is that there should be some way that it could be offered at a much lower cost. One of the barriers to lowering the cost has been the regulation of law schools by the American Bar Association, but they’re trying to change some of that.” Northwestern’s tuition has risen from $19,000 to more than $49,444 under his 15-year tenure. Part of the reason the school’s tuition has increased so much is that Van Zandt was aggressive in adding faculty in order to improve the school’s faculty-to-student ratio and to support his creative programs. Northwestern added 100 additional faculty members over the past 10 years, ranking it second among all law schools in total growth with a 264 percent increase. Almost half of those additions were part-time faculty. One of Van Zandt’s most innovative programs is the two-year J.D. degree. Students complete the same number of credit hours as traditional three-year students, but do it in five semesters over two calendar years. They save money on living costs, though they end up paying about the same in tuition. Tuition is $10,000 more a year for the accelerated program — or $59,332. He calls the program “very revolutionary,” and a handful of other schools are also trying it out. The two-year J.D. was designed based on focus groups held with law firms and other entities that hire lawyers. Van Zandt said that Northwestern specifically asked employers whether they would have any hesitations about hiring two-year law grads
and that the employers didn’t care or were very interested in hiring such graduates. Adams will be in the first graduating class of two-year J.D. students and picked Northwestern because of the program. She sees the idea as one “long overdue in legal education generally.” She has easily juggled six classes per term versus the five other students carry. “I think it might be because most of us had work experience and had rigorous and
extensive careers,” she said. Previously, she worked on Wall Street at Merrill Lynch and also in health care consulting. Besides the two-year J.D., Van Zandt takes pride in what he calls “the biggest and best J.D.-M.B.A. program in the country.” It’s a three-year program, while similar programs generally take four years. The curriculum is run jointly by Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and the law school, and tuition is $69,040 a year.
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