Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA
 

Can a two-year J.D. Program work?

Southwestern's SCALE® two-year J.D. Program has a 38-year record of success that proves it can.

The path to a Juris Doctor degree has traditionally involved three years of full-time study or the equivalent curriculum completed in four years of part-time study. As legal educators around the country are reevaluating and redesigning law school curricula, some have pondered, "Is it possible to obtain all the knowledge and skills necessary to be a successful lawyer in just two years?"

SCALE 2-year J.D. classAccording to graduates of Southwestern Law School's two-year SCALE® program - that has been in existence for almost 40 years - the answer is a resounding "Yes." This summer, the members of the 38th SCALE class commenced their studies at the Southwestern campus in Los Angeles.

Originally established as a cutting-edge two-year J.D. program in 1974 with the aid of a major federal grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, SCALE has produced more than 1,000 alumni who completed their legal education in two years and have been highly successful in the full spectrum of law and business - from elected office to private practice, from the bench to entertainment. Among them are more than a dozen judicial officers; partners in major firms around the country such as Baker & McKenzie, Loeb & Loeb and Musick, Peeler & Garrett; executives at 20th Century Fox, Yahoo and the Walt Disney Co.; federal, state and local prosecutors and public defenders; and CEOs and general counsel of major investment, biotechnology and multimedia companies. A former Treasurer of California and even a winner of "The Apprentice" are SCALE alumni.

"Students learn how to use fundamental legal principles to solve hypothetical problems. [They] are empowered to handle a wide variety of simulated cases through creative and critical thinking and then go out into their externships and apply those skills in a real-world setting"

-Dean Austen Parrish

Stefanie Schaeffer"The small class size and personalized learning in SCALE enabled me to obtain caseload experience from participating in mock trials to preparing briefs and memos to developing compelling evidentiary support," says former "Apprentice" Stefanie Schaeffer '99, former Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Trump International Hotel and Tower, Las Vegas. "That training has really helped me in the courtroom and in the boardroom."

The SCALE two-year J.D. Program typically enrolls a class of 30 to 40 students and is one of Southwestern's four J.D. programs that also include traditional three-year full-time day and four-year part-time evening programs, as well as a four-year part-time day program geared to students with child or elder care responsibilities. The total enrollment of all four programs is about 1,000 students.

"What makes the SCALE two-year J.D. Program unique is that students learn how to use fundamental legal principles to solve hypothetical problems," says Dean Austen Parrish. "Students are empowered to handle a wide variety of simulated cases through creative and critical thinking and then go out into their externships and apply those skills in a real-world setting. As a result, after just two years, our SCALE graduates are ready to competently enter legal practice."

In SCALE, from the outset, students develop essential lawyering skills such as oral and written communication, fact gathering, case planning, interviewing, counseling, negotiating, litigating and interpersonal relations. Unlike traditional law courses that depend primarily on a single final exam, the two-year SCALE curriculum involves frequent deadlines, extensive writing assignments, and a demanding workload that help prepare students for the rigors of law practice. Click here for a printable brochure.

"SCALE creates the best of both worlds by incorporating legal theory and practical skills training in a structured - yet flexible - curriculum."

-Professor Harriet Rolnick, Director of the SCALE two-year J.D. Program

Some of the many benefits from SCALE that Katrine Berger '11 cites as particularly helpful during her recent judicial clerkship with the Nevada Supreme Court are the "basis of legal writing" she acquired and her course in civil procedure where she drafted complaints and responses, presented oral motions, and more. "The professors in the SCALE program are wonderful," she says. "They really wanted to help us learn." 

The summer session between the first and second years enables SCALE students to take part in additional externships or summer abroad programs, focus on a particular area of law, or work as an associate in a law firm or agency. Professor Harriet Rolnick, the director of the program, points out that through these types of enhancements, "SCALE creates the best of both worlds by incorporating legal theory and practical skills training in a structured - yet flexible - curriculum."

Recent innovative changes in the SCALE two-year J.D. Program have also presented an option to earn a JD/MBA in just three years through Southwestern's partnership with The Drucker Graduate School of Management of Claremont Graduate University.

According to Professor Rolnick, the SCALE two-year J.D. Program is ideal for intellectually mature individuals who are "self-starters" and thrive under intensive work and study. Although prior work experience is not a requirement, the program attracts many second career students seeking to combine their previous professional and educational experience with a law degree. "In recent SCALE entering classes, for example, we have had students with extraordinary backgrounds," she said, "including a former research scientist with the Mayo Clinic, a registered patent agent for an international bionic technology company, a refugee coordinator for the U.N., a newspaper reporter and a political campaign manager, just to name a few."

"I am able to find things that others may not readily see. My SCALE education ingrained that in me every hour of every day."

-Barry Groveman '77, partner in the law firm of Musick, Peeler & Garrett

Jonathan RosenthalA prime example of a "self-starter," Jonathan Rosenthal '80 used what he learned obtaining his J.D. in two years in SCALE when he founded NetAir International, a publicly held aviation and aerospace firm, at the age of 27. Having sold his stock for more than 100 times his investment, Rosenthal next turned to investing in and advising distressed companies. For more than 20 years, he has served as the managing partner of Saybrook Capital, a $1.8 billion investment manager that has had leading roles in dozens of high profile restructurings, including some of the largest bankruptcy workouts in history such as Pacific Gas & Electric, United Airlines and K-mart. As a law student, Rosenthal "really thought the structure of the SCALE program was great, and the professors were enormously passionate. Without SCALE, I would not be doing what I am doing today."

Stephen SullivanStephen Sullivan '06 of O'Melveny & Myers says, "What was great about my experience in SCALE was the close ‘community' relationship that developed among the students during the two-year experience. In my class, we all rooted for each other and got excited for the successes of everyone else; it was much more like going to law school with an entire support group of friends than it was a draining competition to outscore everybody else - which made it much different than the "Paper Chase" experience that I somewhat expected going into school. The second-year SCALE curriculum helped me develop the skills that are necessary to apply the material learned in law school to real-world settings. This proved immensely helpful once I began my externship and, later, my judicial clerkship and law practice."

Barbara MulvaneyFor Barbara Mulvaney '80, it was the rigorous pace of Southwestern's SCALE two-year J.D. program that attracted her to the law school in the first place. She praised "the mix of conceptual theory learning and skills-oriented instruction" she received in SCALE. And she singled out Evidence as particularly crucial to her career - a career that recently took the New Mexico attorney to The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal when she was assigned to prosecute Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the accused mastermind of the Rwandan genocide, and became a key player in what is considered the most ambitious war crimes tribunal ever convened.

Barry GrovemanBarry Groveman '77, now a partner in the law firm of Musick, Peeler & Garrett, has found his SCALE education beneficial in private practice and as he blazed trails in environmental protection legislation and enforcement as a Los Angeles city and county prosecutor. He claims that SCALE "made me a creative lawyer. Because of the way I was taught, I am able to find things that others may not readily see. My SCALE education ingrained that in me every hour of every day."

Groveman points out that the SCALE program also gave him the opportunity to be a legal intern for a U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C. and the Hon. Shirley Hufstedler on the U.S. Court of Appeals, which "made an immeasurable contribution to my growth as a lawyer." He says that although "it's normal to be loyal to your school, my enthusiasm goes to the next level. I'm a real cheerleader for Southwestern because as a student, I saw a way of teaching that truly made a difference in the way I practice law."