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3+3 Program = Successful Lawyer — 1 Year of School

C’mon lucky number 6!

What if you could spend one fewer year to get a law degree? Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? That’s the lure of 3+3 programs, which let you finish a BA or BS and a JD in a total of six years.

As with many things in law school admissions, it’s worth looking at this from the law school’s perspective. The appeal to applicants is obvious. But law schools don’t do many things just to be nice. What’s in it for them?

To skip a year off your undergrad degree, you can’t just pick any law school. You have to commit to your university’s law school or, if your college or university doesn’t have one, to a partnering law school. Check out the list of 3+3 programs. Notice the law schools involved. With a few very prestigious exceptions, the list isn’t exactly a mirror of the top 14.

In most cases, you’ll apply to a 3+3 program your junior year of undergrad. You generally have to be fairly well qualified by the standards of the law school you’re applying to. And bingo! There’s the appeal to law schools. 3+3 programs are a way to lock in applicants who help a law school’s LSAT and GPA medians. Those applicants might well choose another law school were it not for the perk of skipping a year.

That’s also why you, as a prospective student, should proceed with caution. If you go to an undergrad with a 3+3 program, take a close look at the law school you’d commit to. How are its employment prospects? Be honest with yourself — if you didn’t get to skip a year, where would the law school in question rank among your choices? Where else could you likely get in?

If your undergrad has a 3+3 program, you know you want to go to law school, and the law school in the 3+3 program is one that would rank high among your choices anyway, then go for it. Skipping a year of school and tuition is great if it gets you where you want to be anyway.

If, on the other hand, the only thing that draws you to a 3+3 program is getting to skip a year, hesitate before you dive in. It’s not worth it if you would otherwise get to choose a law school that would put you in a much better position to get the kind of job you want. That one year of school you’d get to skip isn’t a big deal compared to career outcomes that will last through your life.