Q&A: Introducing a three-track JD model at DePaul

Earlier this year, the College of Law announced the creation of a Third Year in Practice Program (3YP) and a three-year JD/LLM degree. The new programs build on DePaul’s strengths in practical skills training as well as several specialty areas, while offering incoming students new opportunities to tailor their education to meet the needs of a changing legal market.

Dialogue interviewed Professors Zoë Robinson and Allison Tirres, two faculty members who were involved in crafting DePaul’s three-track JD model, to learn more about the initiative.

Q. What inspired the three-track program concept?

Robinson: I am fortunate to be part of a small group of faculty who have been working to develop programmatic initiatives that both give our students more choice in how they pursue their legal education while at DePaul, and also help develop skills that will set them apart from other graduates in the job market.

The three track-track concept was a way of meeting the various demands from students and employers for practical legal education, increased faculty contact and mentoring, more opportunities to engage in in-depth legal writing and analysis, and focused training in a specialized area of the law. By offering a traditional JD option, a third year in practice option, and a three-year JD/LLM option, we can meet these demands and offer students a choice about how to conduct their legal education.

Q. How will the new JD options appeal to students?

Robinson: I think that the three-year JD/LLM will appeal to those students who wish to practice in one of DePaul’s areas of specialty: health law, tax law, international law and IP law. The program offers students the chance to graduate with two degrees in the time it usually takes to complete the stand-alone JD. Yet, more than that, it offers students the chance to work intensively in one specialized area alongside uniquely qualified faculty members who will act as mentors to those students.

The 3YP option will appeal to those students that wish to experience the practice of law prior to graduation, and who want to experience a handful of practice areas before deciding where they will ultimately end up after graduation.

Q. What has been the response to the announcement of the new programs?

Tirres: The response to these initiatives from our various constituents—prospective and current students, alumni, and faculty—has been overwhelmingly positive. During our admitted student events, for example, students asked lots of questions about the 3YP program and seemed very excited about it. Current and prospective students are happy about the opportunity to specialize further by pursuing an LLM without having to devote an entire year to the endeavor. I think students are interested in programs that allow them to structure their law school experience in light of their professional goals.

Q. How is the program unique to DePaul?

Tirres: No school that I know of has this particular combination of offerings. Some schools offer intensive field placements, but not with the structure and organization of our 3YP program. Some offer the combined JD/LLM, but not necessarily in the reduced time frame that we are providing. DePaul is also fortunate to be located in a wonderful, thriving city with plentiful educational opportunities for our students. Over the years, we have built strong networks throughout the city.

Our Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic, for example, has partnerships with more than 25 community-based organizations. Such links provide excellent opportunities for our students and I think they are part of what makes us unique.

For more information about the JD, 3YP and JD/LLM, visit law.depaul.edu.