Accelerated Law Degree (3+3 Programs) for Future Legal Professionals

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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • The 3+3 law pro­gram com­bines a bach­e­lor’s and a J.D. degree into a six-year accel­er­at­ed course, allow­ing stu­dents to start their legal careers sooner.
  • These pro­grams are notably selec­tive and demand­ing, requir­ing excel­lent aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance and high LSAT scores.
  • While they offer sig­nif­i­cant time and cost sav­ings, the inten­si­ty of the pro­gram can be chal­leng­ing, with rig­or­ous course­work and reduced breaks. This can poten­tial­ly impact stu­dents’ work-life bal­ance and lim­it intern­ship opportunities.

An accel­er­at­ed law degree allows you to com­plete your bachelor’s pro­gram and a J.D. in six years rather than sev­en. Known as a 3+3 law pro­gram, you advance more quick­ly through your under­grad­u­ate stud­ies, allow­ing you to save time and money.

Com­plet­ing your degrees a year ear­ly can also help you start your career soon­er. Like­wise, many fast-track law degree pro­grams have excel­lent net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that can help you find a job much faster.

It’s worth hav­ing a deep­er under­stand­ing of 3+3 law pro­grams, though. Use the guide below to get famil­iar with what to expect.


Understanding 3+3 Law Programs

A 3+3 law pro­gram is an accel­er­at­ed six-year law degree that com­bines the final year of under­grad­u­ate stud­ies with the first year of law school.

The obvi­ous dif­fer­ence between this type of law degree and a tra­di­tion­al one is that it’s short­er by a year. But there are dif­fer­ences beyond that, too:

  • 3+3 pro­grams are very high­ly selec­tive — more so than typ­i­cal law programs
  • These pro­grams are extreme­ly intense and fast-paced
  • Accel­er­at­ed pro­grams require year-round stud­ies with few­er hol­i­day breaks

Addi­tion­al­ly, 3+3 pro­grams typ­i­cal­ly involve matric­u­lat­ing through pro­grams at the same uni­ver­si­ty. Some­times, uni­ver­si­ties have agree­ments with unaf­fil­i­at­ed law schools that enable you to com­plete your J.D. at anoth­er insti­tu­tion. Oth­er schools have two-year J.D. programs.

The law school eli­gi­bil­i­ty for 3+3 pro­grams and oth­er advanced law degrees is usu­al­ly stringent:

  • Excel­lent under­grad­u­ate aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance (e.g., 3.5 cumu­la­tive GPA or higher)
  • Achieve a high score on the LSAT (e.g., 70th per­centile or above)
  • Sub­mit mul­ti­ple let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion from aca­d­e­m­ic and pro­fes­sion­al sources
  • Sub­mit a per­son­al state­ment out­lin­ing why you’re inter­est­ed in a law career
  • Par­tic­i­pate in an inter­view with pro­fes­sors from the program

Law school admis­sion require­ments vary from one school to the next. Famil­iar­ize your­self with the require­ments of the pro­grams you’re inter­est­ed in before applying.

Benefits of Accelerated Law Degrees

As not­ed ear­li­er, joint degree pro­grams offer numer­ous benefits:

  • Fin­ish your under­grad­u­ate degree sooner
  • Start your J.D. faster
  • Com­plete both degrees faster
  • An ear­ly legal career awaits!

Addi­tion­al­ly, the legal edu­ca­tion sav­ings on tuition, fees, and oth­er costs can be sig­nif­i­cant. The inten­si­ty and focus of 3+3 law pro­grams is also great prepa­ra­tion for work­ing as an attor­ney. Learn­ing how to man­age mul­ti­ple dead­lines simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and work­ing under pres­sure will go a long way in prepar­ing you for your career. 

Potential Drawbacks

There are some poten­tial draw­backs to con­sid­er when apply­ing to 3+3 pro­grams, though:

  • The rig­or and inten­si­ty can be over­whelm­ing if you aren’t prepared.
  • Lim­it­ed time for social activ­i­ties can throw your work-life bal­ance off while you’re in the program.
  • There is also lim­it­ed time for legal intern­ships, which can make you feel a lit­tle less pre­pared for your career.

The under­grad­u­ate to law tran­si­tion can be dif­fi­cult in an accel­er­at­ed envi­ron­ment, too. Usu­al­ly, the final year of under­grad­u­ate stud­ies and the first year of law stud­ies are the most dif­fi­cult. But in these pro­grams, you must com­plete both at the same time.

Step-by-Step Guide to the 3+3 Law Program Process

As an under­grad­u­ate stu­dent, it can be a lit­tle over­whelm­ing to think about every­thing you need to do to enroll in and com­plete a 3+3 law pro­gram. How­ev­er, the six-step guide below will help you do just that!

Step 1: Researching Eligible Programs

First and fore­most, plan­ning is essen­tial. Not all uni­ver­si­ties offer 3+3 law pro­grams, so you should begin by iden­ti­fy­ing poten­tial schools with an accel­er­at­ed law degree. A sim­ple Google search is a great place to start.

Accord­ing to the Law School Admis­sion Coun­cil (LSAC), you should con­sid­er the fol­low­ing fac­tors when choos­ing a law program:

  • The cur­ricu­lum — Most law pro­grams cov­er the same basic cours­es but dif­fer in the spe­cial­iza­tions and elec­tives they offer.
  • Pro­gram fac­tors — Con­sid­er fea­tures like class size, demo­graph­ics, and aca­d­e­m­ic sup­port pro­grams at your cho­sen schools. Also eval­u­ate the qual­i­ty and exper­tise of the fac­ul­ty, the program’s rep­u­ta­tion, and career ser­vices offered by each school.
  • Diver­si­ty and inclu­sion — Exam­ine each pro­gram and its com­mit­ment to incor­po­rat­ing a diverse range of stu­dent back­grounds and points of view. This helps pre­pare you more thor­ough­ly for work­ing with a broad spec­trum of clients.
  • Con­sid­er the cost — While accel­er­at­ed law degrees can save you mon­ey, they can still be expensive. 

Pre-law advis­ing can help you make an informed deci­sion. Speak with acquain­tances, friends, or fam­i­ly mem­bers who are lawyers and seek their guid­ance. You can also con­sult with admis­sions coun­selors and depart­ment offi­cials at the schools you’re con­sid­er­ing to get more insights into their 3+3 programs.

Step 2: Application Process

Apply­ing to accel­er­at­ed law pro­grams might include dif­fer­ent tasks depend­ing on each school’s spe­cif­ic require­ments. By and large, though, you should expect admis­sions require­ments like those men­tioned ear­li­er: a high under­grad­u­ate GPA, a high LSAT score, and pos­i­tive rec­om­men­da­tions from aca­d­e­m­ic and pro­fes­sion­al sources. 

When fill­ing out law school appli­ca­tions, you’ll need to sub­mit a vari­ety of impor­tant doc­u­ments, which might include:

  • An appli­ca­tion for admission
  • Offi­cial tran­scripts from each col­le­giate insti­tu­tion you’ve attended
  • A per­son­al state­ment dis­cussing your aca­d­e­m­ic and pro­fes­sion­al goals
  • A resume or cur­ricu­lum vitae
  • Let­ters of recommendation

These and any oth­er appli­ca­tion mate­ri­als are usu­al­ly due in the spring for fall admission.

Step 3: Undergraduate Studies

Once admit­ted to a 3+3 law pro­gram, you’ll begin your under­grad­u­ate stud­ies, often in law, legal stud­ies, crim­i­nal jus­tice, or a sim­i­lar pro­gram. In three years, you’ll com­plete rough­ly 120 cred­its of gen­er­al edu­ca­tion require­ments (e.g., math, sci­ence, social sci­ences, Eng­lish) and major course­work (e.g., crim­i­nal pro­ce­dure, con­tract law, torts). 

To main­tain eli­gi­bil­i­ty for the law phase of a 3+3 pro­gram, you must have a sol­id aca­d­e­m­ic track record. As not­ed ear­li­er, many pro­grams require you to main­tain a 3.5 GPA or high­er through­out your under­grad­u­ate studies.

Step 4: Transitioning to Law School

Mov­ing from under­grad­u­ate to law school stud­ies can be dif­fi­cult. How­ev­er, this process can be eased in some sense, thanks to the direct align­ment of under­grad­u­ate and law school pro­grams in 3+3 arrangements.

Nev­er­the­less, focus on mak­ing the fol­low­ing adjust­ments and prepa­ra­tions to ensure your suc­cess in law school:

  • Read — Law school requires a lot of read­ing. Stay on top of your read­ing assign­ments so you don’t fall behind. Also take copi­ous notes to help you remem­ber what you’ve read.
  • Make the most of each class — Go to class, par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions, and come pre­pared. Take detailed notes dur­ing class as well. Many pro­fes­sors dis­cuss mate­r­i­al in class that is not in the assigned readings.
  • Review — Review your class notes, notes from your read­ings, and par­tic­i­pate in any study groups or review ses­sions avail­able to you.
  • Prac­tice exams - Many law pro­fes­sors make prac­tice tests avail­able. Use them! Also meet with your pro­fes­sors after tak­ing a test to iden­ti­fy what areas you need to work on.
  • Ask for help — Don’t get lost and fall behind because you’re too proud to ask for help!

Step 5: Law School Curriculum

The law school cur­ricu­lum gen­er­al­ly includes the same set of foun­da­tion­al courses:

  • Civ­il Procedure
  • Crim­i­nal Law and Procedure
  • Con­sti­tu­tion­al Law
  • Torts
  • Con­tracts
  • Prop­er­ty Law
  • Legal Research and Writing

After that, you’ll com­plete a range of elec­tive cours­es and sem­i­nars focus­ing on areas that inter­est you. These might include cours­es in social jus­tice, cor­po­rate law, or human rights, to name a few. You will like­ly com­plete addi­tion­al research and writ­ing class­es, a pro­fes­sion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty course, and expe­ri­en­tial work (e.g., pro bono ser­vice, intern­ships, and clerkships).

Step 6: Graduation and Beyond

After grad­u­a­tion, the next step is bar exam­i­na­tion prepa­ra­tion. But your prep work for the bar exam should begin much soon­er. Most bar exam ques­tions come from the foun­da­tion­al areas dis­cussed ear­li­er, so tak­ing detailed notes in those class­es is essen­tial. Oth­er tips for prepar­ing for the bar include the following:

  • Review con­stant­ly — Start study­ing for the bar your first year of law school and stay con­sis­tent until the exam day.
  • Use study tech­niques — Whether it’s mnemon­ic devices, chunk­ing (e.g., break­ing large con­cepts into small­er, more man­age­able chunks), or some­thing else, you can train your mem­o­ry to be bet­ter in advance of the bar.
  • Use on-cam­pus sup­port ser­vices — Your law school should have resources to help you study. Use them!
  • Try an app — Use one of the many bar exam prep apps to make study­ing more con­sis­tent and fun.
  • Prac­tice self-care — Eat right, don’t drink or do drugs, and get enough sleep. Add in exer­cise for good measure!

Upon pass­ing the bar, you’ll have many law career paths avail­able. You might start a law prac­tice or join an exist­ing one. You might explore a career as a pros­e­cu­tor or defense attor­ney depend­ing on your inter­ests. Oth­er options include work­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor, for gov­ern­ment agen­cies, or the mil­i­tary. Some new attor­neys go on to work as judi­cial clerks, too.