Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who oversees the state's court system and who recently instituted a 50-hour pro bono requirement for admittees to the bar, and Judge Victoria Graffeo are slated to attend the Jan. 18 meeting.
"I don't know what will happen with this, but there is enough interest from some of the decision-makers to come to the meeting and hear more," Estreicher said. "I've received a lot of interest from academics as well."
Professor Brian Tamanaha of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law is among those academics. Law schools need the flexibility to experiment with different models, Tamanaha argued in his 2012 book, Failing Law Schools.
Judge José Cabranes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit endorsed a two-year legal education in a 2012 speech before the AALS, but suggested that a third year could be spent apprenticing with practicing attorneys or in law school clinics. Cabranes acknowledged that such a change would hurt law schools' bottom lines.
Estreicher did not include an apprenticeship component in his proposal because he thought it unlikely that enough legal employers would take on students, he said.
The Arizona Supreme Court has been tinkering with bar-exam timing; in December, it approved a pilot program allowing law students to take the test during February of their 3L year. However, the students must be close to completing the full, three-year curriculum.
Unless the ABA changes its accreditation standards, New York students who opt to take the bar instead of completing their 3L years would not receive juris doctor degrees. (The ABA requires completion of 83 credit hours for a J.D. A handful of schools offer accelerated, two-year J.D. programs, but students still must meet the 83-credit minimum.)
Convincing the New York Court of Appeals would require significant support from practicing attorneys and professional organizations, Estreicher acknowledged. Practicing attorneys tend to be receptive to the idea because many recall their 3L years as worthless, he said.
Randal Milch, general counsel of Verizon Communications Inc., counts himself among that number.
"I couldn't wait to get out of law school. I absolutely would have taken the two-year option," said Milch, who will moderate the Jan. 18 discussion. "I think it's important for upper-tier schools like NYU, which has gifted students and high placement rates, to be the ones leading this charge."