Northwestern Law Suspends Accelerated JD Program

October 02, 2015

To: Northwestern Law Community
From: Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez
Re: Accelerated JD program
Date: Friday, October 2, 2015

I write to inform you that we are suspending indefinitely admissions recruitment for our Accelerated JD program. Consequently, we will not be enrolling a new class of AJD students this coming spring.

This decision was a difficult one -- a conclusion I have reached after many months of deliberation and consultation with numerous individuals throughout our university and law school community, the legal academy, and our profession, and after a careful review of relevant internal and external data.  In the end, I have determined that this course is the best one for the time being in order to advance the strategic priorities of our law school. 

We must continually weigh the scale and scope of each of our programs in conjunction with the resources necessary to sustain them, while also accounting for market demand.  As originally conceived in Plan 2008, we envisioned the program growing to 40 new students per year. And, as we established this program, we devoted considerable faculty and administrative resources to establishing, supporting, and sustaining the program at the high quality that befits all of our law school’s programs. Despite our best efforts, the applicant pool has not grown to the extent necessary to achieve this aspiration. This year and last, we were able to enroll a very good group of students, though much smaller than desired and necessary to meet our program objectives and warrant the continued allocation of administrative resources to ensure its success. The small size of our program has presented myriad challenges, not only within the program itself but across our law school. In short, dealing with this smaller program has impacted our ability to serve the objectives and needs of all our law students.

Further constraining our plans, recent changes in ABA regulations limited our ability to enroll a sizable cohort of students from the pool of GMAT test-takers. Some of you may recall that a core component of the AJD program’s strategic implementation was to attract a substantial number of students who had taken the GMAT, including those who had already begun to develop many of the core competencies identified in Plan 2008. Due to a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control, the applicant pool has remained relatively constant. It is apparent that the substantial growth necessary to achieve our intended size, a size that justifies its resource requirements, is highly unlikely in the near term. Should circumstances change, we remain open to resuming this program at a future date.

Despite this present action, let me be clear that I view our accelerated JD program as a highly successful endeavor in many respects. Since the AJD program’s inception in 2009, we have enrolled and graduated an outstanding group of students. They have enriched our classrooms and culture with their intellect, their entrepreneurial mindsets, and their perspectives, often sharpened through their advanced prior career and life experiences. Upon graduation, they have gone on to successful careers within and outside of the law -- in our nation’s most prominent law firms, in public-sector organizations where they serve as vital advocates for social justice, within established corporations and emerging businesses, sometimes of their own founding, and as clerks for our nation’s most esteemed judges. 

I am certain that in another era, under differing economic circumstances, and under a more flexible regulatory climate, this program would have flourished. Indeed, at some point, it still may.

I am mindful that this decision will impact individuals throughout our community in various ways. I welcome your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree with this decision; if you wish to discuss this decision further, please feel free to contact me.

Every great institution and one of our law school’s manifest strengths, is our ability to openly and constructively discuss and debate sometimes difficult matters toward a common purpose.  And, as an institution that prizes innovation and responsiveness to market conditions and the dynamic state of the profession, we must experiment and, with all experiments, candidly assess these experiments with relevant data and sober institutional self-reflection. This is what we have done with the AJD program.

For our current AJD students and alumni, I assure you that the law school will continue to fully support you throughout the duration of your studies and your careers. You are cherished members of our community. Your willingness, indeed your fortitude, to pursue this novel, programmatic innovation serves as a model to us all.

In closing, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the many individuals throughout the Northwestern Law community who have worked tirelessly on this program – to our faculty who have dedicated additional hours to teach these excellent students, to our staff who have carefully planned, implemented, and administered the program, and perhaps most importantly, to its students and alumni.  You continue to make us proud through your many accomplishments here at Northwestern and through the innumerable ways you improve our profession, your communities, and society as a whole.