A growing number of academics and law firm leaders say a two-year law degree could reduce tuition-debt burdens while enabling law firms to hire first-year lawyers at lower salaries.

Ballard Spahr Chair Mark Stewart said law firms already make judgments about potential hires in the second year of law school, when they invite top students to work as summer interns. Typically the interns are made offers at the end of the summer, before they even begin their third year in school, to join the firms after graduation.

"Law firms are making their assessment on how a person thinks, how we think they can interact with clients and their peers," Mr. Stewart said.

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Mark S. Stewart