What is the quarter system?
Baylor Law School's quarter system is a specifically chosen and a historically-tested way to serve the needs of the Baylor Law community. It is a true quarter system in that there are four quarters of the same length – Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer - during the calendar year. However, while most schools' academic year consists of two semesters, the traditional "academic year" at Baylor consists of three quarters. Any three quarters can make up an academic year since each quarter, including the Summer, offers a full range of courses.
Under the quarter system, students can take an average of fourteen quarter hours each quarter and graduate in nine quarters with a minimum total of 126 quarter hours (the equivalent of 84 semester hours.) Each quarter is approximately 9 ½ weeks of instruction followed by two reading days and then an additional week for finals.
Why the quarter system?
Baylor Law School has followed the quarter system since the 1940's. Many schools were on the quarter system at that time but later converted to the semester system. We chose to maintain the quarter system because of its distinct pedagogical advantages. We believe it is a better system for our law school because our primary focus is on training students to be practicing lawyers.
Advantages of the quarter system
All first year classes -- especially important in any law school program as an introduction to effective analysis, articulation and argument -- can be taught in small classes, because our students are integrated into the program through three entering classes rather than through a single, large fall class. We believe students benefit significantly from this intentionally small class size.
The 9 ½ week quarter (as opposed to 14 week semesters) introduces a fast pace to our academic terms that enhances our environment of high expectations and rigor. At the same time, the student has, on average, one less course than would be taken on a semester system, allowing more focused study of the material in each substantive area.
We are able to offer the gemstone of our program, the third year Practice Court Program, because we are able to spread the students across two course cycles, e.g., the Fall/Winter cycle and the Spring/Summer cycle. By spreading the third year students over two course cycles, we are able to maintain the individualized attention that has made our Practice Court Program nationally recognized.
We are well known for the rigor of our program in each of its three years, and most notably, its increasing intensity, culminating in the third year's Practice Court Program. Our unparalleled success on the bar exam -- and the success of our graduates generally -- is evidence of the quality of our students, a curriculum with a higher proportion of required and intentionally sequenced courses, and our small size that allows no student to be "invisible." Baylor's program is highly lauded, and in our view, unmatched in legal education, not only in terms of the quality of its education and training in procedure and trial advocacy, but also in the final and pointed message it sends to our students that we will require more of them than what they think they are capable of delivering. We require more because we understand the demands that will be placed upon our students by our profession and our students' future clients. Our approach to legal education in significant part is made possible by adherence to the quarter system.
The quarter system allows students flexibility in deciding when to start, how quickly to progress, and when to finish law school. This flexibility sometimes leads to confusion when employers conduct interviews because of the traditional characterization of law students as 1L's, 2L's and 3L's. When evaluating Baylor law students, it is helpful to remember that three quarters are roughly equal to two semesters, and therefore students who have completed 3 quarters can be characterized as "2L's," and those who have completed 6 quarters can be characterized as "3L's." Another way to look at it is based on credit hours, where 1L students are those with fewer than 42 credit hours, 2L students are those with 42 to 83 credit hours, and 3L students are those with 84 or more credit hours.
These differences are usually presented in two situations. One, there are some students who participate in Fall OCI who can graduate in the following July, or who can delay their graduation date for 18 months to the February after the next full year. Their graduation date depends upon when they decide to take and complete required coursework. Therefore, during the same interview period a student in this situation may apply to firms both as a 2L (for a summer clerkship the following summer) and as a 3L (for a permanent position to begin the following winter). The second scenario involves students who begin law school in the spring. At the time of fall interviews they will have completed two quarters, but by the following summer they will have completed five quarters.
We believe that employers can also realize advantages in flexibility of recruiting under the quarter system. We invite you to contact the CDO with your questions and comments.