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Summer Start: Unique Alternative, Intriguing Options

Michigan is rare among top schools in having up to one-quarter of the entering class to begin in the summer. Enormously valued by those who have experienced it, for more than a century the summer start has offered several distinct advantages over the more typical fall start and presents a special appeal for students planning to begin law school after postcollege employment.

Even at a school as renowned for its collegiality as Michigan Law, it is not unusual that the combination of unfamiliar material, energetic faculty, and a first-rate group of fellow students can create a certain amount of stress in the first semester—to which the summer start provides a bit of an antidote. The courseload is lighter (two doctrinal classes rather than three, along with Legal Practice), enabling a “ramping up” into the sometimes intense work of law school; remaining required coursework is spread over the next two semesters, so that there is no concomitant heavier courseload later. And because the 90 or so summer starters are the sole law students in residence when they begin, they quickly form particularly close bonds; the beautiful Law Quad is sun-drenched and peaceful, inviting study and conversation (and Frisbee) beneath the trees. Everyone—faculty and administrators included—feels the sense of ease that pervades the summer months, with the result of enhanced accessibility; students can feel relaxed about spending the time to address whatever questions arise.

Another advantage is increased scheduling flexibility, with the potential for beginning the practice of law a half year earlier than would otherwise be possible. That is, because they begin their law school education in June, most summer starters complete their sixth semester in December, effectively accelerating their legal education to allow them to graduate a full semester ahead of the typical May date. And at Michigan, this acceleration is achieved without the necessity of sacrificing the crucial career opportunities of two summers in which to pursue legal work (as opposed to having long-term employment prospects turn on a single summer, as is required by the similar “two-year” programs recently instituted at a few other law schools). But while graduating early is the most frequent choice, summer starters also have the option of taking a semester off during law school and graduating with the rest of their class in May of their third year. Still others choose to attend an additional semester and graduate in May in order to pursue a dual degree or complete additional law coursework.

The city of Ann Arbor itself offers a strong attraction during the summer months. The combination of beautiful weather and the absence of a significant portion of the school-year residents means that one has many opportunities in which to enjoy plentiful parks and recreational activities, as well as uncrowded cafés, restaurants, and entertainment venues.