There's an old saw about law school: the first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death. With low attendance and high debt, there's been some discussion and lots of comments about the wisdom of a three-year program in law school. (In that last link, scroll down to the 8/24/05, 10:15 a.m. comment - it's a classic.) The good professor highlights the root article that started the discussion, and perhaps wisely begs off offering his thoughts. Evan Schaffer cites to a law professor who emphatically says it's not a waste of time.
Sure, you can coast through law school if you want and buy Gilbert's Law Summaries for each class, avoid the reading, case briefing and heck, presumably even classes if you can memorize it and regurgitate it onto the exam (for those non-lawyers reading this, there's only one test per class in law school). In doing so, you'll miss out on learning legal reasoning through the Socratic method, how to read cases and brief them and how to argue cases and legal points. There can be plenty of "beer and softball" in your third year if you plan it right. That statement, however, reminds me of a question we used to ask in law school: "Would you hire so-and-so to be your lawyer?" Not all earned a yes to that answer, and I suspect someone who played softball and drank beer for most of their third year wouldn't earn an affirmative answer.
I don't know how they do it elsewhere, but in my law school, our third year was spent drafting on model legislation, assisting professors with legal research, trying cases in front of superior court judges, arguing appeals in the court of appeal and the supreme court, and generally learning how to practice law. I suspect that there are a number of law students out there who want to skip their "boring" third year and avoid incurring the additional debt.
Here's a proposal for those students: Go right ahead and skip it - just don't expect to earn a law degree. But you want something for the two years you did put in? No problem, we'll send you a junior lawyer certificate.