The short answer to the question "how long is law school" for most people is: a bit less than three years for the normal, full-time, on-campus juris doctor program that begins in August or September of your first year, ends in May or June of your third year, and gives you two summers off.
But there is surprising variety in how long programs are, even for the juris doctor degree depends what program you are pursuing. A Juris doctor can take as little as two years and as much as four years or more depending on how you do it. If you need options and can't do a three-year program, consider the following options.
How long is law school for JD students?
Accelerated JD programs let you get through the program in just two years. You start classes a little earlier, in May or June the summer of your first year. You take special classes over the summer, then normal classes with other JDs through the fall. You still get your one summer off to take an internship, and you graduate in May two full years after you start.
The most famous of these accelerated programs are at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago And Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. (I am not making this up. There is a Northeastern School of Law in Boston, but I do not know if they have an accelerated program. No Southeastern Law School exists that I know of.).
With part-time JD programs, the answer to "how long is law school" is four years or more. Now, part-time can mean that you take classes during the day with other full-time students, or that you go to night classes. While relatively few law schools offer the accelerated JD program, quite a few schools offer part-time programs or night school.
An online juris doctor degree is generally four years long as well. But it is not a guaranteed four years, interestingly. At the moment, completing an online law degree only permits you to sit for the California Bar Exam. As such, the state of California has decided to regulate online law schools and requires that online law students take what is called the "baby bar" after two years of classes. If you don't pass, you're not allowed to continue your studies. If you pass, you still have to take the normal bar exam to become a lawyer.
How long is law school for graduate law students?
Again, it depends. There are several kinds of programs for graduate students.
But again, the short answer for most students is:
One (school) year.
Just one year! More details below.
Most full-time LLM programs are just one year long, or rather almost 9 months, lasting from August or September through May or June.
Some part-time or online LLM programs exist and last a bit longer, usually two years.
For the ambitious,JSD or SJD programs take anywhere from three to five or six years. Most programs at least require you to take an LLM first (most law schools only accept JSD or SJD students who did well as LLMs as students at the school to which they are applying), meaning that you're in classes for one to two years. The rest of it is up to you and how fast you can finish your dissertation.
In the end, "how long is law school" is not too important a question.
No matter what you do, law school is a big, big investment of your time, money, energy and mental well-being.
It is long enough that you must think about the opportunity cost of going.
That is, while it is an investment in your future, you are also not making money during the years you are in school (if you are a full-time student).
I'm not saying don't go. I'm saying, think carefully about it.
Have good reasons.
And if you go for the right reasons, I believe, the time will fly!