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Dean Patricia Roberts stands at one of the gateways to the St. Mary’s Law campus. St. Mary’s photo

The First ABA-Approved Fully Online J.D. Program is Here 

The nation’s first fully online Juris Doctor program approved by the American Bar Association will launch next fall. 

St. Mary’s University School of Law, which received ABA approval for the online program request in May, announced plans to enroll 25 students in the first cohort of the five-year pilot program, Reuters reports. 

“As the only law school serving San Antonio and the southernmost school serving South Texas, St. Mary’s Law has a tradition of excellence in legal education stretching back to its founding in 1927,” Patricia Roberts, J.D., St. Mary’s Law Dean and Charles E. Cantú Distinguished Professor of Law, says in a press release. “This new fully online J.D. program — the one and only of its kind — exemplifies how St. Mary’s Law continues to lead with tradition and innovation.”


The online J.D. program will take about four years to complete with a similar tuition rate to the law school’s current in-person, part-time program. Additionally, online J.D. students will have access to the full suite of student services, extracurricular in-person orientation, and in-person professional development activities. 

Since launching an online version of its Master of Jurisprudence (M.Jur.) program five years ago, St. Mary’s Law has built a strong foundation for virtual learning opportunities. Additionally, with the pandemic placing an emphasis on online learning, all full-time faculty at St. Mary’s Law completed a comprehensive course in instructional design and obtained their online teaching certification.

Now, with the nation’s first ABA-approved, fully online J.D. program, St. Mary’s Law intends to widen the reach to quality legal education.  

“Texas is proud that St. Mary’s is leading the way nationally by offering a rigorous online course of legal instruction leading to an accredited J.D. degree,” Justice Brett Busby, J.D., of the Supreme Court of Texas, says. “Importantly, this part-time program will expand access to a quality legal education for Texans who do not live near a law school and whose work or family circumstances prevent them from relocating. These students will benefit from knowledge gained during the pandemic about effective virtual learning and from externships across the state where they can gain practical legal experience while helping others. I look forward to welcoming graduates of this program as members of the Texas bar.”

Sources: Reuters, St. Mary’s University 

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