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Online Learning in this State May Grow

If you are a California-based law student, you may soon have a plethora of options to take JD courses entirely online.

A recent rule change by the State Bar of California will allow state-accredited law schools to teach JD programs entirely online, the ABA Journal reports.


Both Trinity Law School and John F. Kennedy University’s College of Law, two non-ABA accredited law schools, have filed change applications in order to offer 100% online JDs, according to the ABA Journal.

“I think there are some reasons schools may want to offer it. It allows them to extend their geographic reach significantly, and that could increase their enrollment,” Carole Buckner tells the ABA Journal. Buckner is the former dean of St. Francis School of Law, which is 100% online and registered as a California unaccredited distance-learning law school.

While many non-ABA accredited law schools are seeking to shift online, it’s a different story for ABA-accredited schools, which can only offer up to one-third of their credits online.

Since ABA-accreditation requires site visits as part of the California accreditation process, ABA-accredited law schools are limited in the number of credits they can offer online.

“I said they were welcome to come to our administrative office, but it’s literally an executive office with a couple of desks and some law books,” Martin Pritikin, the dean of Concord Law School at Purdue University Global, tells the ABA Journal. “They also want to observe our lectures, and we can make that available.”


In recent years, the law school industry has seen a shift in demand for online learning.

“There’s a need for a new kind of faculty member, who understands how to have a give-and-take relationship with students through emails and phone calls,” Myron Steeves, the interim dean at Trinity Law School, tells the ABA Journal. 

Enrollment in non-J.D. online legal programs has increased significantly within the past decade, with roughly 5,600 students currently enrolled in these types of programs, according to the National Jurist. 

“…other schools are using online learning to make their part-time programs more convenient for students,” Audrey Herrington, of the National Jurist, writes. “They’ve created weekend/online hybrids, so students won’t be cramped for time during the week.”

Yet, California is one of the only states in the country where individuals who didn’t graduate from an ABA-accredited law school can still sit for the bar exam. For that reason, experts say, it’s unlikely that the growth of online education will go far.

“This is based in part on the profession and the academy’s resistance to change and the continued unfamiliarity with effective online teaching and learning,” Ellen Murphy, associate dean of strategic initiatives/professor of practice at Wake Forest University School of Law, tells the ABA Journal. “A more likely predictor will be the outcomes data from those ABA-accredited programs that are operating under a hybrid program variance from the ABA.”

Sources: ABA Journal, National Jurist


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