Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Martin Pritikin (Dean, Concord Law School), California’s New Frontier: Accreditation of Distance Learning Law Schools:
California is one of the few states to accredit law schools independently of the American Bar Association (ABA). Recently, the State Bar of California took the next big step by opening up a path to accreditation for fully online law schools. This move has the potential to dramatically impact the landscape of legal education.
The ABA, the national accreditor for law schools, has been cautious about allowing law school classes to be delivered by distance learning technology. For a number of years, the ABA limited law schools to offering 15 credits online, about one sixth of the total. In 2018, the ABA relaxed the limit to one third, but schools must still be primarily campus-based. A handful of ABA law schools have obtained variances to offer hybrid online programs, but all of them still contain a ground-based component. There has never been a fully online ABA-accredited J.D. program. ...
With California paving the way, it is possible that other states might slowly begin to allow graduates of fully online law schools to sit for their bar exams. Perhaps the ABA itself might even one day change its accreditation standards to allow for 100% online law schools.
The benefits of doing so could be numerous. Online law schools tend to have lower overhead and so lower tuition that traditional schools. They provide flexibility and expand access to those who, due to work or family responsibilities, geography, military service, or physical impairments, could not attend a traditional law school, even in a part-time evening program.
However, one shouldn’t hold their breath. Concord Law School began in 1998 as the nation’s first fully online law school. If you had asked its founders then if online law schools would be eligible for accreditation nationally in 20 years, they would have undoubtedly said yes. We can only hope it doesn’t take another 20 years for full recognition of the power of technology to transform legal education for the good.
SmartLawyer, Dayton Law's LL.M. Grads Could Sit For California Bar