Paul L. Caron

Saturday, November 18, 2023

ABA Proposes To Allow Accreditation Of Fully Online Law Schools Like Purdue, Proposal to Allow Fully Online Schools to Apply for ABA Accreditation Sent to Notice and Comment:

Purdue Global (2023)During the Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Nov. 17 meeting, held in Texas on Friday, Daniel Thies, vice chair, introduced a proposal that would allow a fully online law school to apply for, and potentially earn, provisional and full ABA-approval.

The council voted unanimously for the Strategic Review Committee to send out the proposal to Notice and Comment, with the details outlined in a memorandum from the SRC to Council dated Nov. 17.

It would involve changes to Standards 701 and 702, which relate to the physical plant, among other things that a law school has to have one and would make it clear that law school facilities do not necessarily have to include facilities necessary for in person operation as long as they’ve got sufficient facilities to run an online program, Thies said.

Additionally, the proposal would require changes to standard 105 and related rules that would make clear that a school would not have to be fully approved as a brick and mortar law school before it could apply for a substantive change to offer up to 100% of its program.

Purdue Global Law School (formerly Concord Law School at Purdue University Global), which was established in 1998 as the nation’s first fully online law school, has not been eligible for ABA accreditation because for among other reasons, it is not a traditional fixed-facility, brick-and-mortar law school as it offers a completely online J.D.

Purdue has been proposing changes to Rules 6, 13, and 17.1 of the Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and the Discipline of Attorneys, which would allow graduates of certain non-ABA accredited law schools to sit for the Indiana bar exam, and on Wednesday, the Indiana Supreme Court sent the proposed Admission and Discipline Rule changes to Rule 13 out for a 30-day public comment period, which ends on Dec. 15. ...

“The rules basically say you can’t get that substantive change unless you are already fully approved,” Thies continued. “So effectively, that means are 196 approved law schools have the option of implementing fully online programs, and some of them have, but outsiders, new law schools, others who might want to start up a fully online program from scratch are not able to because they can’t get fully approved.”

“Most of the programs that are out there for fully online students have charged essentially the same tuition as what’s charged in residential programs—likely that’s because they’re all offered by brick and mortar law schools,” Thies said. “So the committee started thinking about what changes would be necessary to the standards in order to allow a fully online school start from scratch.”

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