ABA Accredited Online Law Schools
ABA accredited online law schools do not yet exist. ABA approved online law schools don't exist yet because the ABA Standards for the Approval of Law Schools currently do not allow for an online law school Juris Doctor degree program. ABA online law school Standard 306 allows an ABA approved law school to award up to 12 credits toward the JD degree for distance education courses, but does not set any guidelines or standards for online law schools. ABA accredited law schools can only grant four credits a semester and students can’t take online law school classes in their first year of law school.
The State Bar of California allows online law schools, in order to provide alternative students an opportunity to receive a legal education. One online law school that provides this opportunity is the California School of Law.
In reviewing ABA accreditation standards, including “Standard 306,” which applies to online law schools. Bucky Askew, the ABA’s staff consultant on legal education, predicts that the ABA will, indeed, broaden its standards for online law schools when it addresses the issue next year.
“In the case of distance education, I think there is interest in reviewing it more comprehensively,” says Askew. “My guess is it will probably result in the standard permitting more [distance education credits] in the future, based on what I’ve observed and heard.”
The ABA reviews its standards every five years. Up until 2000, it did not allow any distance education credits to be part of a law degree, says Askew. Then the ABA began allowing traditional law schools to offer a few online courses. “My guess is they decided to start slowly to permit schools to do this on a fairly limited basis and see how it goes,” says Askew.
Donald Polden, Dean of the Santa Clara University School of Law and chair of the ABA's Accreditation Standards Review Committee, says he anticipates that the ABA could expand the current 12-hour threshold, though he can't foresee a future where the classroom setting is marginalized at ABA accredited law schools.
"There's growing comfort with online education as a useful and meaningful method of offering a part of the law school curriculum," he says. "[But], for a high quality program, you have to have students together because so much of learning happens in that interaction in the classroom space."
ABA approved online law schools
The legal profession has traditionally been conservative and slow to adapt to change. Also, there is no pressure on the ABA approve online law schools, since bricks-and-mortar schools are having no problem attracting applicants to pay their hefty tuition.
More than 100,000 people apply annually for 45,000 open seats at ABA-accredited law schools. Average cost of law school is upwards of $50,000 to $150,000 for a degree, depending whether a school is public or private.
The California School of Law provides a online law school experience similar to that at ABA accredited law schools. At the California School of Law the virtual classes meet each week on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, with students and professors participating in a live video conference in which they discuss and debate the law, as if they were physically in the same room. In class, students and professors utilize the traditional Socratic Method of legal education used at prestigious residential law schools.
The Classes are paced and the tuition of $7,500.00 a year is a cost that is manageable for a working adult. State of the art technology enables students to submit examinations, essays and memoranda of law online, for professors to review, discuss, and grade. The online technology also enables the students to form study groups as at ABA law schools in which they discuss cases, trade class outlines, prep for tests and make friends and networking connections that may last a lifetime.
In conclusion, the ABA continues to remain behind the technological curve when it comes to ABA accrediting online law schools that use technology to facilitate legal education. Online law schools provide students with access to a law degree, which they may have never been able to obtain due to outrageous tuition at traditional brick and mortar law schools and the additional costs associated with relocation. Luckily, for this new generation of law students, schools like the California School of Law are utilizing technology without sacrificing the benefits of traditional legal pedagogy.
The California School of Law, offers all the benefits of a traditional law school education at a fraction of the price of the ABA accredited online law schools. Prospective law students need not wait for ABA accredited online law school they can to see for themselves what the opportunities are at California Approved online law schools.
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