There are many online schools that offer law degrees and programs. Such programs can lead to a career as a paralegal and positions in corporations that require extensive legal knowledge. If you have already passed the bar, you can take online Master of Law (LLM) degrees to focus on particular areas of the law. Online programs can boost the career of executive and HR professionals, and provide many other great opportunities. In short, these degrees can take you anywhere you’d like to go… unless you’d like to practice law.
The American Bar Association provides accreditation for law schools that offer a Juris Doctorate (JD) Degree – the degree that allows you to take the bar exam and practice law. Online Juris Doctorate program exists, but as of the time of this article, the ABA has yet to approve any online JD programs. All states except for California require that you have received a JD degree from an ABA approved school before you are allowed to take the exam. So, unless you plan on spending the first several years of your career as a lawyer practicing in California, your only choice for law school is a traditional brick-and-mortar institution.
Since the ABA frequently reviews schools and approves Juris Doctorate programs for schools all over the country, we can only assume that there is a perception in the field that an online education is somehow inadequate for someone who wishes to practice law. To this perception, we have no choice but to say, “we object, your honors!” and ask the ABA to consider the evidence.
- Exhibit A: Online education works: advancements in technology have provided online environments that allow for a learning experience that equals and sometimes exceeds the traditional classroom. In most cases it is easy to get one-on-one assistance from your professor, attend lectures, find a tutor, and collaborate with other students on group projects. Accredited online degrees exist for most other disciplines, and have existed for quite some time.
- Exhibit B: The value and quality of online degree programs has been generally accepted in the corporate world. Most employers recognize the validity of online degrees and regularly hire graduates from these programs. State and private universities all over the United States have recognized the quality and rigor of online education and have created their own online degree programs.
We understand that law is the basis of society, and that the profession is one of the oldest and most respected. However, we believe that there is room in the profession for innovation and fresh thinking. It’s time for the American Bar Association to step into the 21st century and seriously examine and consider approving online JD programs.
Tony Hornsby works in the public pension industry and writes in his free time. He has a BS degree in Business Management and enjoys writing, reading, and martial arts. Follow Tony on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RoughandRuggedRoad.