online law school

It’s time to expand online legal education

A recent proposal by the ABA to increase the number of credits that law schools may offer online doesn’t go nearly far enough

In every course, students engage with the documents or activities that lawyers use in practice. In my Evidence course, for example, they not only write several evidentiary motions, they argue them orally in videoconference appointments with me serving as the judge.

Our required curriculum includes at least as many legal writing and legal ethics units as the ABA and covers all the subjects tested on the California Bar Exam. Whereas the ABA mandates at least six units of experiential learning, our required curriculum includes 15 units.

Online programs can not only mimic the in-person format; they can take advantage of the technology. In addition to individualized feedback from professors on graded assignments, students can get immediate feedback on quizzes or interactive learning activities and can even get differentiated feedback, depending on their answers. As David Amos, associate dean at the City Law School, University of London, which offers an online LLM (master of law) in international business law, told the Financial Times: “You’re able to monitor whether a student has accessed and engaged with the material. You can also check their progress by quizzes, tests, and so on. This allows us to spot areas of concern and address them.”

Other features that people might assume can exist only in a brick-and-mortar law school include externship opportunities (which some students work on remotely), an incubator to help graduates launch their own solo practices, and a moot court team that has won brief writing and oral advocacy awards in competitions against ABA law schools.
In a national survey, our students responded more favorably on a variety of metrics than students in traditional schools, including training in critical thinking, legal research, and writing; participation in class and quality of relationships with professors; and overall satisfaction.

There is no reason why a law school that is primarily or even entirely online cannot provide the level of quality that the ABA wants. This is particularly important because, whereas the average program tuition at ABA law schools is more than $127,000, our online school costs less than $48,000. Affordable legal education promotes affordable legal services—a win-win for law students and the clients they would serve.

We can only hope that the ABA will further relax its standards. Perhaps one day soon, we will look back at a time when the idea of allowing up to a third of credits to be offered online was considered “radical”… and laugh.

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