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Syracuse Law Considers Online J.D. Program

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 26, 2016 3:58 PM

It wasn't too long ago when people regarded online classes for higher education to be something that rested between "passing fad" and the "real thing." But as time passes, the inevitable creep of technology has moved more permanently into the classroom -- this time, into Syracuse Law.

The only other school to be ABA approval for an online J.D. program is Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota. But there are plenty of other non-ABA approved offerings out there. But watch that step with taking the bar exam.

Don't Get Much Respect

As Sara Randazzo at The Wall Street Journal has pointed out, the online J.D.'s most well known champion is Saul Goodman from "Better Call Saul." But just like Rodney Dangerfield, he gets no respect. His own brother Chuck McGill excoriated his brother Saul as "not a real lawyer" owing to a mixture of his character and his online education.

But this holier than thou attitude might have shifted slightly in recent times. The current correction in the applicant numbers might have forced some schools into considering options that they might not have considered before.

Same Price, but Less Campus Time

A J.D. from Syracuse will set you back about $139,000 when tuition, fees, books, and living expenses are factored into the equation. But if one can essentially remove the requirement of having to be physically present for class, then a portion of that cost can be defrayed.

The program being developed between Syracuse and 2U Inc. (a company specializing in university online courses) is "not final by any stretch," according to the school's interim dean, William Banks. The plan is to get students to take classes online part time, come to campus twice a year or so to get intensive training session, and to complete and externship with an employer. But instead of spending three years of your life doing this, this program will take four.

Serving Other Populations

Banks has at least acquiesced that declining enrollment was an impetus for Syracuse to consider the online degree program. Students who might be qualified to meet the school's minimum academic and character standards might not be so inclined to go if it requires them to move to New York and face monstrous rent.

But online education has some time yet before it earns widespread acceptance by academia. Even Syracuse's vision must get the blessing of the American Bar Association and New York State before it goes into practice. But if everything goes as planned, we could start seeing Syracuse online 1Ls as soon as 2018.

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