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Is Online Education Coming to a Law School Near You?

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on October 17, 2017 12:10 PM

With practically everything connecting to the internet, why are law schools so slow to connect students to online education?

It's been four years since the American Bar Association approved the first distance learning program for juris doctorates. The Internet of Things has changed everything but legal education -- there's still only one ABA school offering an online degree.

Now the bar association is circulating a proposal to allow law schools to offer online courses for up to 50 percent of a student's credits. But isn't it about time, especially when even a toaster can connect to the internet full-time, to give students more distance learning?

Half-Credit

When the ABA approved the first online program, it was so long ago that the law school doesn't exist anymore. It was William Mitchell College of Law, which later merged with its rival, Hamline University School of Law.

It was a sign of the times, as law schools have merged, closed and otherwise reinvented themselves to adapt to economic pressures. Mitchell Hamline, it turns out, was ahead of the times.

Their hybrid program enables students to study law from anywhere in the world. Each semester includes 12 or 13 weeks of online coursework, with on-campus instruction 10 times during the four-year program.

In the meantime, non-ABA accredited schools have jumped ahead of ABA schools in distance learning. Online education is more than a cottage industry; it's a $100 billion industry.

No-Brainer

Unfortunately for law students, many states do not allow non-ABA graduates to take their bar exams. For now, Mitchell Hamline is their best option.

Jessica Islas, one of the first online students, said it was perfect for her situation. As a full-time working mom, she needed the flexiblity.

"When the hybrid program came along, it was kind of a no-brainer for me; it's the one program that fits in my life," she told U.S. News & World Report.

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