Actually, there is no such thing as an accredited online law degree or law school.
Shocking, right? Sorry to break the news.
But wait up. It's not so simple. There are "registered" online law schools "registered" in California that allow you to take the bar and become a lawyer.
Let's take a step back. What does accreditation mean? The practice of law in the U.S. is regulated by each state individually. There is no one official national or federal accreditationinstitution. Each state (that is, usually the highest court in each state) sets its own rules on how people can qualify to become lawyers.
However, by default, the American Bar Association (what is basically a trade association for lawyers) does serve as a quasi-official accreditation institution for law schools. An ABA-accredited law school is one that meets certain standards created by the ABA. More importantly, a graduate of an ABA-accredited law school is free to sit and take the bar exam anywhere in the United States.
But weirdly, according to the ABA, there is not a single accredited online law degree out there where you can get a juris doctor, take the bar exam, and become a lawyer. Not one accredited online law school worthy of the ABA's totally arbitrary standards.
Bummer, right? And not at all fair, considering all of the astoundingly crappy and new traditional law schools that the ABA has accredited recently. Crappy in the sense that more law students are paying for expensive educations with no real prospect of getting a well-paying job.
Enter the great state of California. California has always done legal things slightly differently. For years, even before the Internet, it allowed graduates of distance or correspondence law schools to take the bar exam and become lawyers.
Perhaps, once online law schools began to sprout up on the Internet, California decided there wasn't much of a difference and said, "Ah, let 'em take the bar exam. That'll show 'em."
So while there is also not a single accredited online law degree program recognized by the state of California, the online law schools there are in California are "registered" in California and make you eligible to take the bar exam.
Without further ado, here three sections on accredited online law degrees: (1) registered juris doctor degrees that let you take the bar; (2) graduate online law degrees and (3) the future of the accredited online law program.
The state of California created two categories of registered, but un- accredited law schools: " Registered Unaccredited Correspondence Law Schools in California" and "Registered Unaccredited Distance Learning Law Schools in California."
If you can tell the difference between these two types of schools (both are, to the ABA, un- accredited online law degree programs), you are smarter than me. Please write back and tell me. Because I don't understand the difference.
Anyway, here is a single alphabetical list of both types of schools, which are both basically online law schools which, if you graduate from them, will let you sit the California bar exam . As I get more comments about schools offering an accredited online law degree (or an unaccredited one, as is likely the case), I will update this:
The whole idea of accreditation goes out the window once you have completed a J.D. and pass the bar. After you are a lawyer, apparently the ABA could care less about whether you are getting a good post-graduate legal education.
Think I'm kidding? The ABA specifically does not care about accrediting graduate-level law programs at all.
According to the ABA website on graduate legal studies, "The ABA does not formally approve any program other than the first degree in law (J.D.). "
The ABA does place some restrictions on the ability of law schools that already offer a J.D. program to also offer graduate legal studies. Basically, graduate law degree offerings should not impair the quality of a school's J.D. program. Which is not usually a problem. It's not like law schools cater to LLM students anyway. At most schools, they are cash cows.
Anyway, some top ranked law schools that offer a graduate a graduate online law degree (again I will list more here over time):
Random, brilliant thoughts in no particular order (remember, you read them here first!):
Anyway, this is a changing environment, so I'd love to see how right or wrong I am in even five years (and for posterity's sake, I am writing this on March 22, 2012).
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