OFF THE RECORD - Seton Hall Law

Can You Really Earn a JD Degree Online?

Posted by Peter Eraca on 2/6/17 8:30 AM

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Increasing numbers of students are gaining access to quality higher education through online learning. College and graduate education has been available for decades through both online divisions of traditional “brick and mortar” universities and through specialized online-only institutions where students can pursue everything from certificates to PhDs either partly or wholly online.

Despite the proliferation of online education, entry to some professional fields still requires at least some form of student presence in a physical classroom -- access to the legal profession included. For the law, the American Bar Association (ABA) accredits the vast majority of JD programs in the United States and therefore determines whether those schools may offer a JD degree online. ABA accreditation ensures that each approved law school offers a legal education meeting specific minimum national standards.

The ABA standards cover a multitude of topics including school governance, curriculum, library offerings, admissions requirements, and bar passage rates. They also mandate uniform reporting of consumer data and standardized timeframes and methodology for reporting graduate employment data in an easily comparable fashion.

Unfortunately for many, the ABA does not accredit any fully online law schools although it does recognize the value of online education by permitting a maximum of 15 credits of entirely online elective coursework and by authorizing law schools to offer hybrid coursework – classes taught in a brick-and-mortar environment with an online component.

ABA accreditation is important since a graduate of an ABA-approved school can sit for the bar examination in every state of the country. While each jurisdiction has specific individual requirements for admission, all allow graduates of ABA schools to take the bar. In contrast, graduates of unaccredited schools have much more limited options, often being allowed to take the bar only in the state where the school is located. Such schools also often have lower bar passage rates, even in their home states.

Bottom line: if you want to practice law, the only safe bet is to attend (and graduate from) an ABA- accredited law school.

What many prospective law students truly seek when looking for a law school online is flexibility -- the ability to take courses at their own particular pace or on their own particular schedule. This need for flexibility is often motivated by career or family obligations.”9-to-5” no longer describes most jobs in this country, and many positions, such as those in the medical field or law enforcement, require work at night or involve unpredictable demands. And a prospective law student with a spouse/partner and/or children might not want to miss family time in the evenings around the dinner table, a child’s concert or first performance in a play, or the inevitable parent-teacher conference. In short, even the requirements of traditional law school evening programs, where a student has to be in a classroom for 3 or 4 nights per week for 4 years, may be too much for many prospective students.

Seton Hall Law watched the needs, desires, and motivations of students in its traditional evening program evolve over the years to the point where the need for a more flexible work-school-life balance alternative became clear. That was the genesis of its Weekend JD program, which offers working professionals the flexibility to pursue a fully ABA-accredited program even if they do not live within normal commuting distance of the Law School. It provides a unique opportunity for candidates to realize their career ambitions, whether practicing law, working in policy-making, or advancing in their current profession.

Students who enter the weekend program have a part-time schedule of classes at the Newark Campus -- every other weekend during a semester (8 weekends). Between class meetings, they’ll engage in our asynchronous online learning platform working with their classmates and faculty to dissect cases, grasp concepts, and think like a lawyer. The online component allows students to log-in and complete assignments on their own schedule between class meetings and thereby better balance work and family with pursuing their legal education. Additionally, these students will enjoy the full range of law school programs, including clinics, law review, and moot court. And they’ll have the support of a dedicated and successful Office of Career Services throughout their careers.

Read more about the closest option to an online law degree by clicking the button below, or feel free to contact me directly through the comments.

Weekend JD Program

Topics: Classes and Courses, Admissions