Today: 19-04-2024

Shifting Tides: ABA Considers Endorsement for Online Law Schools in Significant Policy Pivot

"In a groundbreaking move, the American Bar Association's legal education arm is contemplating a shift in its accreditation policies to include fully online law schools. The ABA's Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar recently voted to solicit public feedback on proposed amendments to its standards, potentially allowing law schools with no physical campus to seek accreditation. Presently, only institutions with physical locations are eligible for ABA accreditation.

While some ABA-accredited law schools have been permitted to offer predominantly online Juris Doctor programs alongside traditional ones, fully online schools have been excluded from seeking ABA approval. Daniel Thies, Chairperson of the ABA Council's Strategic Review Committee, acknowledged the proposal as a 'significant change' that could contribute to lowering the cost of legal education. Thies highlighted that online J.D. programs offered by ABA-accredited schools often charge uniform tuition for both online and residential students due to shared expenses.

For existing online law schools, ABA accreditation could be transformative, enabling graduates to sit for the bar exam in any state. Currently, California is the sole state offering the bar exam for non-ABA accredited law school graduates. Thies anticipates potential resistance from traditional law schools concerned about heightened competition. However, perceptions of online education's quality have shifted, particularly after the accelerated adoption of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Purdue Global Law School, established in 1998 as the Concord Law School and acquired by Purdue in 2017, stands as the oldest online law school. While a few other fully online law schools exist across the country, Purdue's part-time online J.D. program charges approximately $13,500 in annual tuition. In contrast, Southwestern Law School's ABA-accredited fully online J.D. program matches its residential program's tuition at $38,944 for part-time students."

"I am thrilled to witness the ABA considering this progressive shift," expressed Purdue Law Dean Martin Pritikin on Monday. "Virtually every other field of higher education has been quicker to embrace online learning." This sentiment comes in response to the American Bar Association's potential move to extend accreditation to fully online law schools, marking a significant departure from its traditional emphasis on in-person teaching.

Pritikin's enthusiasm reflects a broader acknowledgment of the evolving landscape in higher education, where online learning has gained acceptance across various disciplines. The ABA's exploration of accrediting online law schools could pave the way for innovation in legal education, providing greater accessibility and flexibility for aspiring legal professionals.

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Reporting by Karen Sloan, Thomson Reuters Legal News

Reach out to Karen Sloan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."

"In conclusion, the potential move by the American Bar Association to extend accreditation to fully online law schools is met with enthusiasm by Purdue Law Dean Martin Pritikin, who sees it as a significant and long-awaited step. Pritikin's optimism reflects the broader trend in higher education, where online learning has become widely accepted. This prospective shift not only aligns with the evolving landscape of education but also opens doors to greater accessibility and flexibility in legal education. As the legal field adapts to contemporary needs, this move by the ABA signifies a progressive approach that could reshape the future of legal training.

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Reporting by Karen Sloan, Thomson Reuters Legal News

Contact Karen Sloan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."