June 19, 2024

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What States Allow Online Law School?

Quality Online Legal Education at St. Francis School of Law - St Francis  School of Law

Access to law schools has greatly changed since the first law school in the United States of America in 1779, potential law students have the choice to enroll at law schools with the traditional route or build their own “hybrid” Juris Prudence (JD) program. As you already know, it is vital to take a lot of research before you can make a definite decision on which path you would take on your journey to becoming a lawyer as there are a number of ways to do it. Moreover, your work, lifestyle, and where you reside can substantially affect your decision-making.

Let’s assume that you are further in your research about online law schools, it is highly likely that you have come across the American Bar Association (ABA) which was established in 1878, and is dedicated to furthering the rule of law in the United States and abroad by offering useful resources for legal practitioners, accrediting law schools, developing model ethical standards, and other services. The ABA is also in charge of accrediting law schools in the country; however, they have declined to completely accredit online law schools despite the emergence of online law programs in the past decade. This meant that anyone who completed these schools was not eligible to apply to the bar to practice law. But that has already changed because of technology and the field of online legal programs evolving quickly. Law students can now earn additional credits online thanks to a recent change by the ABA. Numerous law schools across the nation are enthusiastically stepping up to provide cutting-edge “hybrid” programs that enable students to acquire their Juris Doctor degree primarily from what state they reside.

Almost all states in the United States of America mandate law school as a prerequisite for taking the bar exam, only some states like California, Washington, Vermont, and Virginia, provide alternative paths to becoming a future attorney and by alternative, it means that an individual can have the option to study through distance-learning or a “hybrid” Juris Doctor (JD) program as these states allow law apprenticeship with an active attorney or judge to mentor the aspirant. Also, Maine and New York states came up with similar apprenticeship programs but you need to enroll in law school for a given time.

What’s a “hybrid” Juris Doctor (JD) Program?

In a “hybrid” JD program, the majority of the coursework is completed online, while the classroom requirements are fulfilled during a number of intensive on-campus residencies, which typically last a few days and certainly have a more flexible approach than a traditional law school program. Graduates of these ABA-accredited programs will obtain the same degree they would have received from an on-campus law school and will be eligible to take the bar exam. This is where the state of California comes in, it is the only state that will allow you to take the bar exam after earning a law degree entirely online.

What Comes Next?

Research is one of the main skills a law student should know inside out, each legal case or dispute you encounter can possibly require you to have rigorous research. If you genuinely plan to complete a law apprenticeship, you must research the regulations of the six states where law apprenticeships are permitted, given that you reside in one of those states. Also, there is a possibility that regulations may have newer versions, you should ensure that the information you looked up is an updated version. Here’s a rundown of the basic qualifications to pursue a career in law per state is discussed below (please tap/click on each state for fully comprehensive details): 

California

The individual must get through the equivalency test or have at least two years of college, must sign up as a law student with the state bar, the student must notify the state bar of his/her intention for the law office program with a modest fee and send the state bar a suggested course of outline. The individual must accumulate at least eighteen hours a week studying in a law office or judge’s office during working hours, aside from that, reports outlining the individual’s studies and copies of his/her six written tests that are graded should be provided to the state bar within six months. The individual must have a supervising legal practitioner that is active with good standing for at least five years and who has been admitted to the California bar, and must not oversee more than one law apprentice. The individual must request at least five hours a week of supervision from his/her supervising lawyer. After the law student’s first year of law school, pass the First Year Law Students Exam (FYLSX) or as we commonly refer to, the “Baby Bar”.

Vermont

The individual must be a bachelor’s degree holder and a notice with a statement from his/her supervising attorney attesting the moral character and availability of the individual to the Board of Bar Examiners. The law apprentice must complete studies under the guidance of a Vermont-licensed judge or attorney who is currently in practice. Unless the individual attended law school or finished a portion of an approved apprenticeship program in another state, in which case he/she must study at least 30 hours/14 days for at least 44 weeks/year for at least four years. Every six months, the individual must send affidavit reports to the Board outlining what he/she studied in detail including his/her study schedule.

Virginia

The individual must be a bachelor’s degree and must comply with the following: the application, the supervising attorney or judge’s eligibility statement, a payment (around $2,500, the amount is subject to change), and the undergraduate transcript of records, everything will be sent to the Board of Bar Examiners and the law apprentice must make an appearance to be interviewed by the Board of Bar Examiners. It should be clear that the mentoring lawyer is an active practitioner with good standing, have a vast knowledge of the fields of law and have experience teaching in law school in the state of Virginia for at least 10 years. The mentor must handpick course materials, produce a workstation and a collection of law-related books and constantly assess the law apprentice in his/her study, submit graded tests to the Board and must not employ or compensate the individual. The supervising attorney must appear at the Board for the law apprentice’s oral evaluation and make sure that the individual is ready to take the Bar.

The law apprentice must study at least 25 hours per week, the week will be divided between the supervising lawyer’s office which will be at least 18 hours during working hours and the remaining hours will be personally supervised by the mentor, there should be an accumulation of at least 40 weeks per year. The individual must attend an accredited law school, where he/she can formally ask credit for the portion of the time spent in law school; for at least three years. It is important to adhere to the Board’s three-year plan, which specifies which courses to take in which year. Finally, the law apprentice must successfully complete an annual oral assessment by the Board of his/her progress, unless the Board determines otherwise.

Washington

The individual must be a bachelor’s degree holder and submit an application to the state bar with the undergraduate transcript of records, a modest fee, and at least two letters of reference, must work on a full-time basis, averaging 32 hours/week on his/her mentor’s office and complete tasks that support the operational activity of the office. The law apprentice must be under the mentorship of an attorney or judge that is active and of repute with at least an experience of 10 years in the state of Washington.

Under guidance from the law apprentice’s mentor, he/she must study at least three hours per week, with an annual completion of six courses in the next four years and no more than six years, granted that he/she has spent time in an accredited law school where the law apprentice can petition credits formally. The individual must submit a monthly report to the bar including the hours spent and pay a fee annually (around $2,000 and the amount is subject to change). Moreover, the supervising lawyer must conduct a monthly graded written exam on the law apprentice, and an annual evaluation of his/her progress should be completed and certify that the law apprentice is fully equipped to practice law and prepared to take the Bar.

Maine

The law apprentice must secure a bachelor’s degree, complete at least two-thirds of the prerequisites for graduation from an accredited law school, and submit a suggested study plan to the Main Board of Bar Examiners. Within the year of graduating from law school, start clerking for a practicing Maine lawyer and request a certification from the mentor that he/she is finished with the study program, and it is important to note that the law apprentice must devote at least a year of full-time study.

New York

The individual must be over 18 to begin studying law, complete the first-year requirements at an accredited law school in the state of New York, with at least 28 credit hours, be in good standing, eligible to continue, and not on academic probation within the 36 months of enrolling. The supervising attorney must send a certificate indicating the start of your apprenticeship to the New York Court of Appeals, furthermore, the mentor should be having an active law practice in New York and is able to supervise the individual in training him/her in the subjects typically covered in law school, it must be done during working hours in the law office, it is the law apprentice’s role to perform practical tasks in the office. 

Conclusion

The legal profession is one of the most well-known and difficult professions in the nation. Your ability to survive law school will depend heavily on your ability to develop the right combination of skills and to conduct yourself with candor. A “hybrid” JD program provides a wonderful opportunity for you to become a lawyer who might not be able to do it traditionally, you must also be determined and give it careful thought and also, aware of its drawbacks. If you happen to reside in the state of California, consider applying here.