December 14, 2020 A Guide to ABA Approved Distance Education

Distance Education

Distance Education

An ABA-approved law school may grant up to one-third of the credit hours required for the J.D. degree for distance education courses (see Definitions 7 and 8, and Standards 311 and 511). If a law school wishes to grant more than one-third of the credit hours required for the J.D. degree for distance education courses, it must apply for a substantive change under Standard 105 and Rule 24. Currently, there are no ABA-approved law schools that provide a J.D. degree completely via distance education. Earning an education completely via distance education may limit your ability to sit for the bar in many states.

In order to obtain a license to practice law in the United States, almost all law school graduates must apply for bar admission through a state board of bar examiners. Usually this board is an agency of the highest court in the jurisdiction, but occasionally the board is connected more closely to the state’s bar association. The criteria for eligibility to take the bar examination or to otherwise qualify for bar admission are set by each state, not by the ABA or the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

In order to sit for the bar examination, most states require an applicant to hold a degree from a law school that meets acceptable established educational standards. Most states, however, have chosen not to handle the daunting task of accrediting law schools throughout the United States to determine if individuals have satisfied the requisite educational qualifications. Maintaining an accreditation process is both fiscally and administratively demanding. As a result, the vast majority of bar admission authorities in the United States rely upon ABA approval to determine whether their legal education requirement for admission to the bar is satisfied. Education at an ABA-approved law school meets the requirements in every jurisdiction in the United States.

It is important that you contact the state board of bar examiner in the state(s) in which you are interested in being admitted to ascertain what limitations, if any, distance education will have on your ability to sit for the bar exam. Click here for contact information for all the state board of bar examiners or refer to the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements.


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