Law School Discussion

Law Students => Online Law Schools => Topic started by: iryancooper on February 15, 2017, 08:04:26 PM

Title: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: iryancooper on February 15, 2017, 08:04:26 PM
Apologies if a similar thread exists already (regarding Texas), I didn't see one. 

The point of this thread is to discuss, opine, compare/contrast, confirm the changes made to the Texas Bar Rules (particularly Rule XIII: Applicants from Other Jurisdictions) in the last couple of years. 

A few facts: I'm a Texas resident.  I'm also not interested in ever working as an attorney for a traditional firm.  The primary goal of an online J.D. for me personal enrichment, add a bank of knowledge to my practice in forensic psychology, as well as cases of clinical psychology that require some understanding of constitutional rights (involuntary commitment, etc.).  While my income will certainly not go down from earning a JD, I wouldn't complain if it went up from my ability to practice some areas of law particularly useful to my profession (board complaints, mental health malpractice lawsuits, mental health clinic business organization, etc.). 

For, um, ever, Texas has stipulated that non-ABA graduates may take the bar, but they expressly forbid non-ABA students who received their JD from a program based in correspondence.  While I haven't been able to find any state-specific definition of "correspondence" vs. "online" (as California does indeed make such a distinction), it would seem that none of that matters, as Texas law has changed, and removed the correspondence language from all rules, EXCEPT that which applies to foreign law programs. 

You can see the way in which the rules changed here:
http://www.txcourts.gov/media/741806/149113.pdf

You can see the law the way it is currently written here:
https://ble.texas.gov/txrulebook

I know that there was some political movement toward such a change, which was reported here:
http://www.breitbart.com/texas/2015/03/23/texas-bill-provides-for-study-of-online-law-schools-and-licensing-through-other-methods/
This bill was introduced in the house, but simply to study the affects of allowing online degrees. 


So, when I read the rules as currently written, am I understanding this properly?  Texas has indeed altered their bar rules to allow students to take the bar from online schools by removing the verbiage preventing such?  (I assume that they perhaps had to revamp the rules, with Mitchell-Hamline's and Rutgers' new ABA-Approved Hybrid programs.) 

Here is the new wording: 

-------------------------------------------------------
Rule XIII
Applicants From Other Jurisdictions

§ 1
Exemption from the Bar Examination for Applicants Who Are Authorized to Practice Law in Another State

An Applicant who is authorized to practice law in another state must meet the requirements imposed on any other Applicant under these Rules, except that the Applicant is exempt from the requirement of successfully completing the Texas Bar Examination if the Applicant:
 (a) has been actively and substantially engaged in the lawful practice of law as the Applicant’s principal business or occupation for at least five of the last seven years immediately preceding the filing of the Application;
 (b) has a J.D. degree from an approved law school; and
 (c) has not failed the Texas Bar Examination.

§ 2
Exemption from the Law Study Requirement for Applicants Who Are Authorized to Practice Law in Another State

An Applicant who is authorized to practice law in another state is exempt from the law study requirement prescribed by Rule III if the Applicant:
 (a) has been actively and substantially engaged in the lawful practice of law as the Applicant’s principal business or occupation for at least three of the last five years immediately preceding the filing of the most recent Application; and
 (b) either;
      (1) holds a J.D. degree, from an unapproved law school that is
           accredited in the state where it is located; or
      (2) holds the equivalent of a J.D. degree from a law school that is
           accredited in the state where it is located and that requires a course of study that is substantially equivalent in       
           duration and substance to the legal education provided by an approved law school.

-------------------------------------------------------

SO.... here is where my slight confusion comes in... obviously the applicable section is §2 (b)(2). 

But, is this saying that holding a JD (regardless of whether it is from an accredited or non-accredited school in that state) is fine so long as it is equivalent to a JD that IS approved in that state (which can be shown by the fact that graduates of it can take, and do pass, the bar in that state)
E.G., Applies to someone who holds a degree from Concord or Taft, so long as California has determined that said degree is equivalent to an approved degree.

OR, is this only saying that one can hold some non-JD degree (but that is the equivalent of one), and that's fine, so long as it is approved in that state. 
E.G., Applies to someone who holds a LL.B., so long as the LL.B. is from a school approved by the state. 

To be written by lawyers, this is not well worded. 

So does this restatement make sense?

"A Taft University J.D. is the equivalent of a J.D. degree from a law school that is accredited in the state of California, and a Taft J.D. requires a course of study that is substantially equivalent in duration and substance to the legal education provided by an approved school"  ... approved by whom? The state of Texas or Cali?  Obviously Cali has determined it to be substantially equivalent in duration/substance, as evidenced by their permit for its graduates to sit for the bar.  But if that means "Equivalent to an approved [Texas] degree" then I'm not sure how one would go about showing that. 

I feel like Gandalf in his reply to Bilbo's "Good Morning..."  "What do you mean, Good Morning?"  lol.


Sorry if this is a totally newbie question - I'm not a lawyer, but I'm a thinker, and this had me a bit stumped... given that I'm looking into Concord, Taft, St. Francis, and Northwestern, that one sentence is relatively important.

I haven't found ANY lawyers (and I'm a fairly decent research-whore) who have an online degree, and who practice in Texas, EXCEPT for in the Federal courts.  However, this change in the law is still new... so perhaps no one has tried it yet...?  Hoping someone can come out of the woodwork who has (since the change). 


(FYI, I would point out that other threads already exist for debating the uphill battle of going to an online, non-ABA law school, taking the baby bar, why not go to traditional instead, etc...)


I'm hoping maybe some Texas attorneys might weigh in on how they interpret §2 of this rule.  Or attorney's whose state has similar verbiage and how it has been interpreted there.  Or best of all, an attorney who has utilized this new verbiage to sit the for the Texas bar. 

Much thanks! 

R.



P.S. For anyone interested, the only reference Texas makes to correspondence, now, is this:

§5 No Degree By Correspondence
"A J.D. degree or an equivalent degree completed at a foreign law school that is earned primarily through online courses or other distance-learning mediums does not satisfy the requirements of the Rule."
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: loki13 on February 16, 2017, 09:54:37 AM
Without getting into the weeds, the thing to understand is that this isn't a general admission provision, this is under the generic reciprocity provisions.

In other words, this isn't about someone getting their "whatever" degree and trying to get a Texas license. It's a specific rule about how an attorney, license in a different jurisdiction, may also become licensed in Texas. That's why it's called "Applicants From Other Jurisdiction."

More specifically, this only applies if you are a practicing attorney, in a different jurisdiction, and you would like a Texas license. So there are two categories-

1. Graduate from an ABA-approved school (Sec. 1). In that case, so long as you have been practicing law, you can get the license from Texas without taking the Bar.

2. Do not graduate from an ABA-approved school (Sec. 2). This is the unapproved school route; in that case, you so have to take the Texas Bar, and you must have been practicing law for three of the past five years.

Clear?
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on February 16, 2017, 10:10:34 AM
A couple of points:

1) Admission under either of these sections requires that the applicant first be admitted to practice in the state in which the school is accredited. Thus, you would first have to pass the CA bar, then get admitted to CA, THEN apply to Texas.

2) The most important thing to note (I think) is this: Section 2 refers to "a law school that is accredited in the state where it is located..."

California, as you may know, is one of a handful of states that allows ABA accredited, our own CA state bar accredited, and non-accredited law schools. I assume that by "accredited" they mean at least state bar accreditation.

Taft is not accredited by the CA state bar, in fact no online or correspondence law schools are accredited by the CA state bar.

Taft and other such schools do have accreditation by non-legal entities, but that may or may not be relevant. I would contact the TX bar and ask for clarification on exactly what/which accrediting body needs to approve the school in order to meet the TX requirements. 

Typically, when talking about law school accreditation, the only accreditation that matters is state bar or ABA.
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: legalpractitioner on February 16, 2017, 05:59:31 PM
California online and correspondence law schools are not accredited by California but are "registered", so I think they would fail the Texas test. I think California accredited non ABA schools of which there are several would pass the test though.
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: iryancooper on February 16, 2017, 06:41:14 PM
Without getting into the weeds, the thing to understand is that this isn't a general admission provision, this is under the generic reciprocity provisions.

In other words, this isn't about someone getting their "whatever" degree and trying to get a Texas license. It's a specific rule about how an attorney, license in a different jurisdiction, may also become licensed in Texas. That's why it's called "Applicants From Other Jurisdiction."

More specifically, this only applies if you are a practicing attorney, in a different jurisdiction, and you would like a Texas license. So there are two categories-

1. Graduate from an ABA-approved school (Sec. 1). In that case, so long as you have been practicing law, you can get the license from Texas without taking the Bar.

2. Do not graduate from an ABA-approved school (Sec. 2). This is the unapproved school route; in that case, you so have to take the Texas Bar, and you must have been practicing law for three of the past five years.

Clear?


Thanks Loki.  Yes, I realize how reciprocity works - we have similar rules for psychological practice.  I just figured most folks knew that if I'm speaking of Cali-Online schools, bar passage and practice in Cali would be an automatic requirement for 3/5 years.  Reciprocity is the only way Taft grads can be permitted to take the bar in other states.

My concern is more about the language/intent of the rule.

Thanks for the help!

R.
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: iryancooper on February 16, 2017, 06:46:13 PM
A couple of points:

1) Admission under either of these sections requires that the applicant first be admitted to practice in the state in which the school is accredited. Thus, you would first have to pass the CA bar, then get admitted to CA, THEN apply to Texas.

2) The most important thing to note (I think) is this: Section 2 refers to "a law school that is accredited in the state where it is located..."

California, as you may know, is one of a handful of states that allows ABA accredited, our own CA state bar accredited, and non-accredited law schools. I assume that by "accredited" they mean at least state bar accreditation.

Taft is not accredited by the CA state bar, in fact no online or correspondence law schools are accredited by the CA state bar.

Taft and other such schools do have accreditation by non-legal entities, but that may or may not be relevant. I would contact the TX bar and ask for clarification on exactly what/which accrediting body needs to approve the school in order to meet the TX requirements. 

Typically, when talking about law school accreditation, the only accreditation that matters is state bar or ABA.

Exactly!  But what needs to be accredited?  The JD one holds?  Or the degree by which one judges the JD one holds?  The held degree needs to be accredited?  (why would section 2 say this, when section 1 already addressed this)... or the degree held need to be EQUIVALENT to one that is accredited?  See what I mean about how the lack of a comma between (holds the equivalent of a JD degree) and (from a law school that is accredited...) changes the meaning of the rule...?


I feel like this can be read to say that:

So long as a Taft degree is "the equivalent of a J.D. degree from a law school that is [actually] accredited in the state where it is located", AND "so long as a Taft degree is equivalent in duration and substance to the legal education provided by an [actual] approved law school," then you may pass go.

Is this how you interpret the meaning of the rule?
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: iryancooper on February 16, 2017, 07:15:19 PM
California online and correspondence law schools are not accredited by California but are "registered", so I think they would fail the Texas test. I think California accredited non ABA schools of which there are several would pass the test though.

But aren't you assuming that (b)(2) is saying that the degree one holds has to be accredited?  I'm reading it to mean that the degree one holds, must be equivalent to an accredited degree.  It, itself, does not, so long as it is equivalent to one that IS accredited.  Does this make sense? 

For example, in Psychology we require an APA accredited Ph.D./Psy.D. in Texas, OR... the psychologist must show that they hold the EQUIVALENT of an APA-accredited Ph.D.

I take my interpretation from the lack of comma. 

(Holds the equivalent of a JD degree from a law school that is accredited)
    (in this case means whatever degree you hold needs to be the same as an accredited JD)

doesn't mean the same thing as:

(Holds the equivalent of a JD) + (from a law school that is accredited)
    (in this case means whatever you hold needs to be similar to a JD [seems dumb] and needs to be from an accredited     
         school [also dumb since the first rule would have captured this requirement already]).


If the rule is asking whether these two conditions are met:
 
1. Is a Taft JD the equivalent of a JD from a law school that IS accredited in CA?   
         Answer:  Yes.  Proven by California's acceptance of it to practice law (and allow it to be registered)

2. Is the course of study at Taft substantially equivalent in duration and substance to the legal education provided by an APPROVED law school? 
         Answer:  Yes.  Proven by California's acceptance of it to practice law (and allow it to be registered)


That ^ is how I automatically interpreted the rule when I FIRST read it.  However, I've since read it to mean other things, and I'm not sure of the authors' intent behind the verbiage.  This is the other way:

1. Is a Taft JD the equivalent of a J.D. degree?   Yes.
2. Is a Taft JD from a law school that is accredited?   No. 
3. Does Taft require a course of study that is equivalent to the education of an approved school?  I say yes. 



I'm reminded of my legal writing professor who used to stress the importance of punctuation. 


I'm guessing if I found a California citation where non-Accredited, but Registered Law Schools were deemed to be "equivalent of a JD degree from a law school that IS accredited," then, boom.  Point made. 

But haven't looked.
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: iryancooper on February 16, 2017, 07:44:12 PM
Decided that it might be important to review the rule with definitions:

Can be met by either:

(1) holds a J.D. degree, from an UNapproved law school that is accredited in the state where it is located.
(2) holds the equivalent of a JD degree from a law school that is accredited in the state where it is located AND that requires a course of study that is substantially equivalent in duration and substance to the legal education provided by an approved law school. 

------------------------------------

“Accredited” means that a law school is recognized as being
qualified by the competent accrediting agency of a state or foreign jurisdiction, by a political subdivision of a state or foreign jurisdiction, or by another authorized body of a state or foreign jurisdiction.

“Approved law school” means a law school approved by the American Bar Association.
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on February 16, 2017, 11:07:55 PM
Decided that it might be important to review the rule with definitions:

Can be met by either:

(1) holds a J.D. degree, from an UNapproved law school that is accredited in the state where it is located.
(2) holds the equivalent of a JD degree from a law school that is accredited in the state where it is located AND that requires a course of study that is substantially equivalent in duration and substance to the legal education provided by an approved law school. 

------------------------------------

“Accredited” means that a law school is recognized as being
qualified by the competent accrediting agency of a state or foreign jurisdiction, by a political subdivision of a state or foreign jurisdiction, or by another authorized body of a state or foreign jurisdiction.

“Approved law school” means a law school approved by the American Bar Association.

Don't read more into this than is actually present.

1) is referring to non-ABA approved law schools which are accredited by the state bar.

2) is referring to non-JD law degrees (LL.Ms, I suppose) which are accredited in the state in which the law school is located.

In either case, I see no provision whatsoever for an unaccredited law school. The TX rules, as far as I can tell, explicitly require at least state bar accreditation.
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on February 16, 2017, 11:13:01 PM
Exactly!  But what needs to be accredited?  The JD one holds?  Or the degree by which one judges the JD one holds?  The held degree needs to be accredited?  (why would section 2 say this, when section 1 already addressed this)... or the degree held need to be EQUIVALENT to one that is accredited?  See what I mean about how the lack of a comma between (holds the equivalent of a JD degree) and (from a law school that is accredited...) changes the meaning of the rule...?


I feel like this can be read to say that:

So long as a Taft degree is "the equivalent of a J.D. degree from a law school that is [actually] accredited in the state where it is located", AND "so long as a Taft degree is equivalent in duration and substance to the legal education provided by an [actual] approved law school," then you may pass go.

Is this how you interpret the meaning of the rule?

No, that is not how I would interpret the rule. It seems clear that the LAW SCHOOL ITSELF must be accredited. That's how the accreditation process works. The school gets accredited, and then confers degrees. So for example, I don't think I have an "accredited JD", I simply have a JD from an accredited law school.

I see no mention of unaccredited law schools here. 
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: iryancooper on February 17, 2017, 09:37:38 AM

2) is referring to non-JD law degrees (LL.Ms, I suppose) which are accredited in the state in which the law school is located.

In either case, I see no provision whatsoever for an unaccredited law school. The TX rules, as far as I can tell, explicitly require at least state bar accreditation.

This does make sense, too. 

However, the second part of #2 (equivalent in duration) couldn't apply to an LLM.  When you go back and see what the verbiage used to be (how the rule was altered) it used to say something to the effect of: "is equivalent to three years of education"... this implies to me that the spirit of #2 is referring to one's first law degree, not ones qualifying post doctoral LLM. 

Your interpretation to #2 does make sense (e.g., "LLM, I suppose") except that it doesn't fit with the second part of the rule, and LLMs are addressed in the Foreign Law Degree section. 

So I'm still not quite clear.

Thanks for sharing and helping. 
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on February 17, 2017, 09:53:54 AM
Sorry, I screwed up. I meant to say LL.B, not LL.M.

LL.Bs are first degrees in law that some law schools used to confer (Harvard, for example) instead of the JD. I think this stopped awhile ago, however. I know a guy who has a Harvard LL.B, but he graduated 30 years ago at least.

In any case, that's the only thing that comes to mind when I read the "equivalent to..." part.

But, even that sentence still refers to the law school being accredited in it's home state AND the degree must be equivalent to a JD. It's not an either/or proposition, so I think we're back to square one. The school must be accredited.
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: loki13 on February 17, 2017, 01:55:25 PM
Let's see.

Rule I(a)(1).
“Accredited” means that a law school is recognized as being qualified by the competent accrediting agency of a state or foreign jurisdiction, by a political subdivision of a state or foreign juris.

Read in pari mutuel with the provision cited, then:
(1) You have to have a degree (but not a JD) from a law school that is accredited in that jurisdiction; AND
(2) The studies must be substantially similar to an ABA ("approved") law school.

If you go here, you will see that Taft (for example) is specifically listed as an unaccredited school:
http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/Education/LegalEducation/LawSchools.aspx

So I would agree with Maintain- regardless of any intent, the actual wording is clear. While California has specific rules allowing unaccredited schools to have their graduates sit for the Bar, that does not mean those schools are accredited.

In addition, there are other jurisdictions where the state has an accreditation for the law school, but it is not ABA-accredited (or "approved").

That said, there is case law in some jurisdiction (minority) where people have been able to successfully petition the State Bar to take the Bar Exam after they have shown a period of good practice, despite unorthodox credentials. I don't think that this gives you it as a matter of right.

As always, YMMV, and I would contact the Texas Bar for a dispositive ruling on the issue. State Bars are usually happy to help.
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: iryancooper on February 18, 2017, 02:44:25 AM
Thanks so much for the time taken to provide feedback on this.

As I have mentioned, a career as a lawyer is not / would not be the primary goal for me as mental health is what puts food on the table.  So if sitting for the Texas bar isn't possible, I would expect that negative outcome going in.  But it sure would be nice if I was able to argue my interpretation (fyi, I've since shown to two lawyers in person, one read it as I did, the other who read it as Loki/Maintain last interpreted (A degree, but not a JD, as in LLB).  For the record, no American law school that I know of offers an LLB anymore, and it would seem odd to me to put in verbiage to cover for that (especially where none exited before the change in verbiage). 

As time goes on if any others visit this thread, please feel welcome to revive/bump it with updated interpretations. 

Further, I will call the board and ask for additional clarification, and second, even if that clarification is not favorable, and I decide to go with a CA non-Acred, I would of course, still attempt this argument, as there is (as a matter of technical rhetoric) two ways to read the sentence, as written, with no comma. 

I will come back here and report the progress of either/both of those outcomes for others' benefit.

Thanks again!
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: Maintain FL 350 on February 18, 2017, 11:23:28 AM

Further, I will call the board and ask for additional clarification, and second, even if that clarification is not favorable, and I decide to go with a CA non-Acred, I would of course, still attempt this argument, as there is (as a matter of technical rhetoric) two ways to read the sentence, as written, with no comma.

Respectfully, I think you're missing the point.

Both sections 1 and 2 explicitly state that the law school must be accredited in it's home jurisdiction. The "equivalent to a JD" argument is irrelevant if the school is unaccredited.

If you genuinely don't intend to practice law in TX, then this may be a fine way to learn about the law. But don't mistake the mistake of thinking that you will be able to successfully petition the bar vis a vis interpretation of the rule. These cases are almost always unsuccessful, as you don't have a right to join the bar. It is at their discretion, and they have not shown (as far as I can tell) any interest in unaccredited law schools.     
Title: Re: Correspondence verbiage removed from Texas Bar Requirements
Post by: iryancooper on February 18, 2017, 03:23:07 PM

Respectfully, I think you're missing the point.

I'm not missing your point, at all.  I understand what you are saying (that there is only one way of reading section two, requiring a jurisdictionally approved institution).  I'm simply disagreeing with you.  I believe there is more than one way in which section two can be construed.  In my mind, this is not simply my opinion, but a technical fact.  "As written, section two CAN have more than one possible meaning."  This is based on the rules of the English language, not my opinion or inability to grasp a point.  Even the one attorney whom I showed in person and disagreed that it was intended to read as I hope, also agreed that it COULD be interpreted more than one way, and if the intent was to require an accredited institution, the rule should be re-written so that it can only be interpreted in one way... remove all ambiguity. 

For example, written like this below, there is only one possible way of interpreting the meaning (your interpretation) based on the proper use of commas:

"(2) holds the equivalent of a J.D. degree, that was obtained from a law school accredited in the state where it is located, and that requires a course of study that is substantially equivalent in duration and substance to the legal education provided by an approved law school."

Using commas, my re-write clarifies three distinct conditions:
1. Must be equivalent of a JD
2. Must be from jurisdictionally accredited school
3. Must be substantially equivalent to approved school


Without commas, there are only two sections:
1. Must be equivalent of: a JD from a law school accredited by the state
       (so could be an LLB, or JD, from any school [acred or not], so long as it is equivalent to one from an accredited school in that state)
2. Must be substantially equivalent to approved school

To be completely unambiguous, the commas MUST be added.  Otherwise it is poor technical writing and can interpreted as both/either meaning.  Its like the classic example, "the million dollar estate was left in equal shares to Sally, Jon, Bob, and Mark" is not the same as "the million dollar estate was left in equal shares to Sally, Jon, Bob and Mark."  The latter comma-less sentence can mean two things (much to Bob's and Mark's dismay).

You're saying something is crystal clear, as written, when as a matter of rhetoric fact, it isn't. 



I do get your point - just don't agree with it.   

But, of course, the purpose of this thread was to gather opinions/discussions/feedback.  So I am genuinely thankful for yours.  It's caused me to re-think this and re-say it many times/ways!