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Non-Traditional Students / The Case for Non-Traditional Law Schools
« on: March 31, 2010, 01:00:26 AM »
Hello all:

With the control of legal education today, many people have little chance at ever attending a traditional law school, so they can only hope to realize their quest through an alternative method of study, such as, distance learning.

I have attached a memorandum on the issue, which I hope can open the door to legal education for all who have a desire to study it.

In my memorandum, I talk about the handful of law schools in California that teach law through correspondence study and distance learning and why I think it is important.  

It is my hope that universities will open to door to distance law study, despite the resistance to it by professional organizations and law schools.


MEMORANDUM ON THE ROLE OF CALIFORNIA UNACCREDITED LAW SCHOOLS


FACTS

The American Bar Association is the main accreditation body for law schools in the United States. The law schools that fall under its regulation are subject to the rules and standards as set out by the ABA (“ABA Law Schools”). Unaccredited law schools in California fall under several main categories: correspondence, distance learning or fixed facility (“DL Law Schools”).

The California Committee of Bar Examiners (the “Committee”), oversees the admission process for the bar exam of both ABA Law Schools and DL Law Schools. All DL Law Schools must be registered with the Committee in order for its graduates to sit the California bar exam.

The ABA Code of Recommended Standards for Bar Examiners, II. Eligibility of Applicants, paragraph 6 states that: “Neither private study, correspondence study or law office training, nor age or experience should be substituted for law school education."


ISSUE
Can a student enrolled in a DL Law School effectively learn the law?


RULE
Pursuant to The Guidelines for Unaccredited Law School Rules, as adopted by the Committee, Rule 4.204 (H) states: A “registered law school” is an unaccredited California Law School that meets the requirements of these rules and that has been registered by the Committee. Further, that all DL Law Schools must meet the following “Standards” under Rule 4.240:

A) Lawful Operation
B) Integrity
C) Governance
D) Dean & Faculty
E) Educational Program
F) Scholastic Program
G) Admissions
H) Library
I) Physical Resources
J) Financial Resources
K) Record & Reports
L) Equal Opportunity & Non-Discrimination
M) Compliance with the Committee requirements

In addition, Rule 4.242 provides for an “Annual Compliance Report“, along with “Inspections“, under Rule 4.244. Moreover, each DL Law School must also meet state regulations and local business licensing requirements under law.

There is a long standing custom and tradition in California with respect to the Committee recognizing non-traditional paths of law study and allowing general applicants of such study to sit the state bar exam, such as, unaccredited law school graduates that have completed four years of study; applicants who have received their education under the guidance of a licensed attorney or in a judge chambers, or combination of those methods. See: Title 4. Admissions and Educational Standards (California Committee of Bar Examiners).

That the inherent jurisdiction to practice law in the State of California falls under the California Supreme Court, and the Committee of Bar Examiners oversees the requirements for admission to practice law.

ANALYSIS
ABA proponents contend that the study of law can only be accomplished in a traditional law school setting and that the study of law through distance education (which extends to correspondence) is regarded as an inferior method of education, with little value and acceptance among members of the legal community.

To adopt this line of reasoning would mean that the distance learning courses offered by the ABA’s Center for Continuing Legal Education have absolutely no educational value and that the lawyers enrolled in those distance learning programs are receiving an inferior legal education. See: http://www.abanet.org/cle/

Continuing Legal Education (CLE), is a requirement for both lawyers and paralegals in the State of California. Most CLE courses are delivered via distance learning by not only the ABA, but also local bar associations, law schools, and other CLE online providers.

There is simply no evidence to support the position that the study of law cannot be effectively accomplished through distance learning. Moreover, a large number of accredited universities are utilizing online education as a successful teaching method.

Distance education has a long and colorful history and one of the oldest correspondence law schools is Blackstone School of Law that goes as far back as the 1890’s. Originally based in Chicago, Illinois, the Blackstone Institute offered a bachelor of laws degree (LL.B), to all of its graduates, some of which went on to pass the California bar and practice law.

Modern American Law - A Systematic and Comprehensive Commentary on the Fundamental Principals of American Law, was the main series of text books used by Blackstone School of Law, which evolved over the years to reflect changes in the law. Eugene A. Gilmore, a professor of law and member of the American Bar Association, was appointed as the editor-and-chief of what became known as Modern American Law, which were written by prominent members of the legal field: judges, members of the bar, law school professors and jurists.

Blackstone School of Law later moved its operation to Dallas, Texas, and was sold in 2001 to Direct Learning Systems, Inc., which presently delivers a paralegal program solely through distance learning. It is accredited through the DETC. See: http://www.blackstone.edu/online-courses/school-history.shtml

Since then, many correspondence law schools have delivered law studies through distance education. Some DL Law Schools - like Taft Law School and Concord Law School - are nationally accredited through the Distance Education and Training Council, which receives its authority and recognition under federal law, specifically, 34 C.F.R. 602 (relating to the U.S. Secretary’s Recognition of Accrediting Agencies).

With the advent of online lectures, interactive media, qualified instructors, and online legal research resources (LexisNexis and Westlaw), there is simply no reasonable basis for concluding that the study of law cannot be accomplished through distance education.

There are many good reasons for people to pursue a distance leaning law school program, some of these reasons are:


(a) the lower cost of DL Law School programs, which is an important consideration for those with limited financial means.

(b) older students that work full time and have to support families, which would make it impossible for them to attend a traditional law school program.

(c) disabled veterans, who desire to take up studies, but are simply not in a position to attend a traditional law school.

(d) people who grew up in poverty and that did not have the opportunities to pursue higher education, but that have a desire to study law and improve their economic situation.

(e) people that have underlying health conditions which would make it difficult for them to attend a traditional law school.

(f) those that would just like to study law and use it in their chosen field, which may be unrelated to law.


At the very core of Modern American Law, which in many ways reflects the modern development of distance learning in America, it says:

“To know and assert one’s legal rights is a duty of moral self-preservation -- ignorance and neglect of those rights is moral suicide. The security of every individual as well as of society lies in a wise and equitable system of law, thoroughly understood by every one and impartially administered by the courts of unimpeachable integrity. To the system of law under which we live is every citizen’s paramount interest and duty, not merely that he may protect his own private interest and duty, but also that he may be able efficiently to preserve his government and take an intelligent part in its administration and improvement.”


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