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:
Applicants From Other Jurisdictions
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.
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
(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.
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."