By: Hannah Werner

Last year, American Bar Association’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar began modifying the accreditation process to allow for law schools that are entirely online. Though there are few accredited online law schools, they all are accompanied by a physical campus. With this change, schools would not need a physical campus for students to attend before students could sit for the bar in any state in the United States.

The announcement comes with varying perspectives. Recently, 26 law schools wrote a public opinion against the accreditation of online law schools. Deans from schools such as the University of Houston and the University of California Berkley made it clear that the ABA has not effectively communicated why the longstanding rule against fully-online law school education should change. Alberto Gonzales, dean of Belmont University’s College of Law pointed out that this rule change from the ABA would harm traditional law schools, as it would cost less and be more convenient for students.

However, proponents for the change of ABA rules point out that this rule change would reduce costs for students and allow larger access to students that could otherwise not attend law school. The State Bar of Montana and the Indiana Supreme Court have come out in favor of this change, with the latter writing that this change could help the state fix its shortage in attorneys. The Indiana Supreme Court went so far as to already change its educational requirements for Bar applicants- it now allows non-ABA law school graduates to request a waiver to sit for the Indiana bar.

Ultimately, it appears that most organizations that oppose fully online law school graduates to take the bar in any state oppose it because it could harm more traditional law schools. Proponents, however, make it clear that the ABA should make the proposed change to best support law students in their endeavor to become attorneys.

About the Author:

In May of 2020, Hannah graduated with a B.A. in Public Relations and a B.A. in Psychology from Auburn University. After working at Ankin Law Office for almost a year, Hannah discovered an interest in law and joined the Chicago-Kent community. Hannah is currently a 3L representative for the Society of Women in Law, as well as a member of various organizations matching her passions, such as the First-Generation Law Student Association and the Chicago Kent Animal Legal Defense Fund.