May 29, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Law students have until now been limited in terms of the availability of online coursework due to American Bar Association (ABA) restrictions. Now, the organization has taken a step closer to eliminating these obstacles in order to help law students enjoy more of the benefits associated with online learning. Here’s a closer look at the situation, as recently reported by Law.com.

More Online Options

Currently, ABA limitations on distance education forbid law schools from granting more than 15 credit hours from online courses toward law degrees. Furthermore, first-year students are not allowed to take distance classes.

Earlier this month, the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar voted in favor of new accreditation standards that adopt a more inclusive stance on online learning. Under the new rules -- set to go before the ABA’s House of Delegates later this summer -- law schools will be able to offer up to a third of JD credits online, with first-year students being allowed to take up to 10 credits online, according to The Indiana Lawyer.

Playing Catch-Up with Digital

Enthuses law school associate dean William Byrnes, an advocate of online legal education, “This ABA move helps validate that online is real. Everybody talks about innovation in legal education -- 1oo percent not true. People say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ That’s what has been going on all these years. Now, I think we’re finally getting the recognition and respect for truly examining innovation and pedagogy.”

While the change opens the door to more flexible studies, insiders say more conventional law schools won’t be rushing to embrace online first-year courses. However, the change will support more experimentation for first-year students, including the integration of “flipped classrooms.”

Furthermore, many law school community members are eager to note that the benefits of face-to-face interactions during the first year shouldn't be overlooked. Law student April Keaton told The Indiana Lawyer, “I think [on-campus learning] does help me not only as a student but also as a person who is going to be a part of the legal profession.”

  


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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