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Law school gets innovative with ‘hybrid’ online J.D.

Law schools are coming up with creative offers to entice prospective applicants to take the plunge into an expensive education with uncertain job prospects

St. Paul, MN-based The William Mitchell College of Law, which has produced Minnesota governors, members of Congress, and state and federal court justices, expects to offer a hybrid variety of education in 2015. The college will offer a first of its kind online and on-campus juris doctor program that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).

"Our research demonstrates that when implemented thoughtfully, courses blending face-to-face and online instruction offer students the best of both worlds," said President and Dean Eric Janus, in a statement.

Although there are many institutions that offer online law classes and master's programs in law, no online J.D. program has received approval from the American Bar Association. As the ABA states on its website, "Earning an education completely via distance education may drastically limit your ability to sit for the bar in many states. Most states simply rely on ABA approval to determine whether their legal education requirements for admission to the bar are satisfied."

William Mitchell has received an official variance from the ABA, which allows it to combine its in-class curriculum with the use of digital instruction. Typically, the ABA allows law schools to make a third of each course available online, but the variance allows for half of the curriculum to be taken online.


"By harnessing e-learning technologies, professors expand their repertoire of pedagogical tools, allowing greater creativity and flexibility in achieving desired learning,” said Janus. “Adding to traditional law school teaching methods, our courses will include online interactions and content delivery that engage today's students, provide additional teaching and learning accountability and prepare students to use technology that they will encounter in practice."

This new variance arrives as the ABA is pondering the future of legal education and how it might allow law schools to experiment with instructional delivery methods. The program will include in-person experiential learning and online coursework. And, students attend courses on campus at least one week each semester to participate in 56 hours of simulations and other coursework. Additionally, the on-campus work will be supplemented with digital curriculum designed by faculty and students will be encouraged to participate in "externships" in their local areas.


For more on law education, check out these articles:

Canadian university sets sights on faith-based law school

New lawyers facing ‘a depression’ says Wisconsin state bar

First-year enrollment at U.S. law schools drops 11 percent

Contributing Author

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Amanda Ciccatelli

Amanda G. Ciccatelli is a Freelance Journalist for InsideCounsel, where she covers intellectual property, legal technology, patent litigation, cybersecurity, innovation, and more. She earned a B.A....

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