Quality Online Legal Education at St. Francis School of Law

Explore the Advancements in Online Law Schools and the Benefits of Enrolling at St. Francis

Over the past decade, online education has evolved from an innovative and sometimes unconventional method of learning into a widely accepted and highly regarded approach to higher education. In light of recent events, which have compelled ABA-approved J.D. programs to swiftly adapt to online learning, the landscape of law school has experienced an almost instantaneous transformation.

According to The AccessLex Institute, a staggering 90% of law students took at least half of their classes online in 2021. This represents a significant shift from the 30% of college students who enrolled in distance education courses in 2016, as reported by The National Center for Education Statistics.

Given law school’s historical resistance to online education, this significant change indicates that more law institutions now recognize the value and accessibility that these flexible programs offer to students without compromising academic rigor. However, certain programs, such as St. Francis, have a distinct advantage as they have been pioneers in developing comprehensive online courses and resources that support student success in a distance learning environment. St. Francis has consistently invested in the best teaching and learning practices for its students. Continue reading to delve deeper into the growth of online law schools and learn more about St. Francis’ renowned program.

The Evolution of Online Law School in The United States

The Concord School of Law, launched in 1998, pioneered the first online law school program. Although the Concord School of Law was unaccredited and for-profit, it provided legal education entirely online, without traditional physical classes. Communication between students and professors was primarily facilitated through email and message boards.

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Despite the success of the Concord School of Law, there was initial hesitation surrounding the concept of online law school programs. Many believed that the educational experience could only be effective within the confines of a physical classroom, with direct interaction between teachers and students.

A report by the University of Denver on Distance Education and the Evolution of Online Learning in the United States highlights this general perception that online education could not replicate the in-person classroom experience. Consequently, online learning was considered inferior to traditional instruction.

In a 2017 report by the Council on Higher Education Licensure and Accreditation (CHLOE) on The Changing Landscape of Online Education and a Focus on K-12 and Higher Education, the challenges faced by online learning were emphasized. These challenges included concerns about maintaining the same quality of education as traditional face-to-face instruction and difficulties in catering to diverse student populations with varying learning needs.

On August 6, 2018, the ABA House of Delegates voted in favor of a proposed revision that expanded the offerings of distance learning programs in J.D. programs. This revision allowed for approximately one-third of a J.D. program and ten credits of the first-year curriculum to be completed through distance learning.

4 Factors That Contributed to the Rise of Online Law School

The increasing enrollment and credibility of online law schools can largely be attributed to the following four factors:

1. Technological Advancement

In 1994, the launch of Netscape, the first widely used web browser, revolutionized online research for students. Over time, the quality and variety of online educational tools have dramatically improved. These advancements include video lectures, interactive course materials, and social networking platforms. Consequently, online education now rivals the experience of attending traditional physical classrooms.

2. Demand for Convenience and Flexibility

As our lives become busier and more demanding, there is a growing need for convenience. This is especially true for individuals with full-time jobs or those with parental responsibilities. Attending physical law classes during traditional business hours may be impractical for them. Online law classes offer the flexibility of accessing lectures from anywhere, at any time.

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3. Cost Considerations

The cost of attending physical law schools can be prohibitive for many individuals. A 2020 ABA report revealed that heavy law school debt had caused almost 1,100 aspiring lawyers to postpone their studies. Consequently, online law schools are being viewed as an affordable alternative. Additionally, several online programs provide financial aid options, including scholarships, discounts, and part-time payment plans.

4. Increased Demand for Law Schools

According to enrollment data from the American Bar Association (ABA), the annual J.D. enrollment rate rose from 114,520 in 2020 to 117,501 in 2021. The surge in demand can be largely attributed to the outbreak of the coronavirus, which led to several physical law schools closing indefinitely. Consequently, online law schools experienced a significant increase in interest, as they were able to continue operating without interruption.

Can You Obtain an Accredited Law Degree Online?

While most U.S. jurisdictions require graduates of an ABA-approved law school to sit for the bar exam and practice as lawyers, there are currently no ABA-approved law schools that offer full-time degree programs entirely online.

Several institutions, however, do offer hybrid or blended learning programs that combine traditional classes with online lessons. The admission requirements for these programs may vary.

It’s important to note that eligibility criteria for bar examinations are determined by each state, not the ABA. Graduates from ABA-accredited law schools are authorized to take the bar exam in any state. Graduates from law schools accredited by or registered with the California Committee of Bar Examiners can apply for the California Bar Exam and may also be eligible to sit for other bar exams based on local regulations.

How Does Online Law School Work?

Most online law schools utilize a learning management system (LMS) such as Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle. These platforms enable professors to share messages, videos, assignments, and deadlines online. Students are then required to access these materials at predefined times or dates according to the professor’s lesson plan.

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Is an Online Legal Studies Degree Worth It?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment opportunities for lawyers will grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030. Furthermore, the median annual salary for lawyers was $84,910 in May 2020, surpassing the median wage for most occupations, which stood at $41,950.

In light of these statistics, the answer is a resounding YES. Acquiring a law degree online offers significant advantages, including the opportunity for high-paying jobs with excellent benefits. Moreover, an online law degree provides the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world—a remarkable perk indeed.

Does Online Law School Prepare You for the Bar Exam?

There are no guarantees that attending an online law school will guarantee success in the bar exam. However, attending an accredited online law school does make it easier to earn a law degree while meeting your state’s bar admissions requirements.

Ultimately, law schools are designed to prepare students for the legal profession, which necessitates passing the bar exam. The quality of a program can be gauged by the percentage of graduates who pass the bar exam or other standardized state exams, such as California’s First Year Law Student Exam (FYLSE). Based on FYLSE and California Bar Exam pass rates, it is evident that online schools like St. Francis School of Law provide a quality legal education that thoroughly prepares graduates for a successful legal career. It’s not about mythical unicorns, but rather leveraging technology and learning science to deliver a top-notch online legal education.

Discover the St. Francis Difference

St. Francis School of Law is the world’s first elite online law school, offering a wide range of affordable online law curricula. As the only not-for-profit online law school operating in the United States, we are committed to delivering exceptional education.

Our programs include a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree with a comprehensive curriculum covering Criminal Law, Contracts, and Torts. Our program is specifically tailored to equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in the California Bar Examination.

We understand that each student has unique needs, which is why we offer various learning formats, including asynchronous, synchronous, and self-paced courses. Additionally, we have monthly start dates and flexible enrollment options to ensure a prompt and personalized start to your legal journey.

Embark on your path to success today and discover how attainable it is to earn a law degree online.

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