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Best Online Law Schools

Finding the best online law schools is difficult with all the misinformation on the web. We previously compared the options of attending a traditional law school vs. an online law school. Now let’s consider how to approach online law schools when deciding which one is best for you.

Which online law schools are the best? Which online law schools are ranked highest? These are loaded questions. Not everyone will agree with the answers. But lets try to tackle these questions.

Before answering which online law school is best, there is a bigger issue. What does “best” mean? Asking about the “best online law school” raises a number of questions:

  • Best online law school for whom?
  • Best online law school in what ways?
  • Best online law school measured by what standards?
  • Is there a best online law school?

Best Traditional Law School Rankings

These are the same questions being raised by deans of traditional law schools that are ranked each year. Many law school deans disagree with ranking systems because the ranking attempts to suggest which law school is best using a set of criteria. Law school deans argue that law school students are different, law school students’ needs are different, law school students’ goals are different, and these differences mean that no single law school will best address the unique characteristics of each and every law student.

Online Law School Evaluations

The same arguments hold true for online law schools. But where does that leave potential law students who are evaluating online law schools? Law schools teach law students to (1) judge, (2) be critical thinkers, (3) balance multiple factors, and (4) weigh inferior and superior options. Even a good consumer knows that before spending $100,000 or more on an education, the consumer should compare options.

Thus, we can conclude that (1) prospective online law students need information comparing online law schools, but (2) an all-encompassing rating system that determines the “best online law school” for every student is over-reaching at best.

Best Online Law School Factors

To determine which online law school is best for you, I will be examining, comparing, and discussing attributes of the various online law schools. The important factors will be examined. Are there certain online law schools that you want to know about more than others? Are certain factors in selecting an online law school more important to you than other factors? If you have suggestions, please leave a comment here. I would be glad to focus on the online law schools that you are interested in hopes of helping you and similarily interested students figure out which online law school is “best.”

Best Online Law School for You

The best online law school for you may not be the best online law school for someone else. Rather, the best online law school will be the online law school that matches your needs, interests, and goals.

NOTE: If you are a student at an online law school, or if you have some useful information for students selecting an online law school, please don’t hesitate to share that information as a Comment here.

Leave a Comment

  • Law School Maven October 27, 2009, 4:44 pm

    I am a student at the California School of Law, annonline law school. I recently came across the following as yet unpublished article.

    A Crucial Factor to Consider When Deciding Which
    Online Law School to Attend: Whether the Law School Is Producing Students Eligible to Take and Able to Pass
    The Baby Bar, by Al Thomas
    Introduction

    Online Law Schools are a “new animal,” having come into being only in recent decades. It, indeed, was not until 2008 that the California State Bar, the only state bar that recognizes online schools, made a distinction between “distance-learning” or “online” schools and “correspondence” schools in its registration of law schools. It, thus, is not surprising that there is little, if any, literature advising potential students on what factors they should consider in deciding which online law school to attend.

    This article, along with companion articles that will be published, attempts to “fill this void.” In this article, the author, an experienced lawyer and legal educator with experience in the field of online distance-learning legal education, addresses the following topics under the following headings: (I) Whether the online law school is “producing” a significant number of law students eligible to take the requisite First Year Law Student Bar Exam, popularly known as the “baby bar”; and (II) whether the students from the school taking the baby bar have the ability to pass that exam.

    II Whether the Law School Is Producing Students
    Eligible to Take the Baby Bar

    As anyone who investigates the possibility of attending an online law school quickly learns, the California State Bar rules require that, upon successful completion of the first year at an online law school, all students wishing to ultimately become admitted to the California or any other state’s bar must sit for and pass the First Year Law Students Exam, popularly known as the “baby bar.” It follows that an important factor for a prospective online law school student to consider in determining which online school to choose is whether the law school has been successful in getting its students to the stage of being eligible to sit for the baby bar.

    There are five law schools that are certified by the California Bar as being “distance-learning” or “online,” namely Abraham Lincoln, American Heritage, Aristotle, California and Concord. The Author has reviewed the relevant California State Bar records to determine the number of students at the five designated online law schools who have sat for the baby bar.

    That review shows that at two of the five designated online schools, virtually none of the students get to the baby bar exam stage. The said two schools are American Heritage University School of Law and Aristotle University Institute of Law. According to the State Bar’s baby bar statistical reports going back to 2000, Aristotle has not had a single student take the baby bar. (As an aside, despite never having had a student take the baby bar, Aristotle expressly claims on its website that it has a “100% Baby Bar Pass Rate.”)

    For all intents and purposes, American Heritage is no better. The State Bar statistical reports going back to 2000 show that this school has had only one student sit for the baby bar and that that one student failed.

    It goes without saying, assuming that the prospective student desires to practice law, it would make no sense to attend a law school whose record shows that virtually none of its entering students make it to the baby bar exam stage, the crucial first step in the bar admission process.

    II Whether the Law School is Producing Students Able to Pass the Baby Bar

    Section I above of this article shows that of the five law schools that are categorized by the California State Bar as being “online” schools, two are not getting their students to the baby bar exam stage. The remaining three schools are Abraham Lincoln, Concord and the California School of Law.

    Data for the June, 2009 administration of the “baby bar” that has been made available to the author shows that six students from the California School of Law took the exam and four, or 66.7% passed. Three of these students were taking the exam for the first time and all three, or 100%, passed the exam.

    Comparable data for Concord and Abraham Lincoln for the June 2009 “baby bar” is not yet publicly available. “Baby bar” passage rate data is, however, available for these two law schools for the immediately-preceding “baby bar” administration, namely the exam given in October, 2008. Seventy-nine students from Abraham Lincoln took the “baby bar” in October, 2008 and eight, or 10.1% were successful; thirty-three of the 79 Abraham Lincoln students took the exam for the first time and five, or 15.2% were successful. The results at Concord School of Law were only slightly better: 28 out of 196 Concord students taking the exam passed, for a 14.3% passage rate and 17 out of Concord’s 86 first time takers passed the exam, a 19.8% rate.

    In short, the passage rate for the California School of law is more than four times better than that at Concord and more than six times better that the passage rate at Abraham Lincoln. The data is particularly startling since the California School of Law has been in operation for only two and one-half years and the June, 2009 group was only the third California School of Law group to sit for the baby bar. It also is worth noting that the 100% “baby bar” passage rate for first-timer takers at the California School of Law compares very favorably with the 3.7% first-timers baby bar passage rate in October 2008 for students at the California unaccredited “fixed Facility” (“brick & mortar”) law schools and with the 0.0% (0 out of 23) first time takers baby bar passage rate for the California State Bar accredited, non- ABA accredited law schools.

    The data, of course, for the California School of Law involves small numbers. When, however, as here, the disparities are enormous, i.e. 100% to 14 % and 19% for first time takers, staticians tell me that, small as they may be, the numbers are telling. In this vein, it also is most noteworthy that the data for the California School of Law for October 2008, although not as startlingly different from Concord and Abraham Lincoln as for the June 2009 test administration, nevertheless shows that the California School of Law passage rate on that “baby bar” was approximately double that for Concord and Abraham Lincoln.

    There apparently is no mystery as to why the California School of Law stands alone in these statistical comparisons. First, a review of the school’s website reveals that it is the only law school with a truly interactive teaching program in which the students, live and in “reeal time,” are directly questioned by the professors, according to the traditional Socratic Method of teaching law as at prestigious residential schools. Secondly, hte School’s website further reveals that in January 2008 the school took the major and unique step of instituting a pre-admission program which requires that, before being formally admitted and before any tuition is paid, all potential students must take, complete and pass a free four week, tuition free course designed to identify those persons who lack the scholastic ability and/or the commitment to successfully perform in law school. The website for the California School of Law, at Californiaschooloflaw.com, also states that the School has instituted a highly structured “baby bar” review course for its students who are about to take the exam.

    In contrast, a review of the websites at Abraham Lincoln and Concord reveals that, despite their significantly worse “baby bar” passage rates as compared to the California School of Law, these two schools do not use the Socratic Method pedagogy and have not instituted programs similar to the latter school’s free pre-admission course requirement or its highly structured “baby bar” exam preparation program.

    This is the case despite the fact that a review of these two school’s passage rates for the “baby bar” test administrations prior to the October 2008 administration shows that “things are getting worse” at the two schools; indeed a review of the pertinent California State Bar data, found on the State Bar website, shows that the “baby bar” passage rates for first time takers at both schools in October 2008 were the worst passage rates the schools ever have had, at least since the year 2000.

    The significance of the above discussion is obvious. Again, it “goes without saying” that a potential student who desires to become a practicing lawyer and who wants the financial and other advantages of getting a law school education through an online law school, should go to the online law school that gives the student the best chance of successfully passing the “baby bar,” rather than to a school that has an “baby bar” examination failure rate that exceeds 80%, particularly when the school’s failure rate is getting worse and the school apparently is not doing anything about it.

  • Law School Maven October 27, 2009, 5:10 pm

    A good place to get another view as to what the “best” online law school may be is found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correspondence_law_school.

  • Bill May 20, 2010, 10:26 pm

    Hi Maven, are you still enrolled? When do you take the baby bar?