The following is an interview I had with a graduate of Concord Law School, which is an online law school now affiliated with Kaplan University. I have broken the interview into sections so you can jump to the section that interests you most.
This was an informal interview, actually, more of a conversation. I don’t have his express permission to publish his name, so to be safe, I will allow him to remain anonymous in this article.
Why He Choose Concord Law School
The background of the Concord Law School graduate provides a context for you to understand his perspective. He works in a mid-level legal services position. He never had plans to practice law. Rather, since he works with attorneys, he wanted to understand law better and garner additional respect from the attorneys with whom he works.
In other words, this Concord Law School graduate wanted the J.D. behind his name. He wanted the credentials of a law degree. But he did not plan to take any bar exam or practice as a lawyer.
This Concord Law School graduate applied to Concord Law School as well as traditional law schools in his state. He was accepted at Concord and at least one traditional law school close to his home. However, the nearest traditional law school would have required spending an additional 1-2 hours in the car each day. In addition to the commute, two reasons led to his decision to attend Concord Law School rather than a traditional law school.
First, he wanted to continue working during law school. He wanted to keep his job because he enjoyed it, and giving it up would undermine the reason he went to law school: to enhance his current career. Since attending a traditional law school would require daytime classes and commuting to school, in addition to the study required for an online law degree, the traditional law school would prevent him from keeping his job. Further, since his job required travel, his job would require him to miss multiple classes if he attended a traditional law school. However, attending Concord allowed him to listen to lectures and participate in online discussions while out of town.
Second, the cost of Concord Law School was far less than traditional law schools. While traditional law schools can cost over $25,000 per year, Concord Law School’s tuition was under $10,000 per year.
Those were the two personal factors that affected this Concord Law School graduate’s decision to attend Concord Law School rather than a traditional school. But there are other factors he would recommend other students consider when evaluating whether to attend Concord Law School. These factors are comparisions between the attributes of Concord Law School and other law schools. He elaborated on these attributes when I asked him about his experience attending Concord Law school.
Experience Enrolled in Concord Law School
The Concord Law School graduate that I spoke with first explained many attributes of Concord Law School that he appreciated. Following these, he mentioned some aspects of Concord Law School that he didn’t like.
Benefits of Concord Law School
1. Concord Law School’s Top Professors. One aspect of Concord Law School that this law graduate appreciated most was the prominent law school professors that were hired for his courses. The law professors chosen included some of the best and brightest legal scholars on the subjects taught. These law professors presented the course material through lectures and written information. However, these law professors were not the only law professors for each course.
In addition to having prominent professors assigned to Concord Law School’s courses, each course included a second law professor. This second professor graded papers, provided logistical support to the class, and was available to consult with students who had questions.
It was not clear to me whether the prominent law school professors were also available to Concord Law School students who had questions. Although, I’m not sure how important it would be for Concord law students to have access to these professors as long as a competitant law professor was available.
Having these top law professors provided a number of benefits to this Concord Law School graduate.
First, he felt reassured that the quality of lectures he received at this online law school was comparable, if not better, than most traditional law schools.
Second, he felt more pride in his legal education because he knew he had training from some of the best minds in the legal profession, which adds credibility to his degree. This credibility may help offset concerns that an online law degree is not as good as a law degree from a traditional law school.
2. Flexibility of Concord Law School. This Concord Law School graduate said one of the best aspects of attending Concord Law School was the flexibility it provided by allowing him to listen to lectures, study, and write based on the time that was best for his schedule rather than being stuck on the same schedule as 50 other students in a traditional law school classroom.
He said he listened to most of his lectures at night after work, or in a hotel while away from home. Some Concord Law School students even listened to lectures while driving in the car. This flexiblity not only provided more time for learning, but also allowed him to learn when he was best disposed to learn.
He added one caveat to the flexiblity offered by Concord Law School. Although Concord Law School students have flexibility regarding the time of day they can listen to the lectures, the students are required to stay on pace with the class. Students are not allowed to get behind in their schedule. This ensures that students have flexibility with accountability; procrastination is not allowed.
3. Concord Law School’s Cost. Finally, one of the best benefits of Concord Law School was its low cost. With tuition under $10,000, Concord Law School is cheap enough for law students to prevent graduating with too much debt. Law students from traditional law schools often graduate with over $100,000 in debt (this includes tuition, books, and living expenses since law students often have difficulting maintaining a job that pays much during law school).
The fact that this Concord Law School graduate didn’t have any debt meant he didn’t feel pressure to find a high paying job. Even better, he already had a job, so he didn’t have to face the challenges of a tough job market for attorneys. Keep in mind, this Concord graduate had no intention of practicing law or becoming a licensed attorney; he just wanted a juris doctorate (J.D.) degree in law.
Problems with Concord Law School
Impressed by the pride this Concord Law School student felt for his law school, I asked him whether there was anything he didn’t like about Concord Law School. He answered immediately: “Yes!” He was frustrated by the unnecessarily high standards imposed by Concord Law School. That is, he felt that Concord Law School pushed its students more than law students in traditional law schools.
He said that he felt he was required to learn more and know more than students at traditional law schools. He spoke with friends at traditional law schools who were not required to understand the doctrines as extensively has he was.
Further, he explained that if law students don’t do a reading before a class, students in some law school classes can prevent the professor from knowing they didn’t do the reading by sitting in the back of the class and not raising their hands. Of course, this doesn’t work with a Socratic classroom, but the accountability was even more rigerous with Concord Law School’s online courses.
In a Concord Law School class, law students are often required to each answer the question posed by the law professor. Since students have to answer nearly every question, the Concord law professor will know if a student isn’t prepared. Similarly, the Concord law professor can also use the Socratic method and call on a particular student even though the discussion takes place in a chat room.
In addition, this Concord Law School graduate said that other parts of his education had unnecessarily high standards.
I asked this Concord Law School graduate why he thought that Concord Law School requires standards that seem unnecessarily high. He thought that Concord Law School was possibly trying to compensate for the public impression that online law schools are not as rigerous as traditional law schools. He felt that Concord Law School was seeking a reputation with employers and the legal community that represented a high caliber legal education producing high caliber law school graduates, despite the fact that Concord Law School is not approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) (the ABA has not approved any online law school).
This law school graduate continues to be very happy and satisfied with his education from Concord Law School. As he hoped, learning the legal concepts has helped him communicate and interact with his clients, who are attorneys, much better than before. He also values having the credentials of a law degree, which hasn’t resulted in any change or promotion in his job (at least not yet), but has made him feel more confident in his career.