An online law school graduate recently made the news when he sued the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and won the right to take the state bar exam.
Like a sonic boom, it has rocked the legal education community.
Ross Mitchell, an online school graduate of Concord Law School, passed the California bar exam in 2004. But since Concord is not approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), Mitchell was not eligible to practice law outside of California and could not sit for the bar exam in other states.
However, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in Mitchell’s favor and made an exception after reviewing his excellent academic record.
The decision comes at a time that the American Bar Association is preparing to perform a comprehensive review, which will include an thorough assessment of online law schools. Mitchell’s success in this case may open up the opportunity for other exemplary e-learning law school grads to challenge the ABA requirements for taking state bar exams.
Concord Law School, Mitchell’s alma mater, is a fully online law school. It is recognized by the California Bar Association; so graduates may sit for the California bar exam and, if they pass, practice law in California. However, the ABA does not recognize any law degree that is completely earned by distance learning.
And although Concord Law School is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, it is not approved by the ABA because it is an online law degree.
Some states outside of California allow Concord Law School graduates to sit for the bar exam if the candidate has passed the California bar exam and has worked as a lawyer for five years. But other states, like Minnesota, do not allow graduates to sit for the bar exam.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court made a step in the right direction to insure fairness for graduates of reputable online schools like Concord Law School.
Maybe the ABA will follow suit.
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