The American Bar Association - or the ABA - is an association of law professionals. Founded in 1878, the ABA supports its members and the legal profession by improving the quality of legal education and professionalism in the United States. The ABA accredits law schools to ensure that there is consistent quality between legal education in the United States.
For a law school to be accredited by the ABA, it must adhere to the educational standards of the ABA. The Accreditation Committee examines schools that wish to be ABA accredited, while the Standards Review Committee is in charge of editing and maintaing the standards themselves. A law school must adequately prepare a student for admission to the bar and for a profession in law. The Accreditation Committee examines the school's academic program, facilities, and faculty. They also makes sure that all students have equal opportunities for academic and extracurricular success.
Juris Doctor Programs
There are no ABA-accredited schools that allow you to receive a JD degree completely online. The ABA's policy on the JD degree - or, as they call it, "the first professional degree in law" - is that a law school must offer an engaging academic community, as well as a program that encourages interaction and participation. Therefore, the ABA mandates that ABA-accredited JD programs can only allow 4 credit hours of distance education per term, and 12-credit hours in total. ABA-accredited programs that offer distance education courses include New York University School of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and The University of Connecticut School of Law.
Unaccredited JD Programs
There are several correspondence or distance learning programs unaccredited by the ABA that are registered with the State Bar of California. Successfully completing these programs will allow graduates of these schools to sit for the bar in California, or possibly other states.
It is possible to receive other law degrees entirely online, such as an advanced degree program (e.g. an LLM program) or a paralegal program. The ABA website even lists post-JD and non-JD programs on its website. However, the ABA only accredits JD degrees. According to the ABA, the JD degree "carries the indicia that the holder of that degree has completed a course of study imparting standards entitling him or her to engage in the practice of law, advanced degree programs at ABA-approved law schools are not regulated, and thus, not 'approved.'"
- American Bar Association: Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools
- American Bar Association: ABA-Approved Law Schools
- American Bar Association: ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools
- Online Law Degree: What You Need To Know About ABA Accreditation And Studying Law Online
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