|California Distance Learning Law SchoolsMost Us distance learning law schools are ABA-approved law schools. This, of course, means that some U.S. law schools are not ABA approved. For our purposes we are concerned only with those non-ABA law schools whose graduates are permitted to sit for the bar examination. Most of these schools require that you attend classes, a small number, however, offer law study by distance learning leading to the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.
The State of California has the unique distinction of being the only jurisdiction in the United States that permits graduates of California State Bar registered distance-learning law schools to sit for its bar examination. Technically speaking, these schools are not approved or accredited in the traditional manner; rather they are registered with the State Bar of California. What this means, for our purposes, is that graduates of these programs are conferred with the J.D. degree, but more importantly they may sit for the bar exam in California. Incidentally, even the ABA recently recognized, at least in part, the efficacy of distance learning. Currently ABA rules permit up to 12 credits by distance learning.
Now if you live in California you may be thinking this is a very viable alternative to the traditional path to becoming a lawyer—and you would, of course, be right. However, if you do not reside in California you may be thinking why in the world would I want to be a California attorney if I don’t live there? Good question. The answer is that once you are admitted to practice in one state, other states may consider you as a qualified candidate to take their bar exam. (See more about this in Chapter 8 ).
California law schools are being examined separately here because they offer the most in alternative approaches to the study of law leading to admittance to the Bar, but there are opportunities in other states as well which we will discuss later in this chapter.
Regardless of whether you choose to attend classes at an unaccredited California law school or to pursue your legal study through a California correspondence law school you must understand that despite the liberal school admissions’ policies, you will have to work very hard or you simply will not make it. As with the accredited foreign law-school approach, admission to the program is relatively liberal, graduating is quite another story. I’m not trying to discourage you; I just don’t want you to think that “alternative” means watered down, it surely is not.
General Admission Requirements for California
Distance Learning Law Schools
Naturally, you will want to check with the schools directly for any specific admission requirements as they may change from time to time. However, the following is a list of the general admission requirements for most programs.
Before beginning the study of law, the candidate must have satisfied the Following:
Completed at least two years of college work, which college work shall be not less than one-half of the collegiate work acceptable for a bachelor’s degree granted upon the basis of a four-year period of study by a college or university approved by the examining committee.
Have attained in apparent intellectual ability the equivalent of at least two years of college work by taking examinations. For example, CLEP and other standardized examinations. (See www.MaxStudy.com)
Also, if the student ultimately plans to take the bar examination, they must register with the examining committee as a law student within 90 days after beginning the study of law. Naturally, some schools may impose higher admission requirements. The correspondence schools, for the most part, will require that you meet these minimum standards only. Why? Again, the answer boils down to economics: with the correspondence law schools you will not be competing for desk space.
First Year Law Students Examination: The Baby Bar
Okay, now you know the good part; it’s easy to get into one of these California law schools. Now for the bad news, if you successfully complete your first year of study at a California unaccredited law school (by correspondence or attendance) you must demonstrate your mastery of the first years subjects by taking the First Year Law Students’ Exam (FYLSX) “affectionately” referred to as the Baby Bar Exam.
The baby bar exam will test your knowledge in the subjects of criminal law, contract law, and tort law. The test is given each year during the third week of June and October in California. The one-day exam consists of three essays, each of which must be completed in 52 minutes and 100 multiple-choice questions. The average pass rate over the past five years has been a little over 20%—not impressive. There has been much speculation as to why the pas rates are so low for the baby bar exam. There are two leading viewpoints on this issue:
(1) Students just don’t give the exam the respect it deserves and fail to properly prepare for it or,
(2) The examination is designed to be unreasonably difficult to serve as a barrier for non traditionally educated prospective lawyers.
Certainly both theories have some merit, however, I am of the opinion that most nontraditional students just do not fully appreciate what they’re up against. True the exam is designed to be difficult, but not to be a barrier, rather it is designed to weed out those not prepared or not suited to the profession. The fact is that not everyone can or should be a lawyer. Better to find this out early before you waste your time, money, and effort in a field that is just not right for you. However, as with the strategies discussed for accredited foreign law schools, a cottage industry of legal tutorial services has developed to help increase the odds of passing in your favor. (See list of services at the end of this chapter.)
What happens if you don’t pass the Baby Bar?
In the past failing the baby bar meant that your law studies would come to a halt unless and until you successfully passed it. Fortunately, under a new law, Section 6060(g) of the California Business and Professionals Code, students may continue their legal studies while waiting to take the examination. Section 6060(g) states, “those who pass the examination within the first three consecutive administrations . . . shall receive credit for all law studies completed at the time the examination is passed. . . .” However, you must take and pass the baby bar within three consecutive attempts after first becoming eligible to take it if you wish to receive credit for two years of law study. This means that you can take the exam up to the end of your sophomore year in law school without any loss of credit.
If you work hard and have what it takes, you can pass the baby bar exam—and ultimately the bar exam, but you will need some help. Most of the California correspondence law schools offer you little more than a potential opportunity to become a lawyer. Even the unaccredited California (attendance) law schools are generally more limited in what they offer students than the traditional ABA law schools. To bridge this gap you will need to consider using one of the tutorial law services that specialize in this area. I used America’s Bar Review and passed on my first attempt. Again, a list of such services is available at the end of this chapter.
Before we look at the law schools offering distance-learning programs, I want to again caution you that you will need some supplemental support from a baby bar preparation Service. Why? Law school is designed to teach you law, not to pass bar exams (including the baby bar exam). Let me give you a quick example of what I mean. I studied U.S. law at Saratoga University School of Law. I had a thorough and demanding syllabus and received academic support (that’s important). But taking a bar exam is not what law school can or should prepare you for. Law school is about learning the law and learning to think in a lawyer-like manner. The bar examiners who write the baby bar and general bar examinations have a different job; they have to cull the flock a bit. Now don’t get me wrong, you need a solid foundation of legal academics, but to pass the baby bar or general bar you need to learn some gamesmanship as well.
CASE STUDY US Distance Learning Law Schools
Take Steve K. for example. Steve started out working in a law office as a private investigator and legal assistant for a Southern law firm. Steve worked hard at raising a family and establishing himself as an invaluable employee, but Steve wanted more, he wanted to go to law school. He wanted to be a lawyer. Problem was that Steve did not live near a law school and, even if he did, he couldn’t just quit his job and put his family in hock to pay off $80,000+ in student loans.
Fortunately, for Steve, there was a good solution. Steve learned that he could enroll in a California correspondence law school, Saratoga University, my alma mater. He studied diligently and received academic and practical assistance from the partners at the firm where he worked. For Steve this was a great advantage and worked even better than an ordinary lawyer apprenticeship program. (See Chapter VII) After several years he was awarded the J.D. degree. He immediately applied and was admitted to an LL.M program at an ABA law school (See Chapter VIII).
Steve recently finished his advanced law degree with distinction and he will be now be taking the next bar exam—way to go Steve
There are many good programs out there to help you in this respect, but three that stand out in my mind as being the best are:
Baby Bar Review Programs
Fleming’s Fundamentals of Law
23166 Los Alisos Blvd., Suite 238
Mission Viejo, CA 92691-2843
Fleming’s has a great program and offers outlines and cassette tapes to help prepare you for the baby bar exam and the general bar exam as well. The tapes and written material are chock full of mnemonic devices and other aids to help you nail down the examination.
PasstheBar.com Great Personal Attention Program
12 25th Avenue # 3
Venice, CA 90291 Tel: 310-699-6891
Scott Pierce has been a legal-writing instructor for over 20 years. His credentials are impeccable and he covers all facets of bar-exam preparation, but specializes in teaching how to master the hardest part of any bar exam—the essays! If you need help in this area, Scott Pierce is without parallel.
Now, we’re ready to take a look at the distance learning law degree programs.
U.S. Distance Learning Law Degree Programs
California Distance Learning Law Degree Programs
Abraham Lincoln University School of Law
3530 Wilshire Blvd, #1435
Los Angeles, CA 90010
American Heritage University
School of Law and Public Policy
255 North D Street, Suite 401
San Bernadino, CA 92401-1715
California Midland School of Law
6183 Paseo Del Norte, #290
Carlsbad, CA 92011
California School of Law
5276 Hollister Ave, #262
Santa Barbara, CA 93111
(805) 683-5337 and
Concord Law School of Kaplan University
10866 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Juris Doctor – LLM
California Correspondence Law Schools
California Southern University
930 Roosevelt Avenue
Irvine, CA 92620
International Pacific School of Law
3350 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 777
Los Angeles, CA 90010
MD Kirk School of Law
3435 Wilshire Blvd., #2600
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Northwestern California University
School of Law
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 306
Sacramento, CA 95833-4133
Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy
P.O. Box 26870
Fresno, CA 93729-6870
William Howard Taft University
3700 So. Susan St., Office 200
Santa Ana, CA 92704-6954
Juris Doctor – LLM
University of Honolulu School of Law
1609 Tully Road, Suite 4
Modesto, CA 95350-4030
Be sure to check with the state bar for current Information about US distance learning law schools.