Virginia distance law schools: the answer to the problem

Virginia distance law schools are the salvation for law education crisis but have not been embraced by the state bar’s old guard, which excludes these students from taking the bar.

Virginia distance law schools

Law grads have more debt than ever (upwards of $100,000 from traditional schools) and fewer jobs at a lower pay than ever before (not only the recession but also the use of internet for legal needs that previously only a lawyer provided account for this).

If you did not go to a top 40 law school and finished in the top 25 percent of your class, you’re not going to get one of those jobs,” said Jordan Abshire, principal of attorney recruiting agency Lateral Link, as quoted by Reuters February 2012.

Reuters cited statistics that show since Jan. 1, 2008 major law firms have laid off about 5,900 attorneys — 5 percent of all attorneys at the 250 largest law firms.

Traditional law schools are just now reacting to the problem. Nationwide, they are opening law firms to fill with recent grads. Starting this fall, the University of Virginia will allow students to earn a semester of credit while working full time for nonprofit or government employers anywhere in the world.

But critics point that such measures only serve the schools’ interests. On the one hand, it boosts the law school’s post graduation employment ranking with U.S. News & World Report. On the other hand, it fails to reduce tuition. Law salaries are coming down, but universities are doing everything in their power to conserve high tuitions.

Under normal economic influences, traditional law schools would drop their prices, but they enjoy a monopoly enforced by the American Bar Association and its cohorts at each state bar. If your law school is not ABA approved, sorry, you can’t even take the bar exam in Virginia.

School accreditation is supposed to safeguard against consumer fraud, not limit competition. ABA requirements are excessive, forcing law schools to keep tuition high, and do little to actually help students. The requirements keep law professors’ wallets bulging.

Virginia distance law schools make sense because:

  1. They cost at most one-third a regular tuition
  2. The make access to even the remotest of places
  3. They favor your current living situation

Unfortunately, bar lawyers don’t want to see the writing on the wall — maybe they just don’t want things to be easier on future generations of lawyers than on themselves. Bars and brick and mortar law schools have been more resistant to emerging technologies than any other academic discipline.

If you want to get your online degree, you’ll have to:

  1. pass California’s “baby” bar and then California’s regular bar
  2. practice five years in California
  3. motion to take Virginia’s bar

It’s not an easy path. But then again, loading yourself with $100,000 worth of debt and not being able to find a job is not any easier.

The video from 2010 CALI conference for Law School Computing looks at continuing advances in technologies for delivering lecture to your home computer.