New York Distance Law Schools: How Distant?

New York Distance Law Schools offer flexible hours and cheaper tuition but don’t get graduates to the bar easily because state officials follow American Bar Association norms which have yet to catch up with the times.

Under current rules, if you’re only option are New York Distance Law Schools, you’ll have to first practice law in California for five years to later take the bar in New York. (Forward-looking California allows online law school grads to take its bar. New York does not. But it allows experienced lawyers from other states to take its bar.) For NY options to the bar, check http://www.nybarexam.org/Eligible/Eligibility.htm

Rumblings for reform to include New York Distance Law Schools?

In January, state bar officials weighed cutting law school down to 2 years in an effort to lighten the student loan debt burden that frequently tops $100,000. It not only makes sense, it also makes dollars, considering that the dwindling law job market represents less opportunity to pay back that loan.

New York Distance Law Schools
Daniel Rodriguez

While this wouldn’t increase the number of available jobs, a two-year option would allow many newly minted lawyers to pursue careers in the public interest or to work at smaller firms that serve lower- or average-income Americans, thereby fulfilling a largely unmet need,” wrote Daniel Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern University School of Law in the New York Times. “As it is now, many young lawyers say they would love to follow this path but cannot afford to because of their onerous debts.”

Following California’s lead to allow the online option also makes sense. While in theory accreditation is good, the ABA’s regulations are excessive, benefiting mostly the tenured law professors’ paycheck, not the student. Most lawyers aren’t going to want to make it easier for future generations, since they are future competitors. Only the State officials can act on behalf of the good of the students — and the good of the state.

The facts of law:

  • Two years of law school is 60 credits
  • Northwestern University School of Law and New York University Law School are preparing curriculum to attract law students to the optional 3rd year, should the 2-year-to-bar rule be adopted.
  • At the January discussion, a Brooklyn judge suggested one year would be enough to pass the bar.
  • Law firms clamor for more clinical preparation for recent grads. But to cut costs, law schools pare back clinical classes first.
  • Law offices nationwide eliminated 21,600 jobs in 2009 and ’10.
  • Solo attorneys get paid for only 40% of their time, according to estimates.
  • Mundane legal tasks can not be outsourced or performed by software.

In the video, nine former law students sued New York Law School because they couldn’t get a job; the model is failing. Law students incur staggering debt with hopes of making payment, basing those hopes on misleading job statistics from law schools. Though the case was “thrown out,” it underscores a real problem in traditional legal education.