According to the American Bar Association (ABA), which is the accreditation agency for most U.S. accredited law schools and a condition for sitting many state bar examinations, coursework must be done "in residence." However, in recent years, the ABA has permitted law schools to create a hybrid curriculum that combines traditional residential education with a variety of distance and online learning possibilities. The American Bar Association (ABA) recently stated in an interview that while these programs are "experimental," they may also signal a new opportunity for law schools to offer legal distance education to prospective students who cannot access the traditional three-year residential program.
In general, the hybrid JD program combines live, interactive lessons with online learning modules that are complemented by brief periods of in-person instruction. All of the hybrid programs we will look at here follow the traditional programs' entry requirements for law school, but they provide students a lot of freedom in meeting them. However, each education system responds to the issue in a unique manner.
The ABA has compiled a list of the top 10 hybrid online law schools that have been accredited by the organization. The school's overall reputation and 2020 bar exam pass rate are taken into account when ranking these programs.
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1. University of New HampshireThe University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law is one of the only hybrid JD programs in the country that offers a distinctive concentration on Intellectual Property, Technology, and Information Law. The program's narrow focus is targeted at academics in technology and IP disciplines who want to complete their Juris Doctor degree without affecting their professional prospects. The residential component of the UNH School of Law's program is minimal: three 3-5 day residencies per year. The law degree program takes three and a half years to complete. It includes 10 semesters of study spread out over three and a half years. Online modules include live and pre-recorded lectures, remote writing assignments, virtual assessments, and message board engagement. Hybrid students also participate in one-on-one sessions with instructors via internet office hours. The legal distance education program also provides round-the-clock online assistance for technical quandaries. Hybrid law students also have access to the school's bar preparation programs, which have resulted in an 87% pass rate for first-time test-takers. The program's focus on intellectual property is also important as the Franklin Pierce School of Law is one of the leading programs in the country.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 92%
2. Syracuse University CollegeThe Juris Doctor Interactive (JDi) program at Syracuse Law School was the first hybrid program of any law school in the U.S. The JDi program is identical to the residential Juris Doctor curriculum in terms of application and graduation requirements. In 10 semesters (including summer semesters), the core curriculum takes roughly 9-10 credit hours each semester. The basis of Syracuse's JDi program is real-time, live online classes during which students may chat with their legal professors. The classes are designed to mimic in-person instruction and cover the fundamentals of the JDi program. All JDi students also go through six residential courses that include a variety of legal issues as well as practical abilities to help them transition into the law profession. Online coursework is also accessible in a self-paced, online format. JDi students also complete an externship to help prepare them for their professional careers and satisfy the ABA’s requirement for experiential education. All JDi students are welcome to join the law school's renowned Law Review and use all career and student services.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 91%
3. Seton Hall UniversitySeton Hall Law School's part-time JD program integrates self-directed learning and remote discussion with professors, as well as intensive, residential coursework on alternative weekends. The approach relies heavily on technology-based learning as well as nearly 15 hours of residential course every other weekend. Students are on campus for just 19 days each semester in their first two years (where nearly 50% of required credits are earned) and only five weeks during the summer. Hybrid students can combine weekend coursework with daytime, evening, or additional online coursework until they complete their degree requirements after completing their first four semesters. Students learn remotely through a combination of interactive discussions with their instructors, message board participation with other students, and self-directed study. Seton Hall Law, like all other top 10 law schools, provides hybrid students with the opportunity to participate in all clubs and publications. Seton Hall Law also tailors co-curricular activities for hybrid pupils.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 82%
4. Loyola University of ChicagoThe Loyola University, Chicago School of Law, offers a part-time "Weekend JD" program that combines weekend, in-person lessons with hybrid and online programs through the Sakai Learning Management System. Loyola's residential program requires students to spend only 16 weekends each year on on-campus courses. During the first two years, these weekend sessions help kids build a solid foundation in their key courses. The final two years allow students to utilize both online courses and real-world experiences to help them reach their academic and professional goals. The Sakai Learning Management System is an award-winning online learning platform that encourages lively interaction between students and their legal professors. Hybrid students may take courses on the Sakai platform as well as various flexible schedules, such as intersession and independent study. Hybrid students take 86 hours of blended coursework before graduation.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 78%
5. University of DenverThe Denver Sturm College of Law is located in the bustling city of Denver, Colorado, and offers a hybrid curriculum that allows students to complete one-third of their degree via self-paced, online study and the remaining third in eight-weekend classes every semester. Weekend residential course work consists of 12 hours on alternating weekends until the first forty hours of required courses have been completed. The second half of the curriculum provides additional options for students, with two specialized professional tracks available to hybrid students: corporate and intellectual property law or public interest and criminal justice. Students also have the opportunity to take weekday classes in person as well engage with the college of law’s externship, law clinics, and entire online course catalog. The majority of the lesson content is adapted from the in-person aba approved program. The online component, which consists of self-directed modules, helps to solidify what was learned in in-person sessions. Students may also use Zoom to connect with professors in person via "virtual" office hours. To earn their hybrid J.D. from the Sturm College of Law, students must complete 90 credit hours of blended study.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 77%
6. Gonzaga UniversityThe only hybrid legal program offered by Gonzaga University School of Law is the Executive two-year J.D. bachelor's degree, which is designed to be completed in two years. Executive JD school requirements include 90 hours of coursework and 30 hours of public service, even within the restricted time frame. As the name implies, the executive program is designed and tailored for highly motivated, diligent, and industrious students. Students finish all criteria in an accelerated six-term schedule, in which they earn 15 distance education credits each term. Each term, students complete their coursework through a combination of in-person and online interactive classes. Courses are taught by a variety of professionals including legal and business experts. Executive students, like all Gonzaga Law students, must complete eight hours of experiential learning opportunities.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 72%
7. University of DaytonThe online hybrid program at the University of Dayton School of Law allows students to attend classes virtually alongside their in-person classmates. To master key legal concepts through the Socratic method, hybrid law students utilize interactive videos and one-on-one conversations. Hybrid law students complete the entire program in less than four years. Ten residential stints are held on the law school's campus in Dayton University, Ohio, during this time. Students have also been provided with unique online materials to help them master the law. In addition, hybrid students participate in a semester-long legal externship where they work alongside practicing attorneys to gain real-world experience. Graduates of Dayton's hybrid program will be eligible to sit for the bar exam in almost all jurisdictions.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 67%
8. Mitchell HamlineMitchell Hamline School of Law offers two unique hybrid law programs, both of which combine residential coursework with online learning, weekend work, and independent study. A graduate of either approach may sit for any bar exam in the United States. During the four-year program in Mitchell Hamline, the "hybrid" J.D. program combines 11-12 weeks of online coursework with 10 residential sessions. The "executive" program minimizes residential requirements to only two visits per semester as well as intensive weekend workshops. Online coursework is also required in the executive program. During the first two years, the coursework is roughly ? in person with the remainder being online. With online coursework, students can move at their own pace, unlike with other programs. Externship, clinical, and career support services are available to both hybrid and executive students at the School of Law.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 66%
9. Touro CollegeThe Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center (Touro Law) offers a “Flex Time” Juris Doctor program that enables traditional part-time law students to manage professional or family responsibilities. The Touro Law Flex program can be completed in four years using a combination of residential and online coursework. On Sundays, Flex students attend in-person classes for ten Sundays per year as well as three or four remote, live sessions. In addition to meeting all the typical requirements for admission to Touro Law, Flex Time students must also demonstrate their ability to work independently and must have completed their undergraduate degree prior to applying. The law center also offers scholarships to Flex Time JD students who are admitted to the program. Flex Time students complete their core legal education during the first two years (six semesters) before shifting their focus to electives and experiential courses for the next year and a half. Touro Law offers extensive career placement and support services to students as they prepare for graduation.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 61%
10. Southwestern Law SchoolThe Southwestern School of Law solved the commuter problems of its Los Angeles home by creating a part-time evening Juris Doctor program that combines residential coursework two nights a week with innovative distance learning. The program at Southwestern Law takes four years to complete. Both the residential and remote coursework is taught by the same faculty members as the day program. For students in the hybrid program, all student services and resources are available in the evening. In addition, students have access to a dedicated career counselor to assist with job placement and experiential learning opportunities that follow an evening schedule. Each semester, students take around 10 hours of evening classes and online modules during the four-year program. In the first two years of the program, students take core legal classes followed by two years of electives, specializations, and experiential learning.
Bar Exam Pass Rate: 52%
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