Does the ABA Approve any Online Law Degrees?

ABA Approved Law Degrees Online

ABA Makes the Decisions for 49 States

You've Been Approved - You May Now Take The Bar Exam

Normally, colleges are accredited by a regional accrediting agency, but in the case of a law school -
unless the school also holds an "approval" by the American Bar Association, graduates in most states are unlikely to be allowed entrance to their state bar exam.

ABA Golden Key
The ABA holds the golden key for students wanting to take the bar exam in their home state. The formal approval given by the ABA is not actually an accreditation. Each school must seek that separately from their regional accrediting agency but the ABA approval holds enormous sway with state bar exam committees.
If the ABA doesn't play nice with the school -- then neither will the state bar committee.

California is different. (read more about California Bar online programs below) They don't kowtow to the ABA's opinions regarding educational fitness.

If most states are like a medieval jousting tournament where you have to prove your pedigree as a noble born aristocrat (ABA approval) to even participate in the contest (bar exam), then California would be like the WWF.

Everything goes! Anyone can participate and the bar exam itself separates the worthy from the not-so-worthy.

Not to say things aren't changing.

So far, two students have sued their home state Bar Exam Board, a guy in Connecticut (he lost) and a guy named Ross Mitchell in Massachusetts (he won). I suspect things will change over the next ten years, but for now...

The American Bar Association Says "No" to Online Degrees

According to the American Bar Association's website:

"Currently, no law schools that provide a J.D. degree completely via distance education are approved by the ABA. Earning an education completely via distance education may drastically limit your ability to sit for the bar in many states."
Every state has its own bar examination board that decide the criteria for admission to their bar exam. Because it's expensive and time consuming to inspect every law program in the country, most state bar examiner boards just align themselves with the national American Bar Association. Whatever they say, must be right. Right?

Except for the state of California.

California Says "Yes" to Online Law Degrees

California has a complex qualification system that admits a diverse population of license seekers to the California State Bar exam. You don't have to be a United States citizen, (you do have to possess a social security number but you don't have to have a green card).

The minimum level of under graduate education is two years, (unless you have worked for a judge or lawyer for four years, and passed CLEP tests, under a program called the "Law Office Study Program" or "Judge's Chamber Program").

More about becoming a lawyer without going to law school.

A post graduate four year J.D. degree coupled with passage of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and passage of the California State Bar exam nets you a California license to practice law. You also must undergo a background check and receive a positive moral character determination; but that is the normal in every state.

If you are taking your law degree from a school that is not accredited by the California State Bar (this includes every single online or correspondence option) then you also have to pass the First Year Law Student's Examination.  You are only allowed to take the FYLSE if your online law school is registered with the California Bar Committee.

Confused yet? Welcome to California!

The First Year Law Student's Exam (FYLSE) sometimes known as the "Baby Bar" exam is taken after your first year of J.D. classes -- and you only have 3 tries at it before they kick you down the stairs.

Once you pass the Baby Bar and have completed the required credits you then become eligible to sit for the California State Bar exam.

If your degree is from a law school accredited by the California State Bar then you will be admitted to the California Bar exam right off the bat, and can have as many cracks at it as you can stand. This guy has taken the Bar Exam 41 times!

Man Retakes The California State Bar Exam 40 Times

By now, you must be feeling a bit discouraged. Don't be. These are just hoops you have to jump through. If you really want that law degree - get jumping. If you need some encouragement watch this video about "ultimate success".

Once you have your California license you can practice in the state of California and in federal courts anywhere in the United States. After a certain amount of time as a practicing California lawyer you will qualify to take the Bar exam in many other states. (Every state has different parameters.)

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of unaccredited (but registered) online California law schools, take a look at these books -- if you've just finished your bachelors degree and you're ready to earn your Juris

Doctorate degree these books will help you in two ways... they get you ready for the onslaught of law courses online (or offline) by showing you what to expect, how law works, how and why it's taught the way it is, and ways to "break in" problems you'll get in law courses.

Steps to Sit for the California State Bar

To Sum Up:
In order to sit for the California State Bar Exam with a law degree from an online school you have to jump through 7 steps:

1. Obtain required undergraduate schooling.
2. Complete a four year online J.D. Degree (from a school registered with the California Bar Committee)
3. Register with the California Bar as a law student.
4. Pass the First Year Law Students Exam (Baby Bar)
5. Pass the background check.
6. Pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam
7. Pass the California Bar Exam.

Useful Links for Online Law Degree Seekers

How to Become a Lawyer without Going to Law School
List of State Bar Admission Offices.

American Bar Association's Stance on Online Law Degrees

California State Bar Admissions

Apply for the First Year Law Student's Exam