Unaccredited-online JD programs have existed for years, but the ABA recently took an unprecedented approach to accreditation when it decided to approve William Mitchell College of Law's hybrid online program.
As CNBC reports, "[i]n January, 85 students from 31 states and two countries began taking classes in the first-of-its-kind hybrid program, according to the William Mitchell College of Law." This approach is unique in that "'[e]very class is half online and half in person,' said law professor Greg Duhl, the hybrid J.D. program's director."
This creates much more flexibility than what was previously allowed under the ABA Rules for Accreditation. Before only 12 credits could be taken via online or distance education. But with this new accreditation, it appears that as long as 50% of any given class is in-person, then it will comport with ABA Rules.
"Like many online MBA programs, tuition for the William Mitchell College of Law's hybrid version costs the same as the traditional program. In this case, the price tag is still a whopping $27,770 a year. Still, there is one striking benefit for many who choose the hybrid option: Students don't have to quit their jobs or uproot their families. That is where the savings come from."
It will be interesting to see if law schools will continue to push the boundaries of online legal education until the ABA eventually accredits an all-online JD program.