State court allows online law school grad to take bar exam – Requirement for graduation from accredited law school being reviewed by ABA
Nov. 21, 2008
The state supreme court has ordered that a graduate of an online law school be allowed to take the bar exam.
Ross Mitchell of West Newton sued the Board of Bar Examiners for preventing him from taking the exam because he does not have a degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association.
Mitchell, a computer systems and management consultant who has lived in Massachusetts since 1981, took his classes through Concord Law School, which is part of the Kaplan online university.
He is licensed to practice law in California, the only state that has accepted candidates from online schools, and in March he was among the first four Concord graduates admitted to argue before the Supreme Court.
In a 6-1 decision released Thursday, the opened the door to Mitchell and other graduates of online law schools, but noted that the exception is limited to those with strong records in competitive programs.
Supreme Judicial Court
opened the door to Mitchell and other graduates of online law schools, but noted that the exception is limited to those with strong records in competitive programs.
The court cited Mitchell’s “exemplary degree of success” and his acceptance to the California bar.
“Of great importance, the record reveals that Mitchell achieved an exemplary degree of success as a law student,” the court said. “Thus, he won ‘outstanding achievement’ awards in three of his first year courses, an award for best oral advocate and best brief in his moot court exercise in the third year, and over-all academic honors in all four of his law school years, graduating with highest honors and as valedictorian of his class.”
The court said it would not be fair to deny Mitchell the chance to take the bar exam while the American Bar Association is reconsidering whether to accredit online schools.
The court said granting Mitchell a waiver to take the exam “is based wholly on the particular circumstances presented in his individual case. … We are not suggesting that we have decided to accept graduation from an online law school as meeting the educational requirement for taking the Massachusetts bar examination.”
Justice Roderick Ireland dissented, saying the court should wait until the bar association has made its decision.