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A group of law school deans are pushing back against a proposal from the American Bar Association’s accrediting arm that would allow fully online law schools to apply for accreditation, the ABA Journal reported last week.

The deans say they want more information about bar passage and employment rates before the proposal moves forward, while supporters of the proposal say it would expand access to and reduce the price of legal education.

Fully online law degree programs can currently only become accredited if the law school also has a physical campus. Graduates from online-only law schools aren’t permitted to take the bar exam. 

“The council has not, as far as we know, articulated a rationale for departing from this practice or identified the problem that the proposed revisions,” intend to solve, said a public comment letter signed by the deans of more than two dozen law schools, including the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, the University of Oregon School of Law and the University of Idaho College of Law.

“Beyond bar passage, we also currently have no way to measure whether hybrid and online J.D. programs are as successful as their traditional counterparts in preparing students for practice,” the letter said. “This is problematic given the current discussion among thought leaders about whether traditional law schools are doing enough to train practice ready attorneys.”

Supporters of the proposal, including faculty from Purdue Global Law School (PGLS) which describes itself as the oldest online law school in the country, said it would expand access to legal education.

Earlier this year, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that students from unaccredited law schools, such as PGLS could sit for the bar exam.

“Prior to joining PGLS, I taught at an ABA-approved fixed-facility law school full-time for ten years and I was a judicial law clerk for a federal magistrate judge for six years,” Kelley Mauerman, associate dean of experiential learning at PGLS, said in a public comment letter. “I can say from experience that the online legal education at PGLS compares favorably with the education offered at my former ABA-approved law school.”

The ABA’s council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which is the sole accreditor for law schools, solicited public comment on the proposal between January and March, and is in the process of reviewing submissions.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for May but it’s not clear when it will make a final decision on the proposal, the ABA Journal reported.