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November 23, 2008

Interesting (and important?) legal development for online law grad

A helpful reader pointed me to this news of a seemingly important ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  Here are the basics:

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 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.

The full ruling in Mitchell v. Board of Bar Examiners (Mass. Nov. 20, 2008), is available at this link, and it is a very interesting read. 

Because the SJC stressed the "the particular circumstances of this case" in its ruling, it would be hyperbole to suggest that Mitchell v. Board might be viewed as comparable in some way to Brown v. Board.  However, I suspect that the the petitioner in this case, Ross Mitchell, can (and should) be viewed as a poster-child for the great potential and accomplishments of students who get law degrees from online and/or non-ABA accredited schools.  At the very least, I suspect Mitchell v. Board will be cited by lots of "innovative" law school graduates looking to gain the right to sit for a state bar exam.

Posted by DAB

November 23, 2008 in Legal profession realities and developments | Permalink


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