Syracuse Law Announces "Live Online" J.D. Program


After several years of “intense scrutiny and review by education experts,” Syracuse University College of Law received a variance from the American Bar Association to offer an online juris doctor program.

The online program, which was developed by the law school’s faculty, is described as “extraordinarily interactive,” and will include a combination of online classes, on-campus classes and experiential learning opportunities.

"By allowing students to engage in real-time online classes from anywhere, the online J.D. will make the College of Law's high-quality legal education accessible to students who cannot reasonably attend a fully residential program," says Craig M. Boise, Dean and Professor of Law, Syracuse University College of Law. "Designed to be a model for excellence in legal education in the 21st century, The Online J.D. will provide an opportunity for the College to expand the reach of its residential JD program and cement its national reputation for leadership in innovative approaches to legal education."

At least 50 percent of the online class time will be in “real-time.” The remainder of online class time will include self-paced class sessions with interactive elements.

Students will also attend in-person courses on Syracuse Law’s campus and at satellite locations. Students will have opportunities to participate in externships and join student organizations. 

Applicants to the online program will still be held to the same admissions standards as traditional applicants, and will take the all of the courses required by its residential J.D. program, according to the law school’s website.

"With this program, Syracuse is transforming legal education to better meet the needs of an evolving profession and today's students," says Boise. "I appreciate the continued support of alumni, faculty, staff, and the legal community as we develop the program and welcome a new group of talented students into the College of Law community."

The online J.D. program is scheduled to launch in January 2019. 

Under current ABA Standard 306, distance learning is limited to just 15 credit hours, and law schools are prohibited from offering online courses to students until they have completed 28 credit hours.

Mitchell-Hamline School of Law was the only exception to this rule. Mitchell-Hamline Law received a variance grant from the ABA, which allowed distance education to make up 50 percent of a student’s legal education. Southwestern Law School received a similar variance in Nov. 2017.

Syracuse Law, which was founded in 1895, previously petitioned the ABA for a variance to Standard 306, but was denied in the Spring 2017.   

The decision to grant a variance to Syracuse Law this time closely followed a proposal to revise Standard 306. At its Feb. 9 meeting in San Antonio, Texas, the ABA council approved a proposal that would allow students to earn up to a third of their credits in distance courses. The proposed revisions would also permit students to take up to 10 credits online in their first year, removing the bar on distance education for first-year students.

The proposed changes will be the subject of a public hearing on April 12 in Washington, D.C. The council will meet again in May, and could finalize proposed changes. A final proposal would then go the ABA House of Delegates for its concurrence in August.


Related articles:

First “Hybrid” Law Students Graduate From Mitchell Hamline

How Distance Learning Is Changing Legal Education (digital edition)

The John Marshall Law School could become Chicago’s first public law school


Tyler Roberts is an editor for The National Jurist. You can follow him on Twitter at @wtyelrroberts