ABA Legal Ed section Approves Distance Ed Standards

The following is taken from the ABA website at http://www.abanet.org/legaled/standards/proposed.html#adopted

Revisions to the Standards and Interpretations Approved by the Council of the Section, June, 2002

At its meeting on June 8, 2002 the Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved revisions to the Standards for the Approval of Law Schools and the Interpretations of those Standards. For your information, these revisions are reported below.

Standard 803 provides that these matters be presented to the ABA House of Delegates for review. This will occur at the August 2002 Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association. If the House concurs in the revisions, they will be effective for the fall 2002 semester.

If you have questions, please contact Barry Currier, Deputy Consultant on Legal Education by e-mail (currierb@staff.abanet.org) or telephone (312.988.6743).

Approved revisions related to distance education:



(b) A law school shall require, as a condition for graduation, successful completion of a course of study in residence of not fewer than 56,000 minutes of instruction time, except as otherwise provided. At least 45,000 of these minutes shall be by attendance in regularly scheduled class sessions at the law school conferring the degree, or, in the case of a student receiving credit for studies at another law school, at the law school at which credit was earned. Law schools may, however, allow credit for distance education as provided in Standard 306. Law schools may also allow credit for study outside the classroom as provided in Standard 305.


(g) A law school shall not grant credit for study by correspondence. A law school may grant credit for distance learning study in accordance with such temporary or permanent guidelines as are authorized by the Council.


Interpretation 304-2:
In a joint degree program between a law school and another school or college: Nnot fewer than 45,000 minutes of the total time credited toward the 56,000 minutes of study required for a J.D. degree shall be in courses in residence at the law school.

The remaining 11,000 minutes of study may be in courses outside the law school if all of the hours applied in satisfaction of the requirements for the J.D. degree are in studies or courses that satisfy the requirements of Standards 305 and 306 and have been expressly approved by the law school as appropriate for its educational program.



(a) A law school may offer grant credit toward the J.D. degree for courses or a program that permits or requires student participation in studies or activities away from or outside the law school or in a format that does not involve attendance at regularly scheduled class sessions.

(b) Not fewer than 45,000 minutes of total time credited toward satisfying the "in residence" and "class hours" requirements of the Standards shall be in attendance in regularly scheduled class sessions at the law school conferring the degree, or, in the case of a student receiving credit for studies at another law school, at the law school at which the credit was earned.

[relabel remaining sections]


Interpretation 305-4:
Standard 305 by its own force does not allow credit for distance education courses.


(a) A law school may offer credit toward the J.D. degree for study offered through distance education consistent with the provisions of this Standard and Interpretations of this Standard. Such credit shall be awarded only if academic content, the method of course delivery, and the method of evaluating student performance are approved as part of the school’s regular curriculum approval process.

(b) Distance education is an educational process characterized by the separation, in time or place, between instructor and student. It includes courses offered principally by means of:

(1) technological transmission, including Internet, open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, or satellite transmission;

(2) audio or computer conferencing;

(3) video cassettes or discs; or

(4) correspondence.

(c) A law school may award credit for distance education and may count that credit toward the 45,000 minutes of instruction required by Standard 304(b) if:

(1) there is ample interaction with the instructor and other students both inside and outside the formal structure of the course throughout its duration; and

(2) there is ample monitoring of student effort and accomplishment as the course progresses.

(d) A law school shall not grant a student more than four credit hours in any term, nor more than a total of 12 credit hours, toward the J.D. degree for courses qualifying under this Standard.

(e) No student shall enroll in courses qualifying for credit under this Standard until that student has completed instruction equivalent to 28 credit hours toward the J.D. degree.

(f) No credit otherwise may be given toward the J.D. degree for any distance education course.

Interpretation 306 -1:
To allow the Council and the Standards Review Committee to review and adjust this Standard, law schools shall report each year on the distance education courses that they offer.

Interpretation 306-2:
Distance education presents special opportunities and unique challenges for the maintenance of educational quality. Distance education accordingly requires particular attention from the law school and by site visit teams and the Accreditation Committee.

Interpretation 306-3:
Courses in which two-thirds or more of the course instruction consists of regular classroom instruction shall not be treated as "distance education" for purposes of Standards 306 (d) and (e) even though they also include substantial on-line interaction or other common components of "distance education" courses so long as such instruction complies with the provisions of subsections (1) and (2) of Standard 306(c).

Interpretation 306-4:
Law schools shall take steps to provide students in distance education courses opportunities to interact with instructors that equal or exceed the opportunities for such interaction with instructors in a traditional classroom setting.

Interpretation 306-5:
Law schools shall have the technological capacity, staff, information resources, and facilities required to provide the support needed for instructors and students involved in distance education at the school.

Interpretation 306-6:
Law schools shall establish mechanisms to assure that faculty who teach distance education courses and students who enroll in them have the skills and access to the technology necessary to enable them to participate effectively.

Interpretation 306-7:
Faculty approval of credit for a distance education course shall include a specific explanation of how the course credit was determined. Credit shall be awarded in a manner consistent with the requirement of Interpretation 304-5 that requires 700 minutes of instruction for each credit awarded.

Interpretation 306-8:
A law school that offers more than an incidental amount of credit for distance education shall adopt a written plan for distance education at the law school and shall periodically review the educational effectiveness of its distance education courses and programs.

Interpretation 306-9:
"Credits" in this Standard means semester hour credits as provided in Interpretation 304-5. Law schools that use quarter hours of credit shall convert these credits in a manner that is consistent with the provisions of Interpretation 304-5.

Standards 306 and 307 will be renumbered as Standards 307 and 308.

Approved revisions related to residency and part-time enrollment options:

Standard 301. OBJECTIVES.

(a) A law school shall maintain an educational program that prepares its graduates for admission to the bar and to participate effectively and responsibly in the legal profession.

(b) A law school shall maintain an educational program that prepares its graduates to deal with current and anticipated legal problems.

(c) A law school shall ensure that its educational program, co-curricular programs, and other educational benefits are available to all students.

(c d) A law school may offer an educational program designed to emphasize certain aspects of the law or the legal profession.

Interpretation 301-1:
Among the factors to be considered in assessing the extent to which a law school complies with this Standard are the attrition rate of the school’s students, and the bar passage and career placement rates of its graduates.

Interpretation 301-2:
Among the factors to consider in assessing compliance with Standard 301(c) are whether students have the realistic opportunity to benefit from regular interaction with full-time faculty and other students, from such co-curricular programs as journals and competition teams, and from special events such as lecture series and short-time visitors.

Interpretation 301-3:
For schools that have more than one enrollment or scheduling option for students, the school’s educational program, co-curricular activities, and other educational benefits shall be available to all students on a basis roughly proportional to the number of students in the various options.


Interpretation 304-6:
The number of class days in an academic year is the number of days on which classes are regularly scheduled throughout the day. Regardless of scheduling options that a school may offer to students other than full-time students, a law school may not count more than five (5) class days each week toward the 130-day requirement. Days on which classes are not regularly scheduled throughout the day are not a "class day" for full-time students.


Consistent with sound legal education principles, a law school shall provide all its students, regardless of enrollment or scheduling option, with basic student services, including maintenance of accurate student records, academic advising and counseling, and financial aid counseling. If a law school does not provide these types of student services directly, it must demonstrate that its students have reasonable access to such services from the university of which it is a part or from other sources.

Approved revisions related to J.D. course credit for work done during an LL.M. program:

Interpretation 304-3:
Credit for a J.D. degree shall only be given for course work taken after the student has matriculated in a law school. A law school may not grant credit toward the J.D. degree for work taken in a special pre-admission programs. Students enrolled in a special pre-admission program may not be considered as matriculated law students since their prospective admission to law school is conditional, among other matters, upon their successful completion of the pre-admission program.

Interpretation 304-8:
Subject to the provisions of this Interpretation, a law school shall require a student who has completed work in an LL.M. or other post-J.D. program to complete all of the work for which it will award the J.D. degree following the student’s regular enrollment in the school’s J.D. program. A law school may accept transfer credit as otherwise allowed by the Standards.

A law school may award credit toward a J.D. degree for work undertaken in a LL.M. or other post-J.D. program offered by it or another law school if:

(a) that work was the successful completion of a J.D. course while the student was enrolled in a post-J.D. law program;

(b) the law school at which the course was taken has a grading system for LL.M. students in J.D. courses that is comparable to the grading system for J.D. students in the course, and

(c) the law school accepting the transfer credit will require that the student successfully complete a course of study that satisfies the requirements of Standards 302(a) and 302(b) and that meets all of the school’s requirement for the awarding of the J.D. degree.