Dean of the College of Law at JFKU, Lisa Hutton, recently co-authored an article with Nicole Mills, Chair of the Legal Studies Program at JFKU, on the merits of an online legal education. Not only did the article address the biases that exist against an online legal education, it also uncovered a host of compelling arguments for why such a model is not merely viable but also extremely necessary in terms of fostering educational and social justice.

One major benefit of an online JD program cited by Hutton and Mills is that it can increase access to justice by appealing to students in rural areas where there is not only a dearth of legal education opportunities, but also, consequently, a dearth of legal resources and attorneys available to community members. By allowing students to stay in their communities while receiving their legal education, access to legal services could be increased in such areas.

Lisa Hutton
Lisa Hutton, Dean of the College of Law at JFKU

Another major benefit of an online legal education is that this type of education can decrease students’ overall debt load by allowing them to stay in their communities, especially rural communities with lower costs of living, during law school, and also by allowing them to work while pursuing their degree. 

Finally, and contrary to much belief within the legal education field, Hutton and Mills assert that an online legal education can offer a high quality, rigorous, and rewarding educational experience.

“Legal education can be done online when done correctly,” says Hutton. “There’s a real sense in the legal community that online legal education won’t work, that the traditional law school model of readings with lecture and discussion but no real assessment of student learning until the final exam is the way that we’ve always done it and the way that works. And it has worked for a lot of us,” says Hutton. “It has worked for learners whose style that is. But,” she continues, “for those with different learning styles or those who need regular and consistent feedback on their mastery of the material, online legal education may be the key.”

In addition to being less achievable for those with diverse learning styles, the traditional style of legal education has also generally been closed to people who don’t live in urban areas where law schools mostly reside and to students whose life, family, and work commitments don’t allow for them coming onto campus every week. To learn more about the unexpected benefits of an online legal education, check out the article!