Online law schools continue to gain momentum

Cost, location and lifestyle are just a few reasons.

After working nearly two decades as a paralegal, Ivan Gilbert decided to go to law school — but in a virtual world.

Gilbert personifies the typical student at Concord Law School, a distance learning or online law school. He's older, works full time and wanted his Juris Doctorate without massive debt. He tried traditional law school, but dropped out after his first year.

"I always wanted to go back to law school, so when Concord showed up it seems like a great opportunity to me," Gilbert said.

To capture students like Gilbert, online law schools are expanding rapidly. By most accounts, there are half a dozen viable online law schools; other put the total closer to 12. They are gaining momentum mainly among untraditional law students thanks to their relatively low cost and overall accessibility.

Among them, Concord is the largest with more than 1,500 students attending part time. Other well-known names include Taft Law School, California School of Law and Abraham Lincoln University.

However, there is still debate among scholars as to whether online education is equivalent to its bricks-and-mortar sibling. And some wonder if these students can find jobs similar to those offered to more traditional law-school grads.

Read more in the January issue of The National Jurist here: