Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center.

 

Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center this fall will launch New York’s first hybrid J.D.

The new FlexTime J.D., as the program is dubbed, combines online and in-person classes and can be completed just under four years. It’s an alternative to the Long Island school’s more traditional day and evening part-time programs.

FlexTime J.D. students will take online classes year round for the first two years of the program. During that time, they will attend classes on the Long Island campus every other Sunday. Much of the remaining two years of the program’s coursework can be completed online.

“It’s designed for people with challenging schedules,” said Jack Graves, director of digital learning at the law school.

Because the bulk of the coursework can be completed online at the students’ convenience, the FlexTime J.D. is a good option for a stay-at-home parent or a police officer who works the night shift, among others with family and work commitments that make frequent campus visits difficult, Graves said.

“The hybrid approach lets you take advantage of meeting the individual learner online, wherever he or she is, and custom-tailoring the content delivery then bringing everybody together in the same time and place when they are all prepared,” he said.

A growing number of law schools are looking online to expand their offerings. Many now offer fully online LL.M. programs. But the American Bar Association restricts the number of credit hours J.D. students may earn through online classes.

Mitchell Hamline School of Law launched the nation’s first hybrid J.D. program in 2015. Students in that program take online classes, then convene on campus for several weeks of hands-on training. (Mitchell Hamline received a variance from the ABA that lets students to take more online classes than the current rule allows for.)

Since then, Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Seton Hall University School of Law have added part-time J.D. programs that incorporate online and weekend classes. Officials at Syracuse University College of Law have said they plan to offer an online J.D., but the ABA last summer rejected the school’s initial proposal.

Touro’s new program is slightly different from Loyola and Seton Hall’s because students will only take in-person classes on Sundays and the campus component will be year-round, rather than taking classes over the entire weekend for nine months of the year, Graves said.

“Touro observes Shabbat, so Saturday classes aren’t going to happen here,” he said. “We decided to look at it as at opportunity rather than a hurdle. We decided to do just Sunday classes. The idea is: Saturdays are for you and your family, and you give us every other Sunday.”

The Sunday classes will allow the program to meet the ABA’s distance learning rules without requiring special permission, Graves said.

The school hopes to enroll about 45 students in the initial cohort this fall. The FlexTime J.D. costs approximately $40,320 a year, and the school is now accepting applications. Applicants are required to meet the same admissions requirements as those applying to the school four and five-year part-time programs.

“We’re really excited about the program,” Graves said. “We’re going to give some people the opportunity to access law school when they otherwise couldn’t. It’s also a good opportunity for us to continue to learn better how to use online pedagogy and technology to improve legal education generally.”