Indiana Opens Path to Bar Exam for Online Graduates

The path to becoming an attorney culminates with the bar exam, a test that spans multiple days. Each state places restrictions on who may take its exam. These generally include a requirement that the test taker have graduated from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. So far, the ABA does not accredit online law schools, which means that graduates of these programs cannot take the bar exam in most states. One notable exception to this trend is California. It allows graduates of online law schools to take its bar exam, expanding the pool of potential attorneys.

Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court adjusted the eligibility rules for taking the bar exam. The new rules create a path for graduates of online schools to take the test. More specifically, the State Board of Law Examiners may waive the requirement of graduating from an ABA-accredited law school if the applicant has graduated from a non-accredited law school and was eligible to take the bar exam of another state. (Since California allows online graduates to take its test, the rule implicitly covers this group.) The Board must find that the prospective test taker is qualified due to their education or experience to take the Indiana bar exam.

Someone seeking a waiver must submit certain materials to the Board. Among other things, these include transcripts from undergraduate education and law school, bar exam results from their law school, and a statement describing their legal education and training, work history, and reasons why they should get a waiver. The Board will grant a waiver if this would serve the public interest, considering factors such as the educational history and work history of the applicant and any bar exam results from other states. The Indiana Supreme Court will review the Board’s decision.

The change to the rules takes effect on July 1, so the first exam for which a test taker may receive a waiver is the February 2025 bar exam. Advocates for the change hope that it improves the availability of lawyers in rural areas of Indiana.

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