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Online Law Grad Leaps Another Hurdle

Remember Ross E. Mitchell? He is the graduate of the wholly online Concord Law School who made history last November by becoming the first graduate of an online, unaccredited law school to win permission to take the bar exam in a state outside California. Well, now he has made history again.

As we reported in November, when Mitchell first applied to take the Massachusetts exam, he was turned down, based on the state's rule that applicants be graduates of law schools accredited by the American Bar Association. He sued the state Board of Bar Examiners, contending that the rule was unconstitutional as applied to him or, alternatively, seeking waiver of the rule in his case. In a decision issued on Nov. 20, Mitchell v. Board of Bar Examiners, the state Supreme Judicial Court held that Mitchell was entitled to a waiver of the rule, clearing the way for him to take the bar exam.

Mitchell took the exam and passed it. That means, as The National Law Journal and the Boston Herald report this week, that the 57-year-old is now the first online law school graduate to be admitted to the Massachusetts bar. He was already admitted in California, which is the only state that officially permits Concord graduates to apply for admission to the bar.

When the SJC decided to allow Mitchell to sit for the bar in Mass., it emphasized that its decision to grant a waiver was confined to the unique circumstances of his case. The court cited a number of factors personal to him, including that he had been admitted to practice both in California and before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, had a stellar academic record and was valedictorian of his class, had scored well on the California bar exam and on the MPRE, and, through his representation of himself in his own case, had provided a "positive illustration of his skills."

"There’s an old expression that says the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client," Mitchell told the Boston Herald. "But the court said in its opinion that the fact that I represented myself gave them the ability to observe my skills firsthand." Having now twice made legal history, Mitchell's fledgling legal career is off to one heck of a start.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 25, 2009 at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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