Juris Doctor-Attorney Track℠ Independent Study Program
Taft Law School offers two distinctive Juris Doctor Programs which will qualify its graduates for the California Bar Examination. This section of the website describes the program that includes independent study courses. (Information on the Juris Doctor-Attorney Track℠ Program that includes telecommunications courses can be found HERE.)
As a result of Taft Law School’s compliance with specific rules established by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California (CBE) and the California Supreme Court, graduates of the Juris Doctor-Attorney Track℠ Program (hereinafter the JDAT℠ Program) become eligible to sit for the California Bar Examination.
Students enrolling in this Program have many different career or personal goals. Many intend to practice law, but equal numbers elect to enter private enterprise or devote their lives to public service. Regardless of the career plans of graduates, a major objective of this Program is to prepare students for the California Bar Examination. Individuals who do not desire admission to the Bar should consider enrolling in the School’s Juris Doctor-Executive Track℠ Program.
According to the reference guide Survey of Law Economics (Altman Weil Publications, Inc.), in recent years studies have disclosed the average attorney will bill in excess of 1,700 hours per year. With billing rates often exceeding $200 per hour, the income potential is outstanding. While individuals who enter the legal profession enjoy excellent earning possibilities, they also have important professional as well as ethical responsibilities. Many become leaders in charitable and political organizations or contribute time to social and constitutional issues. Many law school graduates use their legal knowledge in areas outside the legal profession. Accountants, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, educators, and many others have found legal training to be beneficial in their daily activities as well as increasing their career opportunities.
Due to regulatory changes, Taft Law School is not accepting for admission, applicants who reside in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The Program utilizes a directed independent study learning modality requiring no classroom or seminar attendance. Prior students have resided in all regions of the United States as well as in Asia and Europe.
The Program requires four years of study. Each year consists of a period of time of not less than 48 nor more than 52 consecutive weeks. While materials and instruction are presented in a non-traditional manner, it is an objective of the School to maintain criteria comparable to resident law programs with respect to program content and academic standards.
Instructional Policies and Methods
In the Juris Doctor - Attorney Track℠ Independent Study Program, all students are provided with a syllabus for each of the year’s courses containing expected student learning outcomes, required materials, lesson assignments and examination procedures.
Although students are provided with recommended weekly lesson assignments, the timing of the completion of these assignments within the 48 to 52 week academic year generally lies with the student. This format allows maximum flexibility in allocating time between a student’s academic, professional, and personal life.
While faculty and counseling services are available, this Program does not provide for the regular and substantive interaction with faculty required in Taft Law School's telecommunications courses. The Program utilizes materials available at virtually every elite law school in the United States. While most courses in this Program utilize "casebooks," of equal importance are treatises, outlines, and audio lectures. These lectures are presented by some of the most prestigious law professors in the United States.
The Program encourages students to emphasize the study methods he or she finds most beneficial. The “busy work” found in many programs offered by other schools has been eliminated.
Midterm examinations are reviewed by the law school’s faculty and returned to the student with comments. After evaluation of a student’s midterm examinations, the student is provided with a suggested review program. (The last month of each academic year is reserved for review.) Depending on a student’s relative strengths and weaknesses, this review could include preparing complete answers to selected prior bar examination questions or, if the student is strong in writing skills, preparing an outlined analysis of prior bar questions in addition to a review of the substantive law.
Certain assignments require the use of the Lexis Advance® online library. (Students have access to Lexis Advance® through the Internet with no hourly usage charges.) This library, which includes online tutorials, can be accessed through a personal computer from any location that has Internet access. The service contains major archives of United States federal and state case law, continuously updated statutes of all 50 states, state and federal regulations, administrative rulings, law review articles, and numerous other legal resources.
The Program also offers optional real-time Electronic Classroom sessions.
As a general rule, the final examination grade constitutes approximately 50% of the course grade. Given between the 45th and 52nd week of each student’s academic year, final examinations generally consist of essay and multiple choice questions patterned after prior California Bar Examination Questions. Examinations can be administered at over 200 locations.
Admission Policies and Requirements
Consistent with Taft Law School’s stated Mission of providing educational opportunities to individuals who are mature adults, employed on a full-time basis, or for whom place of residence or travel requirements are constraining factors, the School has instituted four classifications of applicants. All admission decisions are made without regards to sex, race, color, ancestry, religious creed, national origin, disability, medical condition, age, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
Applicants who have earned a bachelor's degree or higher from a college or university accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education generally qualify as regular applicants. The majority of applicants to this Program are mature adults working in a variety of professional settings. Many have not attended college for several years. Consequently, prior class rank and grade point average are not significant factors in the admission process.
Individuals who do not qualify as a regular applicant, may apply as a special applicant. Special applicants must, at a minimum, satisfy the standards established by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California with respect to pre-legal education. In the past, special applicants have represented less than five percent of total Program admissions.
By definition, a special admissions policy considers each applicant on a case-by-case basis. Other than the minimum threshold mandated by the Committee of Bar Examiners, the School has not developed any pre-established criteria for special admissions. In the admission of special applicants, the major consideration is whether the applicant has the ability to succeed in the Program and if the applicant will benefit from the Program. Special admission policies have historically served valuable social purposes.
All special applicants must be interviewed by a faculty member and provide supplemental application information. (The interview can either take place in the School’s offices or via telephone.) The recommendation of the faculty member and the approval of the Dean or Associate Dean are required for admission.
Applicants Educated Outside of the United States
It is necessary for applicants holding earned degrees from colleges or universities outside of the United States to obtain an evaluation of their education from a credential evaluation service approved by the State Bar of California. Upon request, the School’s Admissions Office will provide a list of approved evaluators.
In addition, applicants whose native language is not English and who have not earned a degree from an accredited institution where English is the principal language of instruction must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum score for the paper based version is 550 or the equivalent.
Taft Law School welcomes applications from students seeking to transfer from other law schools. Applicants seeking advanced standing should submit a transcript of all previous law study along with the Application for Admission Form. All prospective transfer students are individually evaluated for purposes of awarding transfer credit. Among the factors considered in such an evaluation are the grades of the applicant in law courses completed, the law school where the courses were completed, and the period of time since the courses were completed.
All applicants who wish to be admitted as second, third, or fourth year students as well as some prospective second year students must obtain an evaluation from the Committee of Bar Examiners of past studies and proposed studies.
Taft Law School admission representatives will assist transfer students in the preparation of a proposed plan of study.
Rules of the State Bar of California
Students who plan to sit for the California Bar Examination must comply with a complex set of rules established by the Committee of Bar Examiners. A Summary of the Requirements for Admission to Practice Law in California may be found HERE. In addition to the academic requirements established by Taft Law School, students must successfully complete the First Year Law Students’ Examination ("Baby Bar") after their first year of study. This exam, given by the Committee of Bar Examiners each year in June and October, covers the first year subjects of Contracts/UCC, Criminal Law, and Torts. Normally, testing sites are located in both Northern and Southern California. The examination cannot be taken at any other location. To obtain a complete copy of the State Bar rules, write the Committee of Bar Examiners, 845 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017-2515 and request a copy of the Rules of the State Bar of California, Title 4 Division 1, or phone them at (213) 765-1500.
The professional degree of Juris Doctor is awarded to those students in the Program who have fulfilled all of the following requirements:
Satisfactory completion of 96 units within a period of not more than seven years with at least 24 units completed at Taft ;
Cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.00 or higher in Taft courses; and
Completion and submission of the School’s Program Evaluation Form.
The following courses are required for the Juris Doctor-Attorney Track℠ Independent Study Program.
First Year Unit Total: 24
Second Year Unit Total: 24
Third Year Unit Total: 24
Fourth Year Unit Total: 24
Total Units Required: 96
Admission to Practice in a State Other Than California
Most states require graduation from a law school approved by the American Bar Association or approved or accredited by that state’s Supreme Court or examining committee as a prerequisite to taking the bar examination in that state. The School has not previously sought approval from the American Bar Association and has no plans to seek such approval in the future.
California is the only state which will accept graduation from a distance education law school as the qualifying standard for admission to their bar examination. However, some states will permit graduates from non-ABA schools to sit for their bar examination after a California attorney has practiced for a period of time (generally five years). Applicants who intend to seek admission in a state other than California should consult the admitting authority in that state to determine if study at this school will be accepted.
The tuition for the JDAT℠ Program is $365.00 per unit ($8,760.00 per year). Tuition rates are "locked" for four years at the time of matriculation. An enrolled student will be protected from future tuition increases during this period of time. Additional information on financial aid and tuition financing can be found under Financial Aid.
All of the fees on this schedule are non-refundable.
The cost of required books and materials, other than each course’s syllabus, is not included in the tuition. The current average annual costs for these materials is approximately $1500.00 (somewhat greater in the first year). Most books and materials may be purchased through any legal bookstore. However, students will always be provided with mail and/or online sources for obtaining any required materials. Taft Law School does not sell books or study aids.
This link leads to a page that includes information related to this Program required to be provided to interested parties by the United States Department of Education. That page discusses Gainful Employment information regarding the cost of the Program, the financing of the Program, and student success in the Program. Taft Law School administration and faculty recommend that students and prospective students carefully review this information in conjunction with the School’s General Catalog and the Catalog Supplement for this Program as well as the The Taft University System Consumer Guide Catalog Supplement and the Faculty Catalog Supplement.
How to Enroll
To apply for admission to the Juris Doctor Attorney Track℠ Independent Study Program, an applicant must first complete Taft Law School’s Application for Admission form and submit it to the Admissions Office. There is no application fee.
Applicants seeking transfer credit for courses completed at other law schools must also provide, via mail, a transcript documenting all prior law study and a check in the amount of $100.00.
It is not necessary to submit official transcripts at the time of application. However, official transcripts must be received by the School and the Committee of Bar Examiners within 45 days of enrollment. The School provides students with a form which may be used for this purpose.
If the applicant is accepted for admission to the Program, an enrollment commitment form will be prepared and sent to the applicant. At the time the commitment material and the $100.00 commitment fee are received by the Admissions Office, a formal enrollment agreement will be prepared and sent to the applicant for review and signature. All payments submitted for tuition and fees must be payable in U.S. dollars. Payments may be made by major credit cards (MasterCard® / Visa® / American Express®) or personal/business checks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What books and other materials are utilized in the Program?
A. Taft Law School students use many of the same casebooks and textbooks as students at traditional universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and other American Bar Association approved law schools. In addition, Taft students benefit from professionally prepared course outlines, law summaries, and recorded lectures.
Q. Does Taft Law School use the "case method" of study in the Program?
A. The case method, also often referred to as the Socratic method, is a method of learning first implemented by in the early 20th century by Harvard and Columbia law schools. The case method requires students examine ("brief") and discuss actual court decisions. In recent years a growing number of legal educators have expressed dissatisfaction with this model. In 2007 the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education released a report which recommended sweeping changes in how law was taught. These recommendations included de-emphasizing the case method of instruction.
While the Carnegie report questioned the value of the case method in classroom programs, our experience has shown that it has even less value in a distance learning program. Historically the greater emphasis a distance law school places on the case method, the lower the bar examination pass rate. Most Taft Law School courses utilize "casebooks," but of equal importance are treatises, outlines, recorded lectures and other study aids.
Q. How are grades and final examinations handled?
A. In required courses, there are no lengthy research or term papers. As a general rule, the final examination grade constitutes approximately 50% of the course grade. Final examinations, which must be proctored, generally consist of essay and multiple-choice questions patterned after prior California Bar Examination questions. The examinations are written and graded by faculty with years of experience in grading bar examination style questions.
Q. What type of preparation is advisable for the study of law?
A. Successful law students - and outstanding attorneys - have come from all walks of life and educational backgrounds. Consequently, Taft Law School does not prescribe a specific course of study or employment experience for admission. Any person who has the ability to learn, is well motivated, has reasonable writing skills, and possesses a logical mind has the basic tools necessary to become a successful Taft student and attorney.
Q. Can the JDAT℠ Program be completed in less than four years?
A. No. The Program is designed to meet the requirements of the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California. The Program consists of four academic years. The final examinations are taken during the 11th or 12th month of each academic year. For example, a student commencing study on July 1st of this year would take final examinations in May and June of next year.
Q. Can a student take more than 4 years to complete the JDAT℠ Program?
A. Yes. A student may take a leave of absence between academic years. However, once study has commenced, the academic year must be completed within the 48 to 52 week time period unless special authorization is obtained from the School. All degree requirements must be satisfied within seven years from the date of original enrollment.
Q. How soon do I need to select an area of specialization?
A. A common misconception about law school is that students must specialize in particular areas of the law while pursuing the first law degree. The volume of basic material essential to professional competence and required to pass the bar examination is too great to allow specialization within the Program. A major focus is to prepare students for the California Bar Examination. For attorneys wishing to specialize in particular areas of the law, the Continuing Education of the Bar and many private organizations offer hundreds of outstanding programs annually.
Q. What financial aid is available?
A. Special grants-in-aid are available to outstanding prospects such as graduate degree holders and certain members of professional groups such as CPA’s and law enforcement personnel. These grants-in-aid are generally equal to 5% to 10% of the tuition. The School also offers a no-interest financing alternative which permits students to pay approximately 30% of tuition at the time of enrollment and the balance over a 12 month period. However, students enrolled in this Program are not eligible to apply for federally insured student loans.
Q. What are a graduate’s chances of passing the California Bar Examination after completing the JDAT℠ Program?
A. Very good. The overwhelming majority of candidates who regularly sit for the Bar Examination ultimately pass. An objective of the School is to provide the student with the educational background necessary to qualify to sit for the examination and the skills necessary to pass the examination in the shortest possible time. The study of law is a personal commitment and the success on the Bar Examination is directly related to the degree of that commitment and the prior experiences of the student. Many Taft graduates have passed the examination on the first attempt.
Q. How soon can I get started?
A. For this Program, Taft Law School maintains open enrollment throughout the year. After submission of an Application for Admission form, approved applicants are sent enrollment materials for their review and signature. Should the Admissions Office have any questions, the applicant will be contacted. Applications are reviewed weekly and most students commence study within three weeks from the date of application.
Q. Is there ever a need to come to California?
A. Only for the bar examinations. Academic and administrative procedures are carefully designed so that students can complete all requirements for graduation entirely through distance education without unreasonably disrupting their professional or family lives. Students may elect to take final examinations at the School or at over 363 approved testing sites. If a testing site is not convenient to a student, procedures are in place for the student to nominate a proctor.