Frequently Asked Questions

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What is an Opportunity Law School?

Decades ago, California’s Legislature and Supreme Court recognized the need for an affordable and flexible pathway to become a licensed attorney in California. To do so, the State Bar of California was authorized to govern and regulate a system of non-ABA approved law schools that offer graduates their J.D degree and eligibility to take and pass the California bar examination.

Known as “opportunity law schools” they include California accredited (CALS) and California registered (unaccredited) law schools. They charge far less tuition than any ABA law school and offer evening and weekend classes, with many located in rural and urban communities throughout California. Such law schools offer similar law programs but differ in that some teach on-campus, while others teach online.

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Why Study at a Distance Learning Law School?

A “distance learning” law school is authorized to offer its program of legal education through online, remote teaching and learning. In doing so, the curriculum taught must be modified to meet academic requirements that differ significantly from those of an on-campus, fixed facility program. The benefits of attending a distance learning program includes a significant savings of both time and money in not having to commute to a campus, the flexibility of attending class from home or work, better use of online academic support resources and easier access to professors and classmates.

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What is the Difference between Synchronous and Asynchronous Law Programs?

Thanks to the Internet, law schools now offer students two different forms of instruction. In an “asynchronous” program students are taught law using pre-recorded video lectures. The second method uses interactive, online technology (such as Zoom) to create virtual classrooms that offer students a real-time experience with their professors and fellow students. Which is better? That depends on your personal preference, the way you learn best and your schedule. Law programs that use asynchronous teaching provide students with a more flexible schedule since assigned video lectures can be watched when a student chooses to. However, such programs offer students very limited, if any, opportunity to speak with or learn from their professors directly. In a program offering synchronous classes, as with those in a fixed-facility program, students must attend classes on specific days and times. However, such classes offer teaching that is nearly identical to that in an actual classroom since professors and students spend class together engaged in interactive dialogue, lecture, and discussion.

Thus, if you learn best from being able to meet with, discuss and engage with your professors during class, then attending a program that offers synchronous teaching will be a better choice.

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What is the Difference Between California’s Registered and Accredited Law Schools?

California is the only state that has an independent system of law schools that are not governed and approved (accredited) by the American Bar Association. Decades ago, the California Legislature and Supreme Court created two separate, but related tiers of law schools. The two tiers include California Accredited and California Registered (unaccredited) law schools, both of which share the same mission of offering affordable legal education for those who hope to become a licensed California attorney.

The difference between schools in the different tiers is based upon history and California’s public policy. Historically, California’s Registered law schools were smaller, more urban and charged lower tuition. Also, with the advent of the Internet, all California distance learning law schools (synchronous and asynchronous) once operated only as unaccredited law schools since they were not subject to California accreditation. California accredited schools typically had larger enrollments, and, at one time, could only offer a curriculum consisting of on-campus classes. As a result, they charged higher tuition.

Both tiers of law schools are governed by the same regulator, the State Bar of California’s Committee of Bar Examiners (CBE) which has adopted two sets of rules and guidelines of academic, scholastic, and operational standards schools in each tier must abide by. All such schools are subject to periodic inspections and oversight by the CBE to ensure that each is compliant with their respective regulations.

Finally, the biggest difference between the two tiers of law schools is that students at a registered, unaccredited law schools are required, by law, to take and pass the First Year Law Students’ Examination (FYLSX or the “Baby Bar”) before they may complete their four years of law study to become eligible to take the California Bar Examination. Students at accredited schools are exempt from the FYLSX.

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What limitations exist in earning a J.D. from a Registered or Accredited law school?

The most significant limitation in graduating from a California Accredited or California Registered, unaccredited law school is which bar examination you may take to earn a license to practice law. Graduates of both types of California law schools are, by California law, deemed eligible to take the California Bar Examination. Upon passing and receiving their law license, a graduate of either type of law school may appear and practice in all courts (including federal courts) located in California.

In not graduating from an ABA-approved law school, almost no other state will allow graduates of either a California Accredited or California Registered law school to take their bar examination. Thus, based upon an elitist attitude that only an ABA-approved legal education produces competent and ethical attorneys, all but a handful of states essential bar such graduates from the practice of law.

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Why must ICOL Students take the First Year Law Students Examination (FYLSX)?

In being enrolled in a California Registered, Unaccredited law school, all ICOL students are required, by law to take and pass the First Year Law Students’ Examination (FYLSX), the Baby Bar. The reason this requirement is based on two separate, but related public policy concerns of the California Legislature, each of which is related to public protection. The first is the concern whether each unaccredited law school allowed to operate offers its students a sound program of legal education that will adequately prepare its students to take and pass the California Bar examination. To meet this concern, an unaccredited law school is required to meet scores of academic, scholastic, and operational standards.

The second concern is whether students admitted into an unaccredited law school, after completing a full year of law study, can demonstrate that are capable of someday passing the California Bar Examination. This concern is intended to alert the law school and the student who fails the FYLSX after having three opportunities to pass, that further expenditure of their time and money to remain enrolled is not in their best interest given the extremely low odds that they will pass the Bar Examination.

Based upon these public policy concerns, the FYLSX works to achieve both goals; it keeps law schools like ICOL working hard to maintain and improve its program of legal education, while it helps students realistically evaluate whether the significant investment of their time and money (four years and $40,000) is time and money well spent. While upon passing this significant challenge, ICOL students find themselves better prepared to succeed in completing law school and better prepared for the bar exam.

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What are the advantages to taking and passing the FYLSX?

The key advantages of taking and passing the FYLSX are several. Most importantly, in being required to study, prepare, and then pass the FYLSX, after only one year of law school, ICOL students learn and develop the critical test-taking and time management skills needed to pass the California bar exam (CBX). The FYLSX is modeled after the CBX in using both essay questions and multiple-choice questions to test substantive law. Even though it is only one day, versus two for the CBX (hence the “Baby Bar”), those who pass the FYLSX do so only after a rigorous, muti-week review and self-testing process designed to fill the gaps of in their understanding of the law tested, help them develop and maintain the level concentration needed to say focus for a full day exam and to manage their time effectively, something students who don’t take the FYLSX learn only weeks away from taking the CBX.

Since both the FYLSX and CBX are very different in scope and intensity from of law school exams, being tested that rigorously early in their legal education gives ICOL students real insight into what they will face and need to accomplish to achieve if they someday expect to take and pass the CBX.

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What are the advantages of attending a law school with a small enrollment?

With online legal education, where students and professors see one another only on a Zoom screen, the number of students in an online class is critical in how it is conducted. Being one of 25, 30 or 50+ students on screen is fundamentally different than one with far fewer students. The average size of ICOL classes is often below 10 students. Thus, with fewer students, ICOL professors get to know their students and can conduct class more as a tutorial than one with scores of students. Students get to know their professors and with each other in a smaller online class, which leads to more and better student participation which enhances everyone’s ability to learn. Since such engagement is about the most valuable resources in a law school education, smaller classes help you learn more effectively.

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How does ICOL’s curriculum incorporate online academic support resources?

ICOL’s J.D. curriculum was completely revised, redesigned, and made stronger when it became a distance learning law school. The law school’s dean and faculty spent a lot of time and effort to incorporate the best online academic support resources available to the best law schools in the U.S. The result is that all ICOL courses now incorporate lessons and self-testing exercises found in West Academic’s “CasebookPlus,” CALI (“Computer Assisted Legal Instruction”) and Adaptibar. In each J.D. course syllabus, ICOL students are now assigned weekly “homework” tasks using one or more of these resources to augment what they learn from their professors and their casebooks. To help prepare for their final exams, they also complete tailored assignments using Adaptibar’s multiple choice questions. Thus, when added to their weekly reading assignments and class attendance, all such resources help ICOL students solidify their understanding of what they need to learn to earn good grades and succeed.

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What type of law internships do ICOL students participate in?

As generations of law students have learned, completing an internship that allowed them to perform supervised legal work for practicing attorneys was among their most valuable experiences in law school. Given this history, ICOL encourages its students to complete an internship before graduating. With this support, ICOL students have completed semester-long internships with a wide variety of private and public law offices, including private law firms specializing in family law, workers’ compensation and personal claims, business and employment litigation and with highly respected public interest law offices litigating to protect the rights of the elderly, the disabled and the First Amendment.

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Why is ICOL’s program of legal education considered affordable?

Among the ABA approved and California accredited law schools (CALS), tuition has never been higher. Most ABA law schools now charge over $150,000 to earn a J.D. degree, while many CALS charge at least $80,000. As a result, graduates of such law schools leave with significant sums of debt. That is not the case for those in ICOL’s distance learning program since its current tuition to earn the same J.D. degree is only $40,000 for all four years of its part-time program. Since ICOL students self-finance their legal education, virtually all graduate with little or no tuition student debt.

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Why ICOL could be the right law school for you?

Finding and selecting the right law school is key to every law student’s future success. To find the law school that best meets their needs (financial, work and family), every applicant to any law school must decide what they can afford, how much time they will be able to devote to their law studies and the effect of being enrolled in a rigorous professional educational experience will mean to their lives for the next three or four years.

In offering working adults, professionals, business owners and law enforcement personnel a meaningful pathway to California’s legal profession, ICOL’s part-time, online J.D. program is designed to provide its students with an effective and affordable means to study, learn and succeed. It does so through efficient, shorter real time class sessions (2.5 hours), taught by experienced attorneys dedicated to teaching law. When combined with the state-of-the-art online academic support resources available in far larger and much more expensive law schools, ICOL students have all the educational tools they need, supported by their commitment to work hard, to succeed where they might not elsewhere.

Thus, if you have a similar desire to become a licensed attorney, but have the same professional, financial or family challenges that our many successful graduates and current students have overcome, then, as for each of them, ICOL may be the right law school where you can come, learn and succeed.

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