little-known and lightly regulated online school is offering students a three-year degree in the law with just one catch: They won’t be allowed to be lawyers af...
little-known and lightly regulated online school is offering students a three-year degree in the law with just one catch: They won’t be allowed to be lawyers after they graduate.
BuzzFeed News Reporter
Updated on October 31, 2019, at 9:52 p.m.
Posted on October 31, 2019, at 10:12 a.m.
What if you spent three years in law school, taking classes in contracts, torts, and constitutional law, and paying more than $11,000 a year, but — here’s the twist — at the end of it you weren't a lawyer? That's what a small number of online law schools are offering with a degree called the Executive Juris Doctor.
The schools explain upfront that students won't be eligible to practice law but can use their “advanced legal training in one of the many law-related areas.” Yet many students find that what seems like it could be a leg up amounts to little more than an expensive education in the difference one letter makes.
“I finished July 26 and am looking for a job.
I could scream because instead of getting a JD degree qualifying me to take the California Bar, I settled for the underdog degree, EJD.
This is a non-bar attorney degree.
No one knows what the f--- it is and trying to describe it makes you look like a goddamned fool.
Yeah, I screwed myself it appears,” Copperas Cove, Texas, resident Brenda Cuney told BuzzFeed News.
In 2019, Cuney received her degree from Concord Law School, an unaccredited online law school based in Los Angeles, which since 2018 has been part of Purdue University Global, the online arm of the public university in Indiana.
She took out the full cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses in student loans, hoping that after she graduated she would land a solid paralegal position.
Concord’s website promised to “enhance your career by developing legal expertise.” But in the end, she was left with a degree few — if any — employers recognized, no more of an ability to become a paralegal than when she started, and more than $60,000 in loans (on top of existing debt for her bachelor’s degree).
She now works as a substitute teacher, earning roughly $80 per day.
And even though Concord was clear with Cuney about the limitations of the program, legal experts aren’t clear why the program is offered at all.
There’s no such thing as an Executive Dentist’s degree, after all (at least that we know of) — where students take dental classes but can’t become dentists.
Concord’s EJD program seems built to take advantage of prospects like Cuney — admitting applicants whose test scores are too low for Concord’s JD program, but charging them almost the same tuition to attend the same classes taught by the same instructors, sitting in many of the same online rooms with JD students.
The only difference? EJD students like Cuney won’t be allowed to become attorneys at the end of the program.
"It is definitely a made-up thing.”
And while few in the legal education community have heard of the EJD, those whom BuzzFeed News contacted raised concerns about whether the school was exploiting students like Cuney by offering the degree.
Bob Shireman, formerly deputy undersecretary of education for then-president Barack Obama and now senior fellow and director of higher education excellence at the Century Foundation, said, “I asked my wife, who is a lawyer, and one of my colleagues [about the EJD] and they were like, what? That seems misleading.
I looked at the [Law School Admission Council] list of types of law degrees, and it’s not there.
There’s JD, LLM, legal certificate programs, MS.
It is definitely a made-up thing.”
“When I turned 50, I realized I really haven't done anything of what I wanted to do, and maybe I should think about going back to school,” Cuney said.
In 2012, Cuney, who has been working in risk management at a Temple, Texas, hospital, enrolled in a bachelor’s program at Kaplan, after which she contemplated earning a Master of Legal Science degree.
“Then I thought, well if I’m going to do that, then why don’t I go to law school?” She looked at online JD programs, as she still had to balance school with work.
“At the time that I was looking at it and researching it, I didn't know a lot about accreditation versus non-accreditation of law schools.
And I certainly didn't know about the EJD.”
Within a few days of taking a Concord-administered exam that it calls a “mini-LSAT,” which it requires of both its JD and EJD applicants in lieu of the standard LSAT exam, Cuney was informed she had been accepted into Concord’s EJD program instead of the JD.
Concord Law School / Via concordlawschool.edu
“Well, my heart sunk.
My thought was, apparently you're stupid.
You're not cut out to go to the JD is what they're trying to tell you.” (Concord confirmed that its EJD program requires lower scores on the exam than its JD does.)
Looking back, she feels like she “just kind of got coaxed and talked into doing this EJD program.”
Cuney’s experience does not seem to have been unique to her.
In one online review, a former student said, “In my opinion, we EJD students were viewed as lesser, JD unqualified and JD wanna-be students.” Another student who planned to drop out of the program wrote, “I study a modified version of the JD track and could earn a degree of uncertain value after three years...I will get as much by reading them on my own.”
In 2015, Cuney took out the full cost of attendance in federal student loans and enrolled.