Mitchell Hamline’s Hybrid Program, the first-ever on-campus/online J.D. program at an ABA-approved law school, has quickly established itself as one of the most remarkable innovations in legal education. Mitchell Hamline was able to develop the program because of philanthropic donations from alumni and friends like Rolf Engh ’82 and Louis Ainsworth ’77. The Hybrid Program makes earning a law degree possible for many students who, because of geographical, career, and life circumstances, cannot attend a traditional on-campus law school.
Melinda McElheny, for example, is a legal assistant to a prosecutor in rural Kansas. Her home is six hours from the nearest law school, so she is earning a J.D. through the Hybrid Program in order to continue her work in legal advocacy. “I want to help people who are in tough spots, but I couldn’t necessarily pick up and move to an urban area to do the law school thing. I’m able to stay in my job, where I already advocate for victims, and then I hope to sort of transition into a private practice.” she said.
Chris Haynes, a hospital system CEO from North Carolina, is getting his law degree in order to make a career change. He’s leaving health care to work as an attorney in DUI and traffic-ticket defense, a shift he says will allow him to make a difference in people’s lives but also give him a better work-life balance. Haynes spent a year in an on-campus law school program but couldn’t make it work with his job responsibilities. The Hybrid Program “was really my only viable way to be successful in completing law school without having to quit my job,” he said.
Kim Aboyure, who lives in Davenport, Iowa, wants to be a champion for families who need legal help. She says the Hybrid Program provides her the “opportunity to earn a J.D. degree from a school known for innovation and academic excellence. As a single mom with ambition to pursue my own life goals, I need a program that allows me to be the best mom I can while pursuing a law degree.”
Mitchell Hamline’s Hybrid Program is growing and garnering favorable press. The second cohort has 96 students, up from 85 in the first group. It was featured as a “prudent innovation” on the New Normal blog on the ABA website and included in the list of “10 most promising innovations in legal education” by preLaw magazine.