Bar review leader BARBRI acquires iLawVentures, LLC, pioneer in legal education distance learning

From PRNewswire:

DALLASJuly 10, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Legal education provider BARBRI today announced its acquisition of iLawVentures, LLC, the leading provider of online J.D., post-J.D. and international programs for law schools in the U.S. This acquisition brings together two industry pioneers and creates an unmatched set of end-to-end educational solutions for the U.S. law school market.

BARBRI has, since 2011, partnered with a growing number of law schools to offer curriculum, faculty training, and assessment. With the addition of iLaw, the company can now also offer a robust, proven legal education distance learning platform. The iLaw leadership team, headed by founder Ken Randall, J.S.D, will remain in place, offering a breadth of expertise and experience in legal distance learning education that will be leveraged across BARBRI’s core curriculum offerings, bar review and cyber products.

“As the world changes, so does the way we learn.  Law schools today are taking a much more holistic view of the entire legal education lifecycle from admissions and student assessments to faculty training and ultimately bar passage,” Stephen Fredette, BARBRI CEO said. “BARBRI and iLaw together offer a powerful portfolio of solutions that meets the needs of both law schools and their students at every phase.”

Prior to the transaction, iLaw had venture capital backing from Inspiras. iLaw’s portfolio encompasses J.D. content, post-J.D. graduate programs, strategic consulting for law schools, and international programs. iLaw has worked with over 20 percent of ABA-accredited law schools, including private schools such as Boston UniversityVanderbiltEmory and Baylor, and public schools such as Texas A&M and Illinois.

“We’re extremely excited to become a part of BARBRI,” Randall said. “Both companies have a shared commitment to helping law schools train and produce great lawyers, and we are confident that the combination of BARBRI’s skills-focused curriculum and iLaw’s substance-focused curriculum creates a compelling value proposition for our customers.”

About The BARBRI Group

The BARBRI Group companies meet the legal education needs of law students and attorneys throughout their careers. At the core of The BARBRI Group Companies is BARBRI Bar Review, which has helped more than 1.3 million U.S. lawyers pass the exam. The company also provides specialized ongoing skills training and certifications in areas such as financial crime, eDiscovery, and cyber awareness, security and protection. The BARBRI Group affiliated companies work to improve legal and professional learning in the United States and around the world by providing superior opportunities for law schools and law firms, as well as law- and finance-related businesses to prosper. Founded in 1967, The BARBRI Group is headquartered in Dallas with offices throughout the United States and around the world.

How distance learning is changing legal education

iLaw’s Founder, Ken Randall, was quoted extensively in the Spring 2017 edition of National Jurist.

(from “How distance education is changing legal education”, by Jack Crittenden)

“We help schools with course coverage,” said Randall, who helped start one of the first online LL.M. programs when he was dean at University of Alabama. “If you are in a smaller metropolitan region and want to teach international law courses, such as international human rights, we help deliver that curriculum.”

iLawVentures aims to hire the best teachers and create online courses that are then offered to its law school clients. Each school decides which course or courses it wants to offer to its students. If selected, the faculty member becomes an adjunct professor at that school, and he or she abides by the school’s policies, in order to be in compliance with ABA rules.

Read more here


Online law degrees flourish under tight supervision

Hybrid courses offer face-to-face and internet-enabled classes

(Excerpted from The Financial Times, November 20, 2016 by Ian Wylie)

A year’s tuition fees at Harvard Law School for its juris doctor degree — a graduate legal qualification — is $59,550. Housing, insurance, books, supplies and other expenses are likely to push that closer to $90,000. Even the tuition fees at less prestigious — but good — schools can be around $40,000 a year.

It is little wonder, then, that online, distance or hybrid law programmes are now being mooted as a more accessible option for would-be lawyers unable to afford the in-person campus courses…

“US legal education is at the intersection of a historic downturn in traditional applicants and the upsurge of high-quality distance education optionalities,” says Ken Randall, who served as dean at the University of Alabama School of Law for 20 years.

“US law schools can, and should, be reaching new and non-traditional students, whether preparing them for a full-time practice of law or enriching their lives and adding value to their careers in diverse professions. It’s right that accreditation is aimed at protecting consumers, but regulations must advance creativity and new ways of delivering quality education to diverse student groups.”

Mr Randall is a founder of Aspen-iLaw Distance Education, which provides online learning platforms to around a fifth of accredited law schools in the US. “For some law schools, online education is still a novelty,” he says. “But there’s an important role for online education in training the next generation of lawyers. Since their law practice will be technology-centered, their legal education should also optimise technology.”

In the US, the number of applicants and enrollments to law schools entered a downward spiral in 2011. Early indicators suggest 2016 may halt that decline, but it will not turn the tide. Last month, Indiana Tech University announced it would close its law school, with $20m losses, less than a year after it was provisionally accredited by the ABA. “The significant decline in law school applicants nationwide represents a long-term shift in the legal education field, not a short-term one,” explained the university’s president, Arthur Snyder.

Even elite law schools like Yale, Harvard and Stanford may need to explore and serve new markets for their legal education, before someone else does. “Law schools still using a pedagogy developed at Harvard almost a century and a half ago are slow to embrace change of any sort,” says Michele Pistone, professor of law at Villanova University and co-author of “Disrupting Law School”, a report published this year by the Clayton Christensen Institute. “Many law professors look upon technological change with about the same enthusiasm as they have for getting a tooth pulled.”

But according to David Amos, associate dean at the City Law School, University of London — which offers a distance learning LLM (master of law) in international business law — online programmes enable law schools to reach entirely new markets. “It allows us the possibility of addressing a broader audience both geographically and in terms of the profile of the students,” says Mr Amos.

“Students who can’t come to this country for visa or other reasons can now take our courses. Similarly, students in this country who would have difficulty in attending a face-to-face course for work or family reasons will now have more options open to them. They allow law courses to become more accessible.”

Technology also enables faculty to have an individual relationship with the student. “You’re able to monitor whether a student has accessed and engaged with the material. You can also check their progress by quizzes, tests and so on. This allows us to spot areas of concern and address them.”

Wolters Kluwer Legal Education and iLawVentures Collaborate to Expand Digital Education Offerings for U.S. Law Schools

June 13, 2016 – Wolters Kluwer’s Legal Education group and iLawVentures today announced the launch of Aspen-iLaw Distance Education, a collaboration to advance high quality online education for U.S. law schools.  The initiative will enable law school students from any part of the country or world to access the highest quality courses and lecturers online as part of their degree programs.


Wolters Kluwer’s Legal Education business, in continuous operation for more than forty years under the Aspen imprint, is a highly regarded publisher of textbooks and other instructional materials in the U.S. law school market. Through its Connected Casebook technology, Wolters Kluwer has in recent years helped shift hundreds of classrooms nationwide into a blended digital/print instructional mode. iLaw, founded in 2012, is the leading provider of high quality online course content for law schools seeking to expand their J.D. course catalog or diversify their portfolio of graduate programs.  In bringing together the market leaders in instructional content development and digitally based instructional delivery, this new collaboration will help ensure that all U.S. law schools have access to a tested, scalable method of expanding learning opportunities for their students.


Aspen-iLaw Distance Education will provide solutions for law schools for both J.D. and non-J.D. (LL.M., M.Jur., certificate) courses.  Aspen-iLaw Distance Education’s J.D. catalog, currently consisting of 17 classes, including Business Organizations, Mergers & Acquisitions, Sports Law and Securities Regulation, enables law schools to offer online courses that are not otherwise available to their students.  All classes are delivered to students under the management of and in compliance with the academic policies of the law school that secures iLaw’s services.


Aspen-iLaw Distance Education’s LL.M. offering enables law schools to shift existing LL.M. programs from traditional delivery modes to digital approaches that can reach students, both nationally and around the world. The program advances the mission of many schools to expand their base beyond J.D. enrollments and into graduate programs for lawyers and other professionals.


Wolters Kluwer and iLaw will collaborate on several aspects of both the J.D. and non-J.D. programs, including instructor and author recruitment, instructional delivery and promotion.


According to Vikram Savkar, General Manager of Wolters Kluwer Legal Education, “Law schools are actively looking to take advantage of digital modes of instruction in order to expand the range of courses that their students have access to.  iLaw has built a successful track record in providing a simple and reliable solution to this need.  Wolters Kluwer is delighted to provide expertise and resources that will help to expand the program further, ensuring that law schools will have a robust long-term partner in their innovation efforts.”


Ken Randall, Founder and CEO of iLaw, said, “iLaw is proud to join with Wolters Kluwer Legal Education in expanding opportunities for law schools to complement their existing residential programs with high quality online offerings. iLaw already provides online solutions to nearly 20% of all ABA accredited law schools, and there are invaluable synergies between our two businesses. Excellence is at the core of both enterprises, and this collaboration further strengthens the accessibility of inclusive and cutting-edge legal training.”





About Aspen-iLaw Distance Education

Aspen-iLaw Distance Education is a co-branded program managed by iLaw in conjunction with Wolters Kluwer Legal Education. Law schools interested in exploring the Aspen-iLaw Distance Education program should visit For more information about Wolters Kluwer’s Legal Education group, visit For more information about iLawVentures, visit


About iLawVentures

Established by Ken Randall, a former dean of Alabama School of Law, who has nearly 30 years of experience in legal education, iLaw partners with accredited law schools to create, market, deliver, monitor, and operate high quality online programs and courses. iLaw has partnered with nearly 40 public and private law schools and also has delivered academic content to select international markets. iLaw is the market leader in online education solutions for the law school market. For more information about iLaw, including course availability and non/post-J.D. collaboration, visit


About Wolters Kluwer

Wolters Kluwer N.V. (AEX: WKL) is a global leader in information services and solutions for professionals in the health, tax and accounting, risk and compliance, finance and legal sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services. Wolters Kluwer reported 2015 annual revenues of €4.2 billion. The company, headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands, serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries and employs 19,000 people worldwide. Wolters Kluwer shares are listed on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices. Wolters Kluwer has a sponsored Level 1 American Depositary Receipt program. The ADRs are traded on the over-the-counter market in the U.S. (WTKWY). For more information about our solutions and organization, visit, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.


Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory is a division of Wolters Kluwer, serving customers around the world with expert information solutions, software, and services in the areas of law, business, and regulatory compliance. Customers of Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory include law firms, corporate law departments, business compliance professionals, corporate legal counsel, legal educators, universities, libraries, and government agencies.

Can This Tech Company Save Legal Education?

Note: Excerpted from Brian Sheppard’s article on Bloomberg BNA. 

By Brian Sheppard, Associate Professor at Seton Hall University School of Law

Everyone knows that the number of people attending law school is down, but fewer people know that, in response, law school faculties are shrinking too. Many law schools have dialed down their efforts to hire new faculty and dialed up their efforts to convince existing law professors to retire. While this “right-sizing” effort might be economically sensible, it has given rise to a new problem: law schools are finding it harder to offer all of the classes that they used to.

No matter how small law schools get, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) accreditation standards require them to offer “substantial instruction” in diverse areas such as substantive law, legal reasoning, writing, and the history and values of the profession. Adding to the pressure, many law students arrive at school with dreams of entering particular areas and expect that the law school will provide suitable preparation for those fields. Courses in international human rights, health care compliance, and admiralty might not appeal to everyone, but they are vital to those who plan to enter those fields.

Two conditions need to be satisfied in order for a law school class to happen: a lecturer competent to teach it and a critical mass of students enrolled in it. Some classes are sure bets. Almost all of the classes taken in the first-year of law school are mandatory, and several upper-level classes are practically required because employers or bar examiners expect students to take them. Because of the predictable demand for these classes, law schools have a ready supply of full-time law professors who are prepared to teach them.

The challenge comes from the many important courses that are highly specialized. These days, there are fewer full-time law professors ready to handle them and fewer students interested in taking them. In our right-sized era, staffing problems (trouble finding a ready — and willing — lecturer) and enrollment problems (trouble getting enough students in a class to make it worthwhile) will be more commonplace. A law school facing both problems with a course will likely drop it from their offerings. If this happens too often, however, that school might run afoul of the ABA standard or alienate law students and potential applicants. What can be done?

Enter iLaw, a tech company that specializes in online legal education. Their idea is simple: use technology to connect law schools to a stable of top law professors who have expertise in the courses they need. For a law school that faces both a staffing and an enrollment problem with a course, iLaw provides an expert who can fill the lecturing gap as well as the ability to pool students from various other law schools in order to make a full class.

Suppose a law school recently lost its sports law expert due to retirement, and there are no lawyers or teachers in the area who could serve as a worthy adjunct substitute. Suppose further that enrollment for the Sports Law course had been on the decline, but there are still three students who want to take it so that they can pursue their dream of becoming sports agents. With iLaw, the school can delegate its sports law teaching to an expert in the iLaw network, and in turn iLaw can create an online class of appropriate size by bringing enrolled students from other similarly situated law schools together. The law school pays iLaw for the course.

Given the trends at work in the academy, iLaw might be arriving on the scene at just the right time. Ken Randall, iLaw’s CEO, cut his teeth on online education while serving as Dean of the University of Alabama Law School. In an interview, he said that Alabama’s substantial climb in the rankings during his tenure came, in part, from an aggressive effort to create an online LLM (a masters degree in law) program. Before going online, the Alabama LLM program was $500K in the red, but after switching to internet delivery, the program generated a $1M surplus. Randall understands the revenue potential with online, and with iLaw he has set his sights on the bread-and-butter of law schools: JD courses.

Randall believes that broadband technology is mature enough to provide a high quality internet-based law school experience. Participating students log into an iLaw class in the same way that they would an online course delivered by their home law school. During a synchronous (live) class, the student will see the professor lecturing on her monitor. On the other side, the professor will see up to 6 students selected at random on her monitor, as well as an enlarged picture whenever any student chooses to chime in by speaking into her microphone. In addition, an iLaw staff member watches every minute of every synchronous class to spot any technical issues that might arise. iLaw has posted a lengthy and detailed list of best practices, many of which seek to guarantee a high degree of interactivity. For example, professors “will initiate interaction with students at least once every eight minutes” and “all students will be called on to use the microphone in a live class at least once in each course.”

If these online courses offer an equivalent pedagogical experience to in-person classes, there could be many instances in which iLaw allows everyone to win: law students get to take a course that would not have been offered otherwise; law schools can expand their course offerings; law professors get the opportunity to generate supplemental income by teaching an iLaw course; and, of course, iLaw makes money through the purchase.

The jury is still out on whether online law school courses teach as well as in-person courses do, but there is reason to believe that they can. Though they did not specifically consider law school performance, numerous studies have provided evidence that students taking online courses in higher education can score as well on tests as students taking the same courses in person. Of course, there is more to learning than test scores, and there are certainly aspects of legal education that would suffer from a purely online experience—networking with faculty, engaging in work-study arrangements, developing lasting friendships with fellow students, and getting career and personal counseling from the school, to name just a few. But no one, iLaw included, is expecting these distance-learning arrangements to supplant law schools. These are not the MOOCs (massively open online courses) that doomsayers like Clayton Christensen or Kevin Carey believe will “end” college as we know it. To the contrary, iLaw relies on law school cooperation, and its classes are far from massive.

If iLaw is going to disrupt anything it would be adjunct law teaching. When full-time faculty members are not the best teaching option, law schools have typically looked to adjunct lecturers. Because the JD distance learning market is so uncluttered, Randall sees adjuncts as his primary competition. Aside from their ability to teach in the same room as their students, adjuncts have another potential advantage over iLaw: they are often willing to work cheap. Though iLaw has a flexible pricing model, an adjunct-taught course is sometimes less expensive than the same iLaw course. Randall is not overly worried, however, because he believes his professors often bring more expertise and better teaching methods to the table. He further believes that technological advancement and economies of scale will someday give iLaw the freedom to create lower pricing options. For now, at least, seasoned experts who moonlight as law school adjuncts probably have little to fear.


Editor’s Note: The author of this post is a law professor whose research focuses on decision-making in the context of emerging legal technology.