NHMTA is pleased to announce that Oak Brook College of Law (OBCL) is a Gold Sponsor of our upcoming 2015 tournament. Founded in 1994 and based in Fresno, California, OBCL is a Christian correspondence school that offers Juris Doctor (JD) and paralegal programs. J. Douglas McElvy, Dean of the College, said, “Our fervent commitment at Oak Brook is to train a generation of attorneys passionate about serving God and others in their profession, and to create an environment where students are equipped academically, spiritually, and practically, to serve with excellence. OBCL’s proven educational model and affordable tuition scale is purposefully designed to facilitate this vision in a way that is entirely unique, and it’s been an incredible blessing to work with so many other faculty members and students who are intentionally pursuing this same calling with dedication and conviction.”
The school emphasizes teaching law from a biblical, constitutional perspective. Students enrolled in its four-year JD program complete their degree via distance learning, correspondence, participation in courses such as appellate or trial advocacy, and some in-class instruction. OBCL’s one to two year-long paralegal program prepares students to become nationally certified paralegals through distance learning and correspondence. Applicants to either program need not have a bachelor’s degree in order to commence their studies—those who have completed a certain amount of college coursework or passed certain College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams administered by the College Board may be academically qualified for the programs.
OBCL differs from typical legal education in more areas than just its faith-based approach to teaching law and its distance-learning method—the school’s tuition is a fraction of the usual cost of JD programs. The low cost of obtaining a degree (annual tuition for OBCL’s JD program effective February 2014 was $4,500) allows students to graduate debt-free, and many see this as a huge benefit of attending OBCL.
Twenty-three-year-old Michael Kern, a prosecuting attorney in Ventura, CA, said, “My coworkers literally have hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, but because of Oak Brook, I was not only able to move into the career I dreamed about since childhood, I’m able to save and prepare for the future, and put away the maximum amount for retirement.”
Fresno-based prosecutor Brian Hutchins agreed. “In addition to being grounded in a Christian perspective of law, I frequently see the benefit of completing law school without any debt,” Hutchins said. “Many of my colleagues struggle on a public service salary because of astronomical student debt from undergraduate and then law degrees. Some of my colleagues gave up their positions as prosecutors and moved to other jobs, which they dislike, for a higher salary in large part because of the financial strain of student debt. The freedoms of not having that same debt are a tremendous blessing for my family.”
Graduates of OBCL also have high praise for their alma mater’s community and curriculum. The College boasts an overall California Bar Exam passage rate of nearly 80%. Kern called the benefits of OBCL “enormous.” “Not only were the people I took the Bar with not as equipped to pass the exam, they also weren’t nearly as prepared for the actual legal profession,” he said.
Matt McReynolds, a staff attorney at Pacific Justice Institute, concurred: “[OBCL’s] educational model turned out to be a great blessing in my life, since I was able to get more real-world experience during law school than I would have been able to do at a traditional law school.” He added, “OBCL fostered a very collegial atmosphere among students that is unique. It’s great to be part of a community that is encouraging and caring. The lifelong friendships formed through OBCL have been an important part of my professional development.”
Kern dismisses the idea that OBCL offers “a sub-par education because it’s distance learning.” “Students should not come with the expectation that they can coast through,” he said. “Oak Brook offers incredible opportunities that traditional law schools can’t, and comes with a huge responsibility on your part. You have to make that commitment, you have to do it to the fullest, and you have to do it to the glory of God.”