When you have your sights set on a legal career but can’t commit to years of on-campus study, you might want to take a look at online law school instead.
Law schools with online programs are becoming increasingly popular, as they make legal education more accessible to people from all walks of life.
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Through online schooling, you can gain a keen understanding of the law and prepare to take the bar exam. Licensed lawyers tend to practice as criminal defense, corporate, environmental, or family attorneys.
Online Law Schools
Yes, online classes can help you earn a law degree. If you opt for an online college experience, you’ll take classes just like the ones you’d have on a school of law campus. At the end, you can graduate with your Juris Doctor (JD).
The topics covered in this program include:
- Civil law
- Criminal law
- Family law
- Legal research
- Legal writing
- Professional practice
- Real estate and property law
- US Constitution
In addition to core courses, you might also get to take electives, which could help you specialize in a particular branch of law that interests you.
Some online JD programs are offered fully online. They might include both live class sessions and coursework that you can complete on your own time. Others are hybrid programs. While you’ll be able to do much of the work from afar, you may need to come to campus at times. Often, the on-campus portions of a hybrid program are offered as intensives that don’t require you to be gone for weeks at a time.
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Online JD programs sometimes have students sign up for externships. Those in-the-field experiences can help you learn to apply your law lessons in real-world contexts. Plus, you can gain invaluable insights from your lawyer mentors.
After completing your program, you may qualify to take your state’s bar exam. The qualifications vary from state to state, so it’s beneficial to select a program that’s aligned with your bar association’s standards. As an approved lawyer, you could work in a variety of roles, including prosecutor, criminal defender, or corporate counsel. Some lawyers go on to become judges.
Managing law firms, legal departments, or compliance departments could be other career opportunities. Not all online law doctorates are designed with attorney licensure in mind. The goal of these programs, sometimes called an Executive Juris Doctor program, is to provide a doctoral-level understanding of legal matters but not bar exam preparation.
That professional training could be useful in roles that involve establishing policies, negotiating contracts, or communicating with lawyers.
Law Careers & Salaries
Typically, people who go to law school plan to become lawyers. That’s a large job category, though. Lawyers can work in many different settings and focus on many different types of law.
Some go into criminal law and work as defense attorneys or public defenders. Others represent individuals in civil suits. Lawyers can work for government agencies, often as prosecutors who argue cases on behalf of the government. Others contribute to shaping laws, providing guidance about the meaning of laws, or writing legal documents.
Corporations hire lawyers, too. Corporate lawyers help large companies manage their legal matters. These professionals are often known as in-house counsel. Some lawyers become judges. They may hear criminal cases, civil cases, or appeals. Some judges, such as administrative law judges, make decisions on behalf of government agencies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for lawyers is $127,990.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Lawyers — Federal Government||$152,590|
|Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates||$148,030|
|Lawyers — Legal Services||$127,530|
|Postsecondary Law Teachers||$123,470|
|Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers||$102,550|
|Lawyers — State Government||$100,330|
|Lawyers — Local Government||$100,240|
|Compliance Managers (Included in Managers, All Other)||$97,630|
|Writers and Authors||$69,510|
Your personal income may be higher or lower depending on your employer, your position, your experience level, and the area of the country where you live.
If you don’t want to be a practicing lawyer or a judge, what else can you do with a law degree? One option might be to teach. College law departments hire people with a JD to work as law professors. Another option is to go into some sort of business management role. For example, a law background could help someone become the manager of a large legal firm.
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Working in the compliance department of a corporation might be another option for professionals with a background in law. Those with a law degree may also write. Law school involves a lot of writing, and some use that communication skill and their knowledge of the law to write books or articles on legal topics.
Juris Doctor Curriculum & Courses
Online JD programs often include similar core curricula that cover the basics of practicing law. You may also be able to select a handful of electives to help you specialize in a particular type of law. Here are examples of various law courses:
- Civil Litigation: Over a few semesters, you’ll study the process that civil cases go through and the strategies that lawyers can use when trying civil suits.
- Contract Law: Your time in this course can prepare you to draw up contracts and to advocate on behalf of your clients when contract disputes arise.
- Criminal Law: As you learn about laws and procedures related to criminal prosecution, you may study past cases as examples.
- Estate Law: Trusts, wills, and gifts may be some of the topics discussed as you learn about how wealth and property are passed from one generation to another.
- Family Law: This class addresses regulations and lawsuits surrounding marriage, custody, adoption, and divorce.
- Foundations of Constitutional Law: Understanding the US Constitution and the concept of judicial review will be key to your future studies in the law program.
- Law Research: In a class on finding legislation and past cases to support your clients’ positions, you’ll probably focus on technology-based research methods.
- Legal Analysis: This course covers how to examine the facts of a case, determine how the law should apply, and craft an appropriate strategy and argument to back up that claim.
- Legal Writing: Developing legal writing skills involves not only using the proper wording and format but also crafting a well-reasoned argument based on statutes and case law.
- Property Law: This class covers gaining, owning, and transferring property as well as settling property-related disputes.
Online law schools often require students to complete between 90 and 100 credit hours.
How to Choose an Online Law School with a Juris Doctor Program
When it comes to getting your JD, the school you pick can impact your education and overall experience. You might want to think through the following factors as you make your decision:
- Accreditation. High-quality, credible law schools hold regional accreditation. Programmatic accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA) is also worthwhile, but very few 100% online programs have that distinction. For ABA approval, you may have better luck finding a hybrid program.
- Externship. Some schools build intern experiences into their online law programs. Completing a for-credit externship could be a beneficial addition to your training. It could also help you network with other professionals.
- Hybrid vs. online. A few colleges require no on-campus sessions for online law students. Hybrid programs, though, may have students occasionally come to campus for week-long intensive sessions or weekend classes.
- State requirements. Not all law schools are right for residents of every state. It’s strategic to select a program that’s accredited or approved by your state’s bar association so that you can qualify for the bar exam.
- Time commitment. An online law program might be part-time or full-time. You might attend virtual classes at set times or plan your own study schedule for the week.
Hopefully, after weighing the pros and cons of various schools, you can find a program that aligns with your schedule and career goals.
J.D. Degree Admissions Requirements
Before you can earn an online law degree, it’s necessary to get into a program. Here’s what’s often involved in applying to law school:
- Application form. This can often be filled out online.
- Entrance exam. This tests your ability to read and analyze material.
- LSAT score. This test score is not required at all colleges.
- Transcripts. These are often required from all previous college programs.
Admissions to legal programs can be competitive, so it’s helpful to present an application packet that highlights your strengths and abilities. In addition, submitting everything well before the due date can help ensure that you don’t miss any deadlines.
Online Law Schools Accreditation
Regional accreditation is a top priority when choosing a legal studies program. Regional accreditation is the most widely recognized form of accreditation in the US, and colleges receive this designation from approved independent accreditors.
This can also be useful when moving from school to school. If you decide to transfer mid-program or to pursue another degree after graduation, the new college will look at your previous school’s accreditation status. You’ll often get farther with regionally accredited coursework than unaccredited schooling.
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Regional accreditation can make a professional difference too. For instance, an accredited education may be required for you to sit for the bar exam.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Law school can be a costly undertaking, so you may want to look into financial aid options. To begin, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may qualify for state and federal loans to help you pay for your program. Grants could be another option, but they’re more common at the undergrad level.
Juris Doctor schools might offer institutional funding. Your LSAT score or college grades may help you qualify for those scholarships. Other groups, such as professional organizations or membership clubs, can offer scholarship programs as well. Employer support is another funding source that’s available to some students.
What Is a Juris Doctor Degree?
A Juris Doctor degree is issued to people who graduate from law school in the US. Also known as a JD or a law degree, this program is offered at the graduate level and is considered a professional doctorate.
The courses in a JD program cover topics like contracts, wills, and legal research. You’ll also learn about civil and criminal law. After completing your JD, you may qualify to take the bar exam and become licensed in your state.
Is a JD a Doctorate?
A JD degree is a professional doctorate degree, which is a type of graduate degree. Professional doctorates are granted after students complete extensive work at the doctoral level.
Unlike PhDs, which are more academic in nature, professional doctorates are intended for those who plan to practice in their chosen profession. For a JD, that typically means being a lawyer. Although a JD is a type of doctorate, people with this degree don’t use the “Doctor” title. Rather, they can use the title “Esquire,” or “Esq.” for short.
What Can You Do with a Law Degree?
If you hold a law degree and have passed the bar exam, you can work as a lawyer. There are many different types of lawyers, including criminal defenders, state prosecutors, corporate counsel, and civil litigation attorneys. Lawyers may specialize in a field like property, contract, or business law.
Some lawyers become judges. They may be magistrates, adjudicators, trial judges, or hearing officers. Other options for JD graduates could include teaching college classes, managing law firms, or writing on legal topics.
Can You Go to Law School with Any Degree?
There isn’t a specific bachelor’s degree that’s needed for getting into law school. You can major either in an area that’s closely related to legal studies or in a field that’s quite different.
Regardless of your major, it’s beneficial to work on developing your research, writing, and critical thinking skills during college. If you want to select a program that has a lot in common with your future JD studies, you might consider majoring in political science. Other popular choices include English, criminal justice, and history.
Can You Get a Law Degree Online?
Yes, there are online JD programs available. Some are offered 100% online, while others are arranged as hybrid programs.
In a hybrid program, you’d have a combination of virtual and in-person classes. The on-campus portions of the program might be offered during short, one-week intensive sessions or weekend classes. Online law programs can also be accredited by the American Bar Association. Several are hybrid programs, but a few fully online ones are available too.
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When choosing an online program, it’s strategic to ensure that it meets your state’s licensure requirements before applying.
How Many Years Is Law School Online?
The length of your law program will depend on whether you go to school part-time or full-time. Whether online or on campus, full-time law degrees usually take 3 years to complete. Some high-intensity programs may be completed in as little as 2 years, though.
Online legal studies are often offered in a part-time format that’s designed for working professionals. Because of the lighter course load each semester, it may take 3.5 or 4 years to finish your law degree when studying part-time.
Can You Do Law School Part Time?
Yes, in fact, that’s quite common. Online law programs often cater to working adults, so part-time course loads are typical.
By taking classes only part-time, you may be able to hold a full-time job while also working toward your dream of becoming a lawyer. Of course, part-time studies typically take longer to complete than full-time programs. If you’re able to commit to a heavier course load, you may be able to become licensed as a lawyer more quickly.
Is Law School Worth It?
Yes, law school is worth it for many students. Lawyers are needed every day. Some help businesses carry out their operations. Others put criminals behind bars or help families adopt their children. As a lawyer, there are opportunities to work for the government, for corporations, or in private practice.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be an increased demand for lawyers over the next decade. Employment for lawyers is expected to grow at a 9% rate during that time. Plus, there may be additional openings as current lawyers retire.
Universities Offering Online Juris Doctor Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
At Golden Gate University, the Juris Doctor program is housed fully online. It aims to make law school accessible to working professionals and adults of all backgrounds while ensuring they graduate with the knowledge and judgement needed to succeed as lawyers. Students can pursue specializations in Litigation, Business Law, Environmental Law, Family Law, Intellectual Property Law, or Public Interest Law.
GGU is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Purdue University offers a Juris Doctor program. It is designed for students who are passionate about representing clients in the legal system, whether in the courtroom, negotiations, or depositions. This 92 credit, online program spans 4 years and typically requires 25 to 35 hours of work from students each week.
Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Suffolk University offers a Juris Doctor program. It covers the procedures, fundamental principles, and process of research for the key categories of law: constitutional, criminal, civil, professional, property, and torts. Students can begin this online program at part-time or full-time status in May or August. Depending on their chosen workload, they can typically graduate in 2 to 4 years.
Suffolk University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The Juris Doctor program at Syracuse University offers the flexibility of a self-paced curriculum. It combines highly interactive online coursework in synchronous and asynchronous formats with on-campus and experiential learning opportunities. Students in the program are required to complete at least one externship, and they may also pursue a joint Master of Business degree alongside their law degree program.
Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The College of Law’s Juris Doctor program utilizes a unique pairing of online coursework and a 12 hour, intensive, active-learning experience on campus each month. The program consists of 84 credits that can be taken part-time or full-time. Most students can complete the program in 32 to 40 months.
The Colleges of Law is accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
Students hoping to pursue a career in law who need the flexibility of an online program may find an excellent fit in the fully online Juris Doctor program at Touro College. Some topics covered in the 88 credit curriculum include contracts, civil dispute resolution, legal analysis and process, property law, and constitutional law.
Touro College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Trinity International University’s Juris Doctor program teaches students the foundations of law in a biblical context. The program can typically be completed in 3 years with a full-time schedule and in 4 years with a part-time schedule. Courses are offered online, in-person, or in a hybrid format, allowing students to cater their education to their personal schedules and goals.
Trinity International University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Juris Doctor program at the University of Dayton typically spans 4 years and requires 90 credit hours and 192 hours of externship experience. It features a hybrid schedule with interactive, real-time online classes and occasional on-campus experiences that allow students to network and practice their growing skills in person.
The University of Dayton is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Illinois—Chicago allows students in the Juris Doctor program to take up to 30 credits of their curriculum online. In addition to classes covering fundamental law concepts, the program also offers specialized coursework. Options include studies in cyberspace law, intellectual property, estate planning, homeland security, and commercial real estate law.
The University of Illinois – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Juris Doctor degree program at the University of New Hampshire is designed to help students excel in the global legal field. It offers hybrid online and in-person classes to help working adults fit their education around their existing commitments. Students can choose to specialize in Intellectual Property Law, Technology Law, or Information Law.
The University of New Hampshire is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Getting Your Law Degree Online
Becoming a lawyer is a dream job for many people, and achieving that goal requires going to law school and earning a Juris Doctor degree. If you’re ready to pursue a law degree, then it’s time to look at law schools.
During your search, you may want to check out online law programs. If you need a flexible approach to getting a law degree, online coursework could be the solution. Some programs are fully online, while others follow a hybrid format.
Start the search today for an accredited online law degree that aligns with your state’s requirements.