Law is a vital part of human existence, and every society needs the law department to maintain order. When most people think of Law, the first thought that comes to mind is the image of a solicitor in the courtroom. However, there are many other paths in the legal field besides courtroom lawyers. As a result of the broad scope of the legal profession and its high standards, even the best online law schools have not gotten full accreditation from the American Bar Association.
Generally, the most common route to practice Law is by earning a Juris Doctorate (JD) first, after which you can sit for the Bar exam administered by the American Bar Association (ABA). The association is responsible for accrediting all law schools within the United States to ensure a certain level of uniformity in quality across the country. If you’re looking to pursue a law degree, there are plenty of law schools with ABA accreditation across the country.
If you have a busy schedule, then an online law school might be your best bet. These days, many top online law schools offer programs as thorough as those in brick-and-mortar locations. The benefits of online degrees make them the smart choice for many candidates. Here, we’ll be looking at some of the best online law schools you can find. But before we dive in, let’s answer a few questions you might have about online law programs.
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What Are Online Law Schools?
Online law schools are for people who want to kickstart their legal career or advance to the next level. These schools are virtual and offer a curriculum parallel to a brick-and-mortar law school. Online law schools arm students with the skills necessary for a legal career and law-related jobs in technology, business, and other industries.
Students who attend online law schools can access legal education via the internet. Also, they meet virtually for lectures, case law reviews, class assignments, and discussions.
What Career Paths Can I Pursue In An Online Law School?
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) projects a 26% increase in law school applications between August 2020 to August 2021. Interestingly, 38% of all law students prefer online classes, while 64% of freshers gave online programs an excellent rating. With that in mind, we can see that more people are tilting towards virtual learning, and there is no shortage of practice areas. Let’s highlight some of the most common specialization areas in online law schools.
- Constitutional Law
- Business Law
- Privacy and Cybersecurity Law
- Entertainment Law
- Financial Law
- Employment and Human Resources Law
- Healthcare Law
- Intellectual Property Law
Advancement Opportunities For Online Law School Graduates
The legal field is so broad that virtually every law practice can become a specialty area. You can have a legal career in various fields, including real estate law, tax law, environmental Law, animal law, etc. Earning a law degree allows attorneys to pursue different career paths. Some of the most common careers opportunities for online law graduates include:
To become a judge, you must have a law degree and a law license in your resident state, alongside many years of law practice. Also, judges must take continuing education and general courses in some states.
International attorneys who are graduates of an online law school can advance their careers irrespective of whether they work for banks, private businesses, government agencies, or law firms.
Online Law School Requirements
There is very little difference in the application for regular law schools and their online alternatives. But before you begin the application process, you must understand what is required and how to increase your chances of landing a spot in the law school of your choice. These prerequisites are general and may change based on the institution.
1. A Bachelor’s Degree
You must possess a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution to get into law school. The reason for this is simple; JD is a postgraduate degree, and as such, you need an undergraduate degree before you can apply.
2. Admissions Test
Most law schools demand that candidates take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Developed to test core areas, the LSAT comprises 175 questions, with scores converted to a 120-180 range scale.
3. Personal Statement
The vast majority of law school applications often demand a personal statement. Personal statements may require specific queries or answers to open-ended questions depending on the school.
4. Recommendation Letters
Recommendation letters are a vital part of law school applications. Many law schools will demand 2-3 letters from someone who has worked with you in a professional or academic setting.
Advantages of Online Law School
Recently, the cost of attending traditional law schools has been rising steadily, causing many to question the value of law degrees. According to Law School Transparency report, public law schools cost as much as $28,000 yearly, while their private counterparts gulp up an average of $49,000 in expenses yearly. The price increases have pushed many law students into fat debts. Apart from the generally lower tuition fees in online schools, there are several other benefits of earning an online law degree.
Opportunities for International Jobs
If you are interested in a career abroad, then an LLM from an online law school would come in handy. The LLM degree has international recognition, meaning graduates can use their degree in the US and abroad.
A degree like the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) has a unified curriculum that allows students to appreciate law basics. However, graduates interested in specializing can narrow their focus by studying further via an SJD or LLM. Business law and entertainment law are great examples of specialization areas for online law schools, and it is up to the student to choose what interests them the most.
Easy Career Growth and Switch
If you want to advance your career or make a switch, then earning an online law degree is a great option. Although lawyers need only their bachelor’s degree and a JD, earning a degree like the LLM not only expands your knowledge it also strengthens your resume.
Additionally, an online law school allows online students the flexibility to earn while they are learning. Students attending traditional institutions generally have little or no time for work, unlike online learners. A great benefit of working while earning a degree is that certain employers may take up a percentage of the online tuition if the coursework improves employee knowledge and output.
One of the most popular advantages of online schools is the convenience and flexibility it affords the learner. Law students in physical schools have to attend lectures all week long. The reverse is the case for online law schooling; students can fit coursework into their busy schedules, and learn from home, a café, or their workplace.
Can I Take The Bar Exams After Attending An Online Law School?
While an online law school is more flexible, affordable, and can be accessed anywhere, online law school graduates cannot attempt the bar exam and ultimately practice law. Luckily, there are exceptions to this rule, as a handful of states permit you to take the bar exam even without a JD from a physical law school. These states include California, Vermont, Washington, and Virginia. In addition, New York, Wyoming, and Maine also allow you to take the bar exam, but you must have attended law school.
So if you plan to attend law school 100% online, then you should check to see if you can attempt the bar exam and practice law in your region without an ABA-accredited Juris Doctorate. Also, you need to know that you can’t practice Law in states that require an ABA-accredited JD.
Best Online Law Schools
So, here are the best online law schools:
Vermont Law School (VLS)
In 2016, Vermont Law School (VLS) launched its distance degree option for working students and students willing to take online classes with the institution.
VLS offers LLM and Master’s Degrees in over 20 diverse online courses like Energy Law, Natural Resources Law, and Environmental Law. Students in institutions like VLS can tailor their degrees to meet specific needs and interests. Additionally, students who wish to transfer to another institution or take non-degree courses for continuing education can also apply at the school.
One advantage of the Vermont Law School is that the online LLM and graduate programs are equivalent to residential programs. Plus, the transcripts at the end of your program do not differentiate between online and physical classes.
Vermont Law School offers one-year Master’s Degree programs to students who do not wish to pursue a professional law degree. The online Master’s programs currently on offer include Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy (MFALP), Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP), Master of Arts in Restorative Justice (MARJ), and Master of Energy Regulation and Law (MERL). These online Master’s programs offer in-depth law classes and how it affects the immediate environment instead of the regular theories.
On the other hand, the LLM programs from VLS are for post-JD students to major in Food and Agriculture Law or Environmental Law. These programs allow students to take the next step in their career paths and better impact their communities.
Apart from the master’s and LLM programs, VLS also offers online professional certificates and online courses for Juris Doctorate Credit.
What Are VLS Classes Like?
The online classes at VLS are highly flexible and interactive. Students can expect around 2-3 assignments weekly that require a significant amount of writing. A minimum of 20-25 hours is expected from students weekly, and most students follow the programs on a part-time schedule. Depending on a student’s preference and schedule, programs can take as little as 18 months or the maximum five-year period.
You can apply for VLS law programs or find out more about the Vermont Law School to identify what programs best suit you.
Purdue University Global
Purdue is a sub-brand of the Purdue University group that caters to students looking to study online. Established in April 2018, the school serves a wide range of educational levels, starting from doctoral level through Master’s, bachelor’s, associate’s, and down to credential programs. Even though the university has physical locations, we’ll focus on its online programs and what they offer.
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) statistics data reveals that Purdue Global has provided more legal support services programs than any other institution in the US. The school has a curriculum that focuses on legal reasoning and analysis, jurisprudence, legal history, ethical decision-making, jurisprudence, and other areas of Law. Students at Purdue Global can choose a curriculum path that mirrors their needs and select electives to improve their chosen tracks. Like other online law schools in this list, Purdue Global allows you the flexibility to pursue work or study at your own pace.
Undergraduate degree and certificate programs at the school include Associate of Applied Science in Legal Support and Services, Legal Secretary Certificate, Bachelor of Science in Legal Support and Services, and Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate Certificate. Furthermore, Purdue Global offers graduate degree programs that include Master of Science in Legal Studies, Juris Doctor (Concord Law School), and Executive Juris Doctor (Concord Law School). The Juris Doctor degree here allows you to take the bar exam in California and ultimately qualify as a California-licensed attorney. You can also find out more about the online law programs offered at Purdue Global.
Another top online law university is Northeastern University. Northeastern University is classified as a research university headquartered in Boston and has campuses spread across the country and even reaching as far as Vancouver and Toronto in Canada. Perhaps one of the most attractive benefits of the school is its cooperative education policy that incorporates professional experience with classroom study. But above that, the university also runs a rigorous hybrid JD program known as FlexJD.
FlexJD is a program that allows you to earn your Juris Doctorate through a mix of online and on-campus learning, and the great thing is that you can pursue this program part-time. The FlexJD program allows you to complete your coursework remotely while fulfilling a limited in-person learning quota at the Boston Campus. Students can earn their JD in four years, instead of the traditional three years, and are qualified to sit for the bar exam.
In addition to the FlexJD program, Northeastern University also offers an LLM program that is 100% online. The Master of Law program offered by Northeastern University prepares students to take up leadership roles in Law and business across the world. Other online law degrees of Northeastern University include Graduate Certificate in Business Law, Graduate Certificate in Intellectual Property Law, Graduate Certificate in Health Law, and Graduate Certificate in Human Resources (HR) Law. For more information about the diverse programs offered by Northeastern University’s online law school, you can check out their directory.
If you’re currently practicing Law and wish to expand your expertise, or advance your career, then Liberty University is a great online law school to move you to the next level. All the programs at Liberty University are unique, as they have a “Christian worldview.” The school strives to blend faith and reason with academics to achieve a whole and practical education. The graduate and undergraduate degree programs are entirely online and allow you the flexibility to study from home and work. There are no predetermined login times at Liberty University online law programs, and students can pace their studies and submit their assignments on their schedule.
There is a wide range of online law programs at Liberty University, from certificate to postgraduate degrees. The Associate programs prepare students to become legal assistants, legal secretaries, and work as a paralegal. On the other hand, the Master’s in Law program equips professionals with adequate law knowledge and a Juris Master (JM) degree. Some of the Master’s degree programs include Health Law, Compliance, American Legal Studies, and International Legal Studies.
Private professional partners, such as certified public accountants, lawyers, attorneys, mediators, and other legal practitioners, provide real-world experience to students.
National American University (NAU)
As an institution with over 20 years since inception, the National American University is a unique institution that operates almost entirely online. One perk of the online school is that it allows students to realize their career goals without the hassle of brick-and-mortar locations. Another reason why NAU is among the best online law schools is that it provides one-on-one tutoring via a “success team,” which includes a financial services representative, an enrollment advisor, and a student advisor.
The school’s College of Legal Studies allows undergraduate students to earn criminal justice and legal studies degrees. These degrees prepare students for a career across the legal field, whether they are looking to serve in courts or corrections, law enforcement, or gain additional knowledge in Law.
Some of the programs offered include degrees in criminal justice, paralegal studies, and professional legal studies. The ABA-accredited paralegal studies degree features 100% online classes with three courses delivered through video conferencing synchronously.
Alternatively, the Associate of Applied Sciences in Professional Legal Studies arms students with a basic knowledge of legal principles and applies legal theories to real-world scenarios. You can also explore other online law programs from the National American University to see what suits your career goal best.
The American University offers a Master of Legal Studies program. This program is designed for professionals who are not practicing lawyers but have a consistent interface with the Law. The online MLS equips students with an in-depth knowledge of the US legal system. It also prepares them for better decision-making and career advancement.
Specialization paths in the Master of Legal Studies Program include business, care compliance, health, technology, cybersecurity, and general MLS. You can earn a certificate alongside your MLS degree if you opt for select paths. Students can tailor the degree to match their career goals and expectations. Visit American University to learn more about their online law school packages.
With over two decades of experience, the National University is at the vanguard of online law schools in the US. Apart from the interactive learning tools and threaded discussion forums, the school provides one-on-one interaction with fellow students and instructors. And it has an impeccable student support system.
The National University (NU) offers over 20 online law programs. These programs include Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Law Studies, Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies, and Paralegal Specialist Certificate Corporations.
Additionally, you can earn a Master of Criminal Justice degree in 12 months. This degree prepares you for the intriguing criminal justice system with valuable research skills and problem-solving expertise. Check out the National University’s online law programs and decide what program is best for you.
Villanova University consists of six schools with more than 100 master’s and bachelor’s degrees. In addition, the school awards doctoral degrees. Its law school is at the top among law schools in the US.
The law school at Villanova – Charles Widger School of Law – admits only 565 students per time. Students have the opportunity to pursue a Master’s of Laws in Taxation. They can also choose other school programs. The virtual options offered by Villanova allow distance learners to experience the same feel they would have gotten on campus; This helps to distinguish Charles Widger Law School from similar online schools. With an average annual tuition of $46,535, Villanova is one of the most expensive law schools on this list. In 2021, the Charles Widger School of Law was ranked 53rd best law school in the US. The school sits at number 64 for best value schools and 36 for best undergraduate teaching. On the whole, Villanova aims to create online programs that provide the same access that students at physical locations have.
Start Your Online Law Degree Today!
The analytical abilities and skills learned through an online law school are just one of the numerous benefits. Students owe it to themselves to be thorough about their choices.
Want to ensure you’re on the right track for your career and degree choice? Check out the GetEducated online degrees to research more about your future as an online law degree student.