Are There Accredited Online Law Schools?

Although accredited online law degree programs will not qualify graduates to practice law in most states, they can provide business professionals or foreign-educated lawyers with a better understanding of the U.S. legal system. Many of these programs culminate in a Juris Doctor or Master of Laws.

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There are a few online educational opportunities that cover topics in the field of law, leading to graduate degrees in the field, but, except in California, none prepare graduates to sit for the bar exam and become practicing attorneys. Read on to learn about what online law programs are available and what they do.

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Accredited Online Law Schools

In most states, aspiring attorneys must graduate from a Juris Doctor (J.D.) program accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) in order to sit for the state bar examination and therefore practice law. Currently, the ABA does not approve any purely online J.D. programs. In 2015, Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota was the first law school to offer an ABA approved hybrid online and on-campus program.

There are, however, other schools accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council.

These schools are for business professionals who want graduate law training, lawyers educated abroad or, in some cases, aspiring attorneys. California is the only state that allows graduates from an online school to sit for its state bar exam. Here is some more information on the types of law degree programs available online.

Juris Doctor Programs

Some online Juris Doctor programs are for business or criminal justice professionals who want a better understanding of law. Schools based in California may also offer online programs to prepare students to sit for the California Bar Examination. Online J.D. programs often begin with introductory courses in legal writing. From there, students examine case studies of course decisions in areas such as:

  • Criminal law
  • Contracts,
  • Civil procedure
  • Constitutional law

Some programs conduct coursework via live video lectures or chat rooms. Others allow students to complete their program asynchronously over a period of 3-4 years. Students must have a bachelor's degree to be admitted to these programs.

Master's Degree Programs

Master of Science in Law (MSL) programs are available for those who want to study law at the graduate level but do not want to enroll in a J.D. program's extensive course load. Graduates are not prepared for licensure as lawyers, but these 2-year programs cover many of the same topics as J.D. programs, including:

  • Torts
  • Property law
  • Immigration law
  • Intellectual property

Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs are also available online for those who already hold a J.D. Some schools may offer a concentration like taxation that includes coursework in federal income tax, real estate taxation and tax evasion. A 2-3 year American jurisprudence specialization may also be available for lawyers not educated in the United States.

For bachelor's-degree holders and experienced lawyers, online J.D., MSL and LL.M. programs can provide relevant legal education. While online programs cannot qualify graduates to take the bar exam in most states, they do learn about law as it applies to specific topics, such as taxes, business and real estate, for instance.

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