Distance Learning PhD in Law: Program Overviews

Apr 30, 2021

Essential Information

There are very few online law degree programs, and California is the only state that allows graduates of an online program to take the bar exam. There are no online Ph.D. programs.

The Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree programs that are available online are usually taught through live streaming, which allows students to participate in the class sessions. Thus, students of these programs will need to have access to video streaming software and a headset. A brief residency may be required on campus.

Practicing lawyers who already hold law degrees may enroll in the LL.M. programs to pursue a specialization, such as tax law, corporation law or environmental law, or they may pursue a traditional LL.M. curriculum, which allows for more varied selection of courses. Students in an LL.M. program often choose courses from other areas such as the business or public administration schools.

Master of Laws

Online programs that lead to Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees are rare and only qualify individuals for the California state bar exam. Similarly, distance learning Ph.D. programs in law are nonexistent. LL.M. degrees, several of which are conferred via online programs, are typically pursued for the purpose of gaining knowledge in a single legal specialization by those who already hold J.D. degrees. LL.M. degree programs offer students a variety of legal specialty possibilities. Some programs require a residency component, and most deliver course lectures in real-time.

Information and Requirements

Master of Laws degree concentrations vary by school. Students who are seeking a LL.M. degree in prosecutorial law will take classes in criminal justice, whereas those studying health care law will take classes in health and public safety regulations. Most LL.M. programs have a thesis requirement.

Unlike many distance learning programs, most LL.M. programs do not offer asynchronous class lectures. Instead, classes are streamed live (synchronously) to students so they can interact in real time with their fellow scholars and professors in brick-and-mortar classrooms. Technical requirements include a high-speed Internet connection, a media player (such as VideoLan, Windows Media Player and QuickTime) and a headset to engage in live chat.

Common LL.M. Classes in Prosecutorial Law

Courses in legal writing are part of most programs, and students also take required courses in their specialization areas. Many elective courses are included, giving the students the opportunity to craft a program that meets their goals. Students usually must complete a thesis.

Criminal Law

Criminal law classes offer surveys of crime types committed against persons or property. They also discuss punishment topics and popular legal defense strategies, including the insanity defense.

Criminal Procedure

A criminal procedure course may cover police procedures or judicial practices. Topics often include search and seizure, Miranda rights, jury proceeding and plea bargaining.

Common LL.M. Courses in Health Care Law

Health Care Regulations

A course in health care regulations discusses the laws that govern health care and safety in addition to the agencies that execute and enforce those laws. Students learn how public policy influences medical practices.

Bioethics Law

Bioethics classes discuss advances in medical technology and the legal and ethical complications arising from them. Patients' rights and physicians' roles within the health care system are examined.

Popular LL.M. Classes in Tax Law

Corporate Tax

Classes on corporate tax focus on federal taxation of corporations and their shareholders. Reorganizations, distributions and liquidations may also be discussed.

Estate Tax

Estate tax classes prepare students to help clients reduce their tax liabilities upon death. Life insurance, trusts, deductions and appraisal values are often covered in this type of class.

Career Information for Graduates

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career growth for lawyers is stable and projected to grow by 4% during the 2019-2029 decade, a rate that matches the projected job growth rate for all occupations. The median annual wage for lawyers in 2020 was $126,930, according to the BLS.

Lawyers wanting to specialize in a specific area of law may pursue an L.L.M. Through live streaming, these programs offer online classes in various areas of specialization, including tax law, environmental law, and health care law.

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