Distance Learning Schools for Becoming an Attorney: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online school to become an attorney. To get an overview of the program options, skill enhancement practice avenues, and common topics offered for the field of study, keep reading.

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Individuals interested in online law degrees have a couple of options in this field, though there are a number of factors to keep in mind when making a choice. We will discuss whether programs are approved by the American Bar Association, how well they prepare students for the bar exam, and how the program is delivered to students.

How to Select an Online Attorney School

Becoming an attorney involves first obtaining a graduate degree (a Juris Doctorate - J.D.) from a law school. Online law programs are offered by a small number of law schools. Students interested in becoming attorneys should consider the program type, bar exam preparation, ABA approval and program specifics of the distance educational institution they choose to attend.

Accessibility to Students, Professors and Materials

A distance learning attorney or law degree program should allow students to interact with one another. A program should schedule meetings via conference calls, message boards or e-mail as well as meeting on-campus sporadically, if desired. Faculty should be easily available for consultation. In addition, materials necessary to complete coursework should be readily accessible to students, preferably online. This may include LEXIS (an online law library), casebooks, treatises, online lectures and other aids.

ABA Approval

Student should choose a school offering a distance education attorney program that is approved by ABA (American Bar Association). As of 2014 the ABA doesn't approve any fully online degree programs. However, some schools offer a few courses via distance education.

Bar Exam Preparation

In order for an attorney to practice in a specific state, a graduate must pass the state's bar exam. Though not all, many states require prospective attorneys to have graduated from an ABA-approved J.D. program to be eligible to take the bar. Some schools also offer bar exam prep and review courses to J.D. graduates.

Program Length

Students looking into a distance learning attorney program should consider how long he or she would be given to complete the program. Law programs generally take three years to complete full-time.

Online Exams

Students should find out if exams and tests are available online or whether they need to travel to the school or an exam center. Graduates must take the state bar exam in person.

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List of Online Degree Program in the Study of Law

Online Juris Doctorate (J.D.) Degree Program

Distance education programs leading to a Juris Doctorate are available to participants in either full- or part-time program formats. Participants study the law and learn to analyze a client's legal problems and find the best solutions to them. Students delve into researching cases and studying statutory and regulatory laws and learn to develop effective legal strategies to win legal arguments and cases. Juris Doctorate students meet online or by phone with classmates in study groups to share educational and work experiences and support each other in their law program studies. Like an on-campus law program, an online law program offers courses in:

  • Contract law
  • Professional responsibility
  • Civil procedure
  • Criminal procedure law
  • Community property

Schools with Online Law Programs

Taft University offers a Juris Doctor-Attorney Telecommunications program that takes about four years to complete, one year longer than traditional on-campus programs. The academic year is made up of 44-45 weeks of courses followed by 3-4 weeks of review and then a final examination. Students can complete the coursework on their own time, meaning there are no required login times, and all work can be completed online. This program has been designed to prepare students to take only the California Bar Exam, as it is not approved by the American Bar Association and therefore students graduating from this program cannot take the bar exam in other states. In general, students need to possess a bachelor's degree to apply, though some exceptions may be made if the student has fulfilled the other requirements as set by the California Bar Association.

Concord Law School from Kaplan University also offers an online Juris Doctor program, which is similar to the above program in that it also prepares students to take only the California Bar Exam. This program also takes four years to complete. It emphasizes providing timely and frequent feedback to students, beginning in year one. During the final two years, students can choose elective courses in the area of law that most interests them. Concord requires all first year law students to take State Bar of California's First-Year Law Students' Exam, for which the school has developed a special preparatory program.

Online law school graduates can take the bar exam in some, but not all, states. When choosing a school, individuals should look at the time commitment of an online program, its delivery method and the program's credentialing.

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