Guide to Earning an Online Law Degree

Online programs in law-related subjects utilize digital platforms and modern computer technologies to facilitate studies. Possible degrees include bachelor's degrees and master's degrees.

Online Degree Options

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), there are no online ABA-accredited Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs that prepare students to take a bar exam. There are some schools that offer non-accredited J.D. programs, and students in these programs are typically able to take the bar exam in the same state where the school operates.

Online degrees in law-related fields are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. These degree programs in legal studies, law and society, or related fields are appropriate for students who are interested in learning about legal theory and application. There are also a few online Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree programs open to lawyers who have already earned a Juris Doctor degree and have been admitted to the bar.

Most schools offer their online law degree programs with the full-time working adult student in mind. Admissions decisions are made on a case-by-case basis for students with varying levels of academic or professional experience who demonstrate that they may be able to benefit from the program. Some schools do not require common standardized test scores as part of the application process.

Online Learning

In many cases, an online law degree can be completed without any visits to campus. In cases in which periodic short-term residencies are required, the timeframe is less than a week. Students may have a choice of start dates, but the classes often run for a set period of time with firm start and end dates.

Schools that offer online law degrees use an electronic course delivery system, which usually means one-stop access for things like course materials, assignments, class message boards, and instructor and student communications. Some lectures take place in real-time, while others are recorded and made available for students to access at different times. Teachers and students may interact by chat, e-mail, or telephone.

Technology Requirements

To support this learning format, students usually need to meet certain hardware and software requirements. In general, it is necessary to have access to a computer that has the following specs:

  • An up-to-date Windows or Mac operating system
  • High-speed internet connection
  • A certain amount of memory
  • Office software
  • Antivirus software
  • Web camera
  • Speakers or headphones
  • CD/DVD drive

Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society

This online degree program covers the law, legal system and law principles in the United States. It also aims to provide a firm foundation in logic, legal writing and rhetoric. The degree can be applied to a wide variety of careers, including law enforcement, non-profit organizations, regulatory agencies, government organizations or public offices. The 4-year program offers coursework in the following subjects:

  • Early American civilization
  • Government
  • Conflict resolution
  • Criminal justice

Master of Arts in Legal Studies

This online, interdisciplinary degree program focuses on current social issues and public policy along with the study of law in American society. The program is designed to help students prepare for further studies, or to provide them with a larger skillset in their law-related careers. There may be an option for students to complete an internship. Students learn about topics like:

  • Legal research
  • Public advocacy
  • Theories of justice
  • Human rights
  • Criminal justice
  • Public policy

Master of Laws

The LL.M. is an advanced degree for lawyers, usually in a focused area of the law. The program takes 1-2 years to complete, and students in an LL.M. program can complete an optional internship while taking courses. Course topics vary depending on the area of focus. For example, an LL.M. in taxation will focus on taxation and business issues, with courses covering subjects like:

  • International tax
  • Estate planning/drafting
  • Corporate reorganizations
  • Business drafting

In contrast, a degree in American law offers coursework in:

  • Contracts
  • Civil procedure
  • International business transactions

Despite the fact that it is not possible to earn a J.D. online, prospective students who are interested in legal studies can find general undergraduate programs in law-related areas, as well as more advanced master's degree programs in the field.

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