Online Schools for Legal Studies: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online legal studies school. Keep reading to get an overview of the program options, delivery methods, and common topics offered for the field of study.

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Prospective legal scholars should decide upon their career goals and time limitations before selecting an online legal studies program. Programs are typically available at the bachelor's and master's degree level.

How to Select an Online Legal Studies School

Students considering online legal studies schools must make their decision based on several key factors. Legal studies programs differ in the course emphases they offer and by their scheduling and time requirements. Legal studies degrees are often favored by students who will go on to law school and careers as lawyers, but they may be useful for those who are entering paralegal professions or other similar lines of work as well. Both bachelor's and master's degree programs in legal studies are available in online format. Programs are offered by several online colleges; some of these are for-profit schools. Students must then weigh their career goals with their own time requirements.

Career goals

Many legal studies degree programs are designed to prepare students for law school. Some programs, however, are not specifically designed for this purpose. Paralegals, expert witnesses, crime investigators and those who are responsible for knowing how the law affects businesses can all benefit from a legal studies program, and some curricula are designed specifically to cater to these various needs. A student should be aware of the particular focus of the degree program under consideration before applying.

Time Requirements

Because legal studies courses may be designed either for part-time or full-time students, course scheduling varies. Some institutions require students to attend classes regularly via video or voice conferencing. Others allow asynchronous communication via forums and e-mail. Students might need to choose a school based on their time requirements and scheduling compatibilities.

Online Degree Options for Legal Studies

Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies

A bachelor's degree program in legal studies is designed to give students general knowledge of the law, including how the legal system in America works, how society changes in relation to the law and how citizens can interact with the legal system. Programs are often designed to give students the foundation they need to perform well in law school. Students in an online legal studies program normally study via online education software that combines e-mail, forums and instant messaging and allows students to take tests online. Coursework includes:

  • Civil litigation practice
  • Legal writing
  • Legal research
  • Real estate law and practice
  • Trademark and copyright law

Master of Science in Legal Studies

A master's degree program in legal studies may provide students instruction in paralegal duties or focus on areas such as advocacy law, business law or health law. The schedule for master's programs in legal studies varies, with some flexible programs being more suitable for professionals who are taking classes in their spare time and others using a more structured delivery method that requires students to attend class at certain times for video or voice conferences with professors and other students. Students study:

  • Jurisprudence and legal history
  • Theories of justice
  • Politics and law
  • Ethics and the professional

Schools with Online Programs in Legal Studies

Post University's bachelor's degree program in legal studies is available in an on-campus or online format. The online program typically takes five years to complete. Students will have access to the two largest legal research databases, LEXIS and WESTLAW.

Kaplan University offers legal studies programs at the bachelor's and master's degree levels, as well as other related programs, such as an associate's degree in legal support and services. The programs include opportunities to earn college credit for an internship. Courses include real-time seminars and discussion boards to include collaborative learning opportunities.

The University of Illinois Springfield's master's degree program in legal studies is available online. Courses take two formats: real-time digital conferences or asynchronously with discussion boards and other collaborative tools. Due to the heavy reliance on discussion boards, strong written communication skills are a must for this program.

Legal studies degrees are useful for entering law school, a paralegal profession, or other law-related careers such as crime investigators and expert witnesses. Online courses may be more convenient for students with busy work schedules, although some also make use of real-time conferencing and therefore will affect students' schedules.

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