Online Law Degree: What Is It And How To Get It

Despite the large move towards distance learning for higher education, law schools have been slower to adopt the online model. Less than a handful of states allow students graduating with an online law degree to take the bar exam to practice. However, you still do have the option to earn an online law degree; you’ll just have to find a program that is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) and be in a state that acknowledges the degree.


Even so, there are still many law-related courses and ways to accelerate your J.D. degree online. Read on to learn how to get a law degree online and the others options available.

Student studying law online with justice statue on desk


How Online Law Programs are Structured


It’s typical for law degree programs to take four years to complete. Depending on the online law school you attend, you’ll be required to pass the specific courses pertaining to the law degree, as well as electives.


Online law school works in the same way that most remote learning does. You attend virtual class discussions, watch lectures, review provided text, and complete assignments.


Perhaps the biggest differentiator between an online law degree and traditional in-person degree is that you may have more than one large exam at the end of the online course. In traditional law schools, it’s common to just have one big exam at the culmination of the course to determine if you passed.


Bar Exam Eligibility


To practice law in any state, it’s required to pass the bar exam for that state to receive a license.


Currently, the ABA has not accredited any institution that operates 100% online. However, there are ways to take online classes and have it count towards your law degree. Through Standard 306, students within their first year of law school can take 12 total credits online.


There are only four states that allow you to take the bar exam without having gone to law school. These states are: California, Vermont, Washington, and Virginia.


How to Accelerate Your J.D. Online


While you can still get a law degree online, you won’t be able to practice by taking the bar exam because of the ABA accreditation standards.


However, you can use online methods to assist you in flexible ways while on your law school journey.


  • Online courses

    If you’re looking to gauge your interest in the field of law or learn more about specialities, then you can enroll in free online courses. For example, websites like Coursera, edX, and Udemy all offer free courses that touch on legal topics. These are great for anyone looking to hone a certain skill or learn more about an aspect of their job.

  • LSAT preparation

    Students who wish to enter law school will need to take the standardized exam, LSAT. There are many in-person tutoring options and courses to prepare students to sit for this exam. But, for a more affordable and flexible option, you can complete LSAT preparation online.

  • Certificate programs

    Certificate programs exist for credit or for no credit. These classes allow students to learn about a specific field of law. While you won’t be able to use a certificate to practice law, it can be a beneficial avenue for students who are seeking a particular career path, like becoming a paralegal, for example.

  • Online law degrees

    As mentioned, there isn’t an ABA-accredited law degree program that’s 100% online. But there are blended programs by which students can attend self-paced, live lectures online and then visit the campus for other courses. Furthermore, for those seeking a way to become experts in the field of law (but not practice as lawyers), there are online Master of Law programs.

  • Legal education credit

    Some states require that lawyers continue to maintain their license by taking courses. This may include events and conferences, self-studying, and online classes. For example, Texas requires that lawyers complete 15 credit hours annually and three of them must be in legal ethics and professional responsibility. Here’s a great example of where online coursework will meet the requirements.

  • Bar exam preparation

    Like preparing for the LSAT online before law school, students nearing the end of law school can take advantage of online bar exam preparation courses.


Benefits of Online Universities


In general, many students opt for online universities and courses because of the benefits that they provide. At University of the People, we offer four degree-granting programs.


Something that our online institution has in common with online programs in general is that it is more affordable, accessible and flexible for our students. When learning online, students generally have the option to set their own schedule and learn at their own pace.



Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels


The Bottom Line


Although there fails to be an online law degree that is fully online and accredited by the ABA, it doesn’t mean there will never be.


Additionally, there are still many law-related courses and preparatory programs that will aid you in your journey to become a lawyer. For those seeking to work in legal-related careers (without sitting for the bar exam and practicing as a lawyer), you can find online associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in law.

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