Legal Study Degrees

Study online for a career in law

In fields such as law and business, where you go to school has a direct impact on your post-graduation career prospects. Attending a school that enjoys a strong reputation with employers is essential to your success and can open up a lot of doors for you, so it's very important that you weigh the pros and cons of online law programs with thoroughness and care. Remember, too, that education represents an investment in your future; you might pay more to attend a school with a strong reputation, but you are also likely to get more for your money. As you will see, in the field of law, it is best to combine online education with traditional education.

Admission to an online law school works much the same way as it does with traditional law programs. In order to attend an online law school, and especially if you plan to combine online and traditional studies, you will generally need:

  • A four-year bachelor's degree (in any field)
  • A recent LSAT score
  • Letters of recommendation

You may also be asked to complete additional application materials, such as a statement of intent or an admissions essay which is designed to test your aptitude for the field. Admissions policies are set by individual schools and are not universal, but generally speaking, the more intensive a school's application process is, the more rewarding its program tends to be. Schools earn strong reputations through the success of their graduates, which is the reason that highly selective programs tend to be held in higher regard.

Also, the field of law offers a very wide range of specializations. Some of the many legal specializations you can pursue include:

  • Criminal law
  • Civil law
  • Tax law
  • Estate law
  • International law
  • Corporate law
  • Entertainment law
  • Immigration law
  • Family and divorce law

If you have a specialization in mind, you should concentrate your research on schools that are renowned for their programs in that particular field. Some schools excel in educating students for careers in a specific branch of law.

Online Law Programs and Bar Examinations

A word of caution to students: there is ongoing debate within the law community as to whether or not an online law degree is equal to a traditional law degree. While an online program can prepare you for your bar examination, law programs which are 100 percent online-based are only officially recognized in the state of California. Thus, if you complete a wholly online law degree, you will only be eligible to become a practicing attorney in that state. The American Bar Association does not yet recognize online law degrees, so if you want to practice in a state other than California, you should turn your focus to a traditional law program instead.

If you do plan to practice law in California and you want to attend an online law school, the first thing you should do is check to see if the school you're considering is registered with the State Bar of California. If it is, then you will be able to take the bar examination and become a licensed attorney after graduation. If it is not, then you will not be eligible for the state's bar examination. With online law degrees, students must exercise high levels of caution and perform very careful research to ensure they have a realistic view of their post-graduation career options. Finally, keep in mind that students who have only attended an online law school post lower-than-average success rates on the California bar examination.

Many accredited, ABA-recognized law schools allow students to combine online and traditional courses. If your goal is to become a practicing lawyer and you need the flexibility offered by online education, this is the best course of action for you to take.

Alternative Career Paths for Graduates of Online Law Schools

While it is difficult to become a practicing attorney in the United States if you attend a fully online law program, you can become a paralegal after graduating. Paralegals provide vital support services in law firms, helping research precedents and prepare cases while providing front-line support to clients. They also enjoy strong earning potential, with average salaries in the range of $54,000 to $65,000 a year according to a 2010 survey.