Online law school is an option for students in situations that prevent them from attending a traditional classroom-based law school. Work, family commitments and geographic location are all factors that can lead prospective students to online law school. The American Bar Association (ABA) is the main accreditation organization for law schools in the U.S. Attending a law school approved by the ABA has significant advantages, including recognition by state bar associations.
Types of Law Degrees
In the U.S., legal education is typically pursued as a graduate degree. Most law schools offer two graduate degrees, the juris doctor (or J.D.) and the master of laws (or LL.M.). The J.D. is the first degree in law and the LL.M. is an advanced law degree.
As of 2011, there are not any ABA-approved online J.D. programs. Because the ABA standards for law schools limit the number of credit hours that a J.D. student can earn via distance education, an online law school does not meet ABA standards for the J.D. degree. However, there are ABA-approved schools offering part-time evening and day J.D. programs.
Many ABA-accredited law schools offer online LL.M. programs. So, if you already have your J.D. degree, you can pursue an LL.M. degree online from an ABA-approved school. An online LL.M. program may also be a good choice for those with a foreign law degree. In some other countries, law school is an undergraduate program. Foreign students with an undergraduate law degree may qualify to sit for the bar exam in some states by obtaining an LL.M. degree from an ABA-approved law school.
Online Law School Considerations
It is important to know that a J.D. degree from an online law school may be somewhat limiting because most states in the U.S. require a law degree from an ABA-accredited law school in order to sit for the bar exam. Even if you are considering an online LL.M. program, be sure to verify that the school and program are approved by the ABA. Also, if you are planning on using the LL.M. degree from an ABA-accredited law school as a vehicle to be admitted to take a state bar exam in the U.S., you’ll want to make sure that an online LL.M. (even from an ABA-approved school) will meet the requirements for taking the bar exam of that state.
Steve Aycock has a background in engineering and law. Writing since 2002, Aycock has been published in "IPLaw360" and BNA's "Patent, Trademark and Copyright Journal." Aycock earned a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of South Florida and a Juris Doctor from The George Washington University.