Intro to Finding the Best Online Law School and Courses
So you want to go to law school, but you are wondering if there are any convenient online options out there for you. It turns out that taking law courses online is not only possible; it can be a great option for some people.
Consider this your ultimate guide to finding an online law school.
We are going to take you through the basic facts of online law school programs, offer a few words of caution, and then show you the best ways to find the right online law degree for you and your specific needs.
The most important thing to remember before you begin your search for the best online law school is that there are real limitations for those who want to take the bar examination when they have only gone to an online law school.
We will dive into that important topic later. But first—what options do you have for the best online law school?
What Online Law Courses Are Available?
Many schools offer online education on top of their traditional brick-and-mortar school locations. These schools will sometimes offer various law courses online as well. When it comes to online law school in general, you will find many different course options.
Some people want to be a paralegal or simply want to use law education for another purpose other than becoming a lawyer. And some lawyers want continuing education. All of these people can find multiple universities or colleges offering online law courses. You can find a listing of these sorts of opportunities here:
However, what most people are looking for when they ask, “Can you go to law school online?” are Juris Doctor degrees (sometimes called Doctor of Jurisprudence degrees). These are professional doctorate degrees that allow you to practice in the court of law.
There are far fewer options for an online law school programs for a Juris Doctor degree, so we will spend most time discussing this option.
Can You Go to Law School Online?
Anybody can go to a law school online. There are plenty of programs offering Juris Doctor degrees. Another way online law courses can be a good option is for those who want this education for reasons that do not require the bar exam, these online law degrees include: an associate degree, a bachelor degree, and graduate studies in law taught through online law courses.
Taking your law courses online can save you considerable money and commuting time. So going to law school online can be a wonderful and flexible option, even a sometimes inexpensive option, for many individuals. But a few things should be noted first.
Many employers are not as often excited to hire those who graduated from law school online. Since many law graduates from typical law schools are struggling to find employment in today’s market, going to an online law school could potentially add to the difficulty.
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Also, studies show that an online law school has a tremendously high drop-out rate. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported that 9 out of 10 people in online law degree programs dropped out entirely.
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What’s the Deal with California?
If you are wanting to practice law, online law school for a Juris Doctor degree is an option for you under one important condition: you are willing to take the bar exam in California. California is currently the only state considering online law degree programs for Juris Doctors when it comes to taking the bar and practicing law.
All the other 49 states require that the American Bar Association (ABA) has accredited the law school in order for students to take the state bar exam. No online law school has gained the accreditation of the ABA.
This means if you are starting out your search for finding the best online law school, California will be at the heart of everything you are searching. Keep this in the back of your mind.
How to Find Online Law Degree Programs
Now we dive into actually finding an online law school.
Since there is not nearly the number of online law schools as there are traditional brick-and-mortar law schools, there is not quite as much information out there. Finding online law school rankings or researching the top online law schools can feel trickier than researching popular law schools like Harvard or Stanford.
The most helpful of law school searches, such as SmartClass, do not include in their directories these online law schools offering Juris Doctor degrees. So you will have to own more of the research when it comes to choosing an online law degree.
To help you out, we have gathered a few great resources in one convenient location to make the process considerably easier. Here are some great ways to go about finding the best online law school.
Lists of Online Law School Programs: Start Here
In order to begin your search for the best online law school, you will need to know what options are out there. Here are two of the best lists online that will help you start off the search. These do not necessarily differentiate between the top online law schools or the greatest online law courses, but they introduce you to all the possibilities.
- Law School Hacker (Part 1): This article offers a list of online law degree programs for a Juris Doctor degree. You will also find a list of online law degrees that offer regular graduate studies in law. This is a great resource to start with.
- DistanceLearn: This informative article offers you a list of online law school options along with valuable links that are all approved by California to qualify for taking the state bar within the state. You can also find all the steps you will need to take to go from an online law degree student to lawyer.
Web Reviews of Online Law Schools
One of the best ways to go about finding the best online law degree programs for you is to read through reviews. These articles below do not come right out and advocate for any one best online law school, but they do give you great information to choose the one that is right for you.
- Law School Hacker (Part 2): Here you can find a review on two different online law school programs. You are given the top three reasons why you may want to consider getting your online law degree from either option. The article also discusses masters of law degrees that lawyers can receive online for continuing education.
- Affordable Online Law Degrees: This article lists ten places where you can go to law school online. While this does not necessarily show you what the top online law schools are, it provides great information for knowing the most affordable options. You may be surprised how much helpful information is given on each online law school.
- GradSchools.com: This website’s lists various online law school programs that offer a Juris Doctor program. Simply click on any school to be taken to a full description with more information on all the online law degree programs for each.
GradReports is a handy tool for learning more about an online law school because you will be reading reviews straight from their students and graduates. This is great first-hand experience that can help you narrow down the top online law schools for you.
For an example, we looked at Concord Law School through Kaplan University on Gradreports. Here you can see the following:
- A star rating (out of 5)
- The percentage of those who would recommend the online law school to others
- The percentage of those who believed their online law degree improved their career
- Written reviews from former and current students
This sort of information can be vital for choosing the best law online school. Simply search for all possible online law school options through GradReports to learn this valuable information.
Top Online Law Schools: Websites
While there are definitely more options available for an online law school, here are the website links to three particular schools many online resources suggest are the best options. Start learning about these online law school programs, and if you are interested in others, you can easily begin to compare.
Image Source: Best Online Law School
Remember this list is not exhaustive. It simply gives you extra resources for finding the best online law school for you and your education dreams.
Online Law School Rankings
Unfortunately, not even one online law school falls into the main ranking systems for law education in the United States. All of the top 20 law schools are found in brick-and-mortar traditional buildings.
Some of these top schools do happen to offer distance-learning options though—in fact, the ABA allows for their accredited schools to offer 12 credit hours via online learning. So you can take some law courses online, even at a traditional law school.
But going to full-time law school online does not give you any options for the regular law school rankings.
What about William Mitchell College of Law?
In your research for the best online law school, you will quickly see—as we have mentioned—that no online law school programs are accredited by the highly important ABA.
There is, however, one hybrid option that is half online and half in-class that has been ABA-accredited. William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota offers some of their Juris Doctor degree programs through online distance-learning. Considering this option is accredited, it could easily be considered one of the top online law schools.
You can learn more about William Mitchell’s accreditation and other schools that may follow in its footsteps with online law degree programs on U.S. News. William Mitchell is also listed on SmartClass.
Will an Online Law School Be Right for Me?
To know if you should apply to an online law school program in hopes of receiving your Juris Doctor degree and practicing law, it is important to ask yourself these questions first:
- Will I be fine with taking the bar exam in the state of California?
- Does the flexibility, cost, or ease of an online law school outweigh the possible difficulty of having a harder time finding a great job post graduation?
- Am I fine to go to an online law school that is not considered top-tier throughout the country?
- Will I be self-motivated enough to defeat the odds and not drop out of my online law courses?
If, however, you are not seeking a Juris Doctor degree and do not want to actively practice law, choosing an online law school that offers graduate-level legal studies could be one of the best options for you.
In all cases, taking the time to do active research, seeking counsel from those who have already graduated, and reading all the fine print for every online law degree option is vital for ensuring happy graduation from the best online law school.
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