I’m not going to lie. Before I wrote this article, I didn’t know anything about online law school. If I’m being honest with myself, I didn’t even know they existed, at least in the United States.
In my experience, law schools are so old fashioned, allowing students to take online courses without subjecting the students to hour long Socratic grillings seems like a travesty. However, the more I looked into online programs, the more the idea jibed with me.
But, before I get into whether you should even consider attending an online law school, you need to know that no online law schools are accredited in all 50 states. In fact, there are only a few states that allow graduates from online schools to take their bar exams.
However, that will change in the near future … probably.
What kinds of online education are available?
There are three ways to attend law school online. First, you can simply attend an online law school. Second, you can get a hybrid degree, where half of your classes are done online, and half of your classes are taken at the actual law school you were accepted to. Third, and finally, you can take some online classes while at a traditional law school.
Online Law School
Like I mentioned earlier, the American Bar Association has refused, up to this point, to accredit any law school that offers students a J.D. that is entirely online. That means you won’t be able to take the bar exam in many states. For more on this, check out the post Is the LSAT Required for Law School?
But, there are perks. The annual tuition to one of these law schools is right around $10,000. Additionally, law students at these schools have flexible class schedules that work around their personal and professional lives. These degree programs make getting a law degree very doable for people who would otherwise be unable to attend a brick and mortar law school.
Hybrid Law School
In Fall of 2015, the ABA approved a variance for the William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota to offer a half-online and half-in-person law program. It’s the first of its kind, and it definitely offers some flexibility for prospective law students.
Students enrolled in this program take their classes online, for the most part. Then, at the end of each semester, the students take one-week intensive courses for their remaining credits.
On top of that, the hybrid program takes four years.
The final option for law students is to take some classes online. Each law school is limited in how many online credits law students can use. However, the online classes do allow students some limited flexibility in their work.
At the end of the day, if you’re considering taking online courses, or going to a completely online school, you need to look at the end result.
Ask yourself the following questions before you make a decision:
- Will the state you want to practice law in allow you to sit for the bar exam?
- Do you learn better in person or online?
- Is the cost of attending an actual law school that much more than going to an online school?
- And for another take on attending non-ABA-approved law schools, check out this article.
And for another take on attending non-ABA-approved law schools, check out this article.