Law schools offer a range of programs, specialty tracks and learning formats, including traditional and online law degrees. These options can make learning more specialized and accessible, but sorting through them can be overwhelming. This guide outlines the kind of training and career information future students need find the right programs for them.
LAW DEGREE OPTIONS
Online law schools allow students to pursue several different types of degrees, depending on their goals and interests. Associate and bachelor’s degrees in legal studies prepare students for paralegal careers by teaching them how to conduct legal research and provide assistance to licensed attorneys. Bachelor’s degree programs offer more advanced training and serve as stepping stones to master’s and professional degrees, including the Juris Doctorate degrees that prepare future attorneys to pass bar exam and practice law. The Doctor of Judicial Science degree is the most advanced legal degree available and a popular choice for students who want to teach university law courses.
ONLINE LAW SCHOOL DEGREES
Law degrees tend to be heavily reading- and research-intensive, which makes them well suited for distance learning. Online law schools can help students pursue the training they need to enter any number of law careers, but in a much more convenient format. These programs strive to strike a balance between flexibility and interactivity. For instance, students enrolled in online Juris Doctorate programs may use an online course management platform like Blackboard to access course materials, watch video lectures, attend live classes and take exams online, but also collaborative schools like Skype and online forums to interact with peers and professors. Online law schools tend to offer the same degrees, coursework and practical skills as their more traditional counterparts, though they need not be all-or-nothing: many schools offer hybrid programs combining online and classroom instruction.
Top Online Law Schools
1. Nova Southeastern University
The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Nova Southeastern University offers a legal studies bachelor’s degree program that prepares students for law enforcement, business, public affairs, teaching, and lobbying careers. Students in this program gain an understanding of legal concepts along with the critical thinking skills needed to put them into a real-life context. The program also has specific pre-law and international law tracks that help students who plan to go on to law school after graduation. Coursework offered by the department covers topics such as comparative legal systems, war crimes, legal research, the First Amendment, and trial advocacy.
2. California University of Pennsylvania
California University of Pennsylvania has an online program in jurisprudence with a legal studies concentration that looks at the law from social, administrative, managerial, and operational perspectives. Students leave the program with the ability to make legal arguments, conduct research, compare different legal systems from around the world, make predictions on the effects of specific legislation, and evaluate criminal responsibility. Courses can be taken in real estate law, trial evidence, criminal law for paralegals, classical jurisprudence, legal research and writing, and law in the workplace. The program operates on a cohort model, where a group of students all complete the same curriculum at the same time.
3. Roger Williams University
Roger Williams University’s School of Justice Studies offers a variety of bachelor’s degree programs for students who want to pursue law-related careers. The bachelor’s degree in legal studies focuses on criminal law, ethics, and the judicial process to educate students interested in legal systems and the law. Students who want to go on to earn a law degree may be eligible for the school’s legal studies and law three-plus-three program that allows them to begin working on their JD after earning 90 undergraduate credits. Roger Williams University also offers bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, cybersecurity, and forensic science, as well as graduate degrees in public administration and leadership.
4. Bay Path University
The legal studies bachelor’s degree program at Bay Path University can prepare students to attend law school after graduation, or pursue paralegal, legal assistant, court reporter, or mediator jobs. No matter which path students choose after they complete their degree, the program arms them with the interpersonal, ethical, investigative, communication, research, and critical thinking skills they need to be successful. This is because students in this program learn legal theories and philosophies that that are the basis for jurisprudence, practical applications for legal theories, and the standards that are expected of people in the profession.
5. Siena Heights University
People who want to get an education on the law and politics that is steeped in the liberal arts tradition can find what they need at Siena Heights University. The bachelor’s degree program in law and politics gives students the option to choose a legal or political track, depending on their interests and career goals. Courses that students take in this program include topics such as political thought, comparative politics, business law, social science research, the Constitution, and public policy. In addition, students are required to complete a senior project to demonstrate their proficiency in class content.
6. University of Illinois at Springfield
The legal studies master’s degree program at the University of Illinois at Springfield is a multidisciplinary program that combines the technical and social aspects of the law. In addition, the program was built to give students the ability to perform academic research, effectively communicate about law and policy, and develop expertise in a specific area of legal studies. To make these program goals come to life, students participate in a clinical education requirement where they work in courts, private law firms, public interest groups, attorney general’s offices, and administrative agencies. In addition, students are required to write a thesis and participate in a graduate seminar.
7. University of Tulsa
The University of Tulsa offers two legal master’s degree programs: a Master of Laws (LLM) and Master of Jurisprudence (MJ). The LLM program is designed for students with a JD who want to focus their studies on energy or American Indian law. Non-lawyers can enroll in the school’s MJ program, which also gives students the choice to study American Indian or energy law, to receive the theoretical and experiential learning they need to enter legal careers. The school also has a minor in law, policy, and society for bachelor’s degree students, as well as a health law certificate program.
8. St Thomas University
The St. Thomas University School of Law, which was founded in 1984, offers a Three + Three B.A./J.D. Program that allows students to earn their bachelor’s and law degrees in six years instead of seven, which gives them a head start on their legal career. As they complete their coursework, students earning this degree can get hands-on experience through the school’s clinical program, which provides legal services to the public. St. Thomas University also offers an LLM degree in intercultural human rights for legal professionals who want to work in human rights activism. In addition, students can earn certificate programs in elder, environmental, or tax law.
9. University of Southern California
Those who do not plan to practice law, but want to gain a legal education to help with their career goals, can earn an online business law certificate from the University of Southern California. Students in this program can use this certificate to enhance their careers in the education, business, government, healthcare, human resources, entertainment, and engineering fields, among others. The curriculum includes coursework in legal terminology, research, analysis, and writing. The school also offers a master’s of laws degree for international students who want to learn about American law so they can apply their legal knowledge to the global markets.
10. University of Miami
The law school at the University of Miami offers joint JD/LLM degrees that allow students to complete both programs on an accelerated schedule, thus making it easier for them to meet their career goals. In addition, the school has several specific concentrations that students can focus their studies on, depending on what type of legal environment they want to work in. Some of these concentrations are in areas such as tax, real estate, maritime, entertainment, international, and sports law. International students can earn an LLM degree in intensive legal English, which allows them to become proficient in American law while increasing their language skills.