ABA Accredited Online Law Schools & Degrees

Learn about the various aspects of online JD programs, including information about ABA accreditation, specialization areas, common courses, and admission prerequisites, as well as possible career pathways you could pursue with a law degree. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

ABA Accreditation for Law Schools

The American Bar Association (ABA) is an organization that advocates for the legal profession, promotes ethical legal conduct, provides benefits and programs to members, and works to advance just laws and access to justice. The ABA is also the agency that accredits law school programs and assesses whether the curriculum and faculty meet a high standard.

The importance of attending an ABA-accredited law school resides in the fact that, for licensure, many jurisdictions and states require that lawyers hold a JD from an accredited school. Also, these states will not let you sit for the bar exam unless you have earned a JD from an ABA-approved law school. With an ABA-accredited JD, you are able to sit for the bar exam in every jurisdiction as well.

Overview of ABA-Accredited Online JD Degrees

Online Juris Doctor (JD) programs are very rare, and there are only a handful of programs available that are accredited by the ABA. In addition, these are hybrid programs that are not able to be completed fully online. While you are able to complete some coursework online, other requirements such as on-campus visits, on-campus workshops, or residencies are also a part of these programs. You cold also be required to complete a law externship as well. These online hybrid programs could take about 3-4 years to complete.

Additional Types of Online Law Degrees

Below, you can learn about the other types of online law degree programs, including undergraduate and post-graduate programs.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Law

There are several types of online bachelor's degree in the realm of law, including degrees in legal studies, law and policy, and justice studies. Generally, these online bachelor's programs aim to give you a solid foundation of legal concepts, legal writing, social justice, law policy, legal ethics, and criminal law. Your exact coursework will depend on the focus of your specific bachelor's degree program, but you can expect to take online courses across a broad range of law topics. These programs are able to be completed in a fully online format and can help prepare you for a JD program.

Online Master of Legal Studies (LLM) Degree

Online Master of Legal Studies (LLM) degree programs are for those who already hold a JD and want to further specialize in a certain area of law. These online programs could require around 21-24 total credits and take about 1 year to complete. You may also choose a specific area in which to earn your online LLM degree, which could be the U.S. legal system, tax law, intellectual property, wealth management, or another field. Usually, these programs can be completed fully online.

Prerequisite Requirements for Online JD Programs

Many law schools administer their admission process through the Law School Admission Council's (LSAC) online portal. There, you are able to submit your credentials, transcripts, and letters of recommendation, as well as register for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and LSAC's Credential Assembly Service, which summarizes your academic records for law school admissions committees. This online portal also allows you to search for law schools, and it can assist you in deciding which school is right for you. Finally, you are able to apply to the law schools of your choice through the LSAC portal.

Below, you can learn more about some of the prerequisite requirements for applying to JD programs.

Bachelor's Degree

First, you must have already earned a bachelor's degree before you apply to law school. Most JD programs don't have a specific requirement about the type of degree you must have. However, programs do look for candidates with strong writing, analytical, and reading skills. Admissions committees also consider your undergraduate GPA and the types of courses you have completed.

LSAT

The LSAT is a standardized test that is used to assess your writing, analytical thinking, and critical reading skills. The LSAT is a two-part exam that includes a multiple-choice section and a written essay section. The multiple-choice part of the LSAT must be taken at a test center, but the written essay can be done online through proctoring software you download onto your computer.

As most ABA-accredited law schools require that you submit LSAT scores, it's important that you do your best to prepare for this two-part exam. There are several online test preparation materials available. A limited number of law schools even offer scholarships that help you afford your LSAT prep materials.

GRE

Although the LSAT is the preferred standardized test for law school admissions, a select few online JD programs accept the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in place of the LSAT. The reason for this is that the GRE is more accessible (as it is administrated more often and widely than the LSAT), and it broadens the application pool for law schools. The GRE assesses your critical thinking, analytical, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning skills.

It's important that you check with your chosen law schools regarding whether GRE scores are accepted, as not all online JD programs give this option. If you take both the GRE and the LSAT, your LSAT score will be considered your primary test score.

Other Considerations

Law schools usually take a holistic approach to considering applicants. Often, admissions committees consider work experience, extracurricular activities, community service, and the contents of your personal statement.

JD Specialization Areas

JD programs sometimes offer specializations that could lead to a certificate or a transcript notation. These specializations focus on one area of law, and you could be required to complete specific coursework and/or real-world or practical experiences to earn your specialization.

Not every JD program offers specializations, and online JD programs rarely offer them. However, below, you can explore some specific specialization areas.

Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual property law centers on the study of patent, trademark, and copyright law. You might also study international intellectual property law and US trade law. In addition, there is a focus on supporting inventors, startups, and corporations in the context of patents and trademark development.

Child and Family Law

Child and family law focuses on law that affects child welfare, domestic issues, adoption law, and juvenile justice. Family law, children's legal rights, and education advocacy could also be topics you cover in this specialty.

Health Law

Health law explores a wide range of legal issues regarding health care, including bioethics, fraud and abuse, compliance, patient's safety, and public health. You might also study mental health law, medical malpractice, or food and drug law.

Environmental Law

Environmental law has a focus on environmental and climate issues in the context of law. In this specialization, you could study land use laws, environmental justice, water law, climate law, and energy law.

Common Courses for Online JD Programs

Although your exact coursework depends on your chosen online JD degree program, there are some common topics and subject you will likely study, some of which you can read about below.

  • Criminal Law - Generally gives an overview of criminal law topics in terms of justice administration. Could also cover such subjects as actus reus, mens rea, sentencing, types of crime, and complicity.
  • Constitutional Law - A course that covers all aspects of the US Constitution, including separation of powers, due process, federalism, and governmental powers.
  • Torts - Explores different areas of legal wrongdoings in respect to property or persons. May also cover liability topics, such as product and strict liability, as well as defamation.
  • Family Law - A course that closely examines law in the context of the formation and dissolution of families. You could also study marriage and divorce, child custody, property division, and alimony.

How to Choose a Law School

Choosing a law school is a complex decision that should be made by taking into account several factors, such as your career goals, the type of JD program you want to attend, and financial aid considerations.

Online Hybrid JD Programs V.S. On-Campus JD Programs

It's important to consider that the number of on-campus JD programs far outweighs online, hybrid programs, which means your choice of law schools is limited if you have decided to go the online route. In addition, as mentioned above, online JD programs do not offer as many specializations options as on-campus programs do, which also means your choice of law specialty is also limited. When choosing a law school, you should consider the type of law career you want to pursue and if your law school helps you along that pathway.

Online Hybrid JD Program Format

It's also prudent to remember that online JD program cannot be completed fully online. They are all hybrid programs that require on-campus and real-world elements. When deciding if a hybrid JD program is right for you, make sure that you are able to travel to campus, sometimes for multiple days, and are able to complete any real-world externships.

Cost

Another important consideration is cost. Some JD programs offer scholarships for qualified applicants and will help you find outside scholarships. The U.S. Department of Education also offers grant and loan programs, and by filling out a FASFA, you can learn about the state and federal loan programs you are eligible for.

What Can You Do with a Law Degree?

After earning an advanced law degree, you could follow several different career paths. Below, you can explore possible law-related careers and learn about specific job duties as well as the median salary information and job outlook numbers for these specific professions.

Lawyer

Lawyers, or attorneys, represent and advise clients in legal proceedings and in court, conduct legal research, prepare various kinds of legal documents including deeds and lawsuits, and interpret regulations and laws for clients. The specific duties and focus of a lawyer depends on the type of lawyer they are as well. For example, tax lawyers focus on handling tax issues for private or corporate clients, while intellectual property lawyers focus on patents, trademarks, and copyright. Lawyers can also work in a variety of settings, including for corporations; nonprofits; federal, state, or local government; and in private practice.

In 2018, lawyers earned a median wage of $120,910*, and this profession has a 6%* job growth outlook for 2018-2028.

Important skills for lawyers: analytical thinking, research, communication, and problem-solving.

Mediator

A mediator, or arbitrator, is someone who helps resolve disputes and conflicts outside of the court system. Typically, duties include interviewing the aggrieved parties, facilitating communication between the parties, conducting meetings in the arbitration process, evaluating relevant documents, and preparing agreements. Usually, mediators are former lawyers or judges.

In 2018, mediators, arbitrators, and conciliators made a median salary of $62,270*, and this profession has an 8%* job outlook for 2018-2028.

Important skills for mediators: critical-thinking, reading, writing, listening, decision-making.

Law Librarian

Law librarians work in law firms or law schools to assist lawyers, students, judges, and clerks find different kinds of legal resources. Law librarians may also develop databases and organize information. To become a law librarian, you must first earn a master's degree in library and information science, which could take about 1-2 years. Next, to specialize in law, you then earn your law degree.

In 2019, law librarians made a median salary of $61,773**. Also, the job growth for the entire librarian profession is 6%* from 2018-2028.

Important skills for law librarians: communication, reading, and interpersonal.

Law Professor

Law professors work for colleges or universities where they teach law courses, develop lesson plans, advise students, assess student progress, conduct research in the law field, and write books and/or articles. There are two types of professors: full-time professors who have earned tenure and adjunct professors who are part-time. To become a law professor, you must earn an advanced law degree, and some higher education institutions prefer work experience in the law field as well.

In 2018, post-secondary law teachers made a median salary of $111,140.* The job outlook for post-secondary law teachers is 10%* for 2018-2028.

Important skills for law professors: speaking, writing, interpersonal, and critical-thinking.

Law Clerk

Law clerks work in a court setting and for judges. Their duties include conducting research that relates to legal issues before the court, drafting different legal documents, such as opinions and memoranda, reviewing court briefs, and offering advice to judges and other legal professionals. The profession can be competitive, especially in federal courts and the Supreme Court, and you must hold a law degree and have passed a state bar exam.

In 2019, law clerks made a median salary of $48,241.**

Important skills for law clerks: research, writing, and reading.

Judge

Judges have a range of duties, including researching legal questions and issues, presiding over trials and hearings, applying the law in order to resolve disputes, and writing legal opinions and decisions. Magistrate judges (sometimes called county court judges or municipal court judges) work in federal, state, and local courts, presiding over hearing and trials. Administrative judges work for government agencies and make decisions on legal issues. Judges are typically appointed or elected into their jobs. To become a federal judge, you must pass an exam administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

In 2018, administrative law judges earned a median salary of $99,850*, and judges and magistrate judge earned a salary of $133,920*. The job growth outlook for all judges is 3%* from 2018-2028.

Important skills for judges: critical-thinking, decision-making, reading, writing, and communication.

*Information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018 **Information provided by PayScale.com, 2019

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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