Online master’s of law degree represents a specialization, but some online schools are exploiting the traditional understanding of a master’s degree to offer many of their programs. They don’t give the traditional JD, which is key to aspiring bar passage.
They’re billing it a specialization become an expert in legal matter affecting:
- health car
- environmental law
- legal support
- human resources
- international affairs
- policy making
So if you have your profession and want to increase your (earnings) potential by doing a lot of the legal work yourself, the online master’s of law degree could be your best option.
To understand the quirky US system (where you get a law “doctorate” before a “master’s), you have to first understand how most European countries do it: they confer legal degrees as an undergraduate majors (four years of study). So when the U.S. (following Harvard’s model) established a 3-year legal study system after completing undergraduate studies, it was touted as heavier on academics (compared to Europe) and named a “doctorate.”
Once you got your law “doctorate” what more was there to study? You had to “master” a specific branch of law, and so you got a “master’s” (called an LLM).
So now the online master’s of law degree (or “master’s of legal studies,” as in the video) programs are turning on its head the existing structure as they seek to exploit the changing face of national education with the advent of internet. It could be argued they’re exploiting the confusion with the degree order in law studies to mislead students. Before you enroll, make sure you’re clear about your goals and intended outcomes with online law degree.
Here’s what you should know about the online master’s of law degree (or variation thereof):
- Tuition can be one-sixth the cost of normal law school
- It allows for great flexibility
- Completion can take four years
- You will have interaction with professors and students via email and chat rooms
- Most states won’t let you take the bar exam (until policies change)
- California runs counter current and does allow you to take the bar
- You can appeal with your state bar to be allowed to take the bar
- You probably won’t have to take the LSAT to get in to a master’s in law program
Online legal studies are the answer for your dream that, up until now, have been frustrated by lack of time, lack of finances, lack of whatever. You can now get your law degree from a number of excellent law schools that are entirely online. To be sure, this option is not without its difficulties. State high courts are currently re-visiting their policies and are expected to lift the ban on online students taking the bar. Do the research in your state by contacting the bar directly (California allows online students to take the bar.)
It was just impossible to go to school at night and take care of the kids,” said a 46-year-old mother of two, who used her online law degree in the entertainment industry.
Consider online legal studies:
- Enrollment in online legal studies programs have exploded
- Law schools online have steadily increased
- Traditional law schools in 2013 are suffering declining enrollments
- Online is quality, student-oriented education
The American Bar Association, however, has taken a dim view of 100% online legal studies, allowing for traditional schools to give no more than 12 units online. The ABA has many similar rules for accreditation, which is needed in 49 states in order to take the bar. The ABA rules make law education excessively expensive, which is why law schools have raised their prices to beyond imagination. Nowadays, such rules make no sense. The job market is depressed, and with $100,000+ student loan debt from accredited law schools, students are understandably cutting back on applications to brick and mortar law schools.
Law program online, so far, has witnessed a slower growth than other academic disciplines — for example, Stanford’s or MIT’s computer-engineering programs that have made available rigorous education at fractional costs to six-digit numbers of participants.
the quality of such online education is high, and the programs are student-oriented, says Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (he’s also a professor of economics at Ohio University). A good law program online offers live discussions via internet that even employ the vaunted Socratic method.
Why, then, has the law program online met unusual resistance? First, because well-paid, tenured professors are protecting their turf. Second the high-flying law firms look first at the traditional schools.
For now, a law program online is good for you if you:
- wish to be self-employed lawyer
- want a law degree to compliment your career
- want a related career, like law enforcement or government
- can’t afford the spiraling costs of a traditional law school
- need to support yourself by working a day job while studying at night
- have parental duties that don’t allow you to go off to law school
- are in the military and want to prepare for your return to civilian life
Good news appears on the horizon. Legal education’s resistance the law program online should be eroding soon.
“We are going through a revolution in law with a time bomb on our admissions books,” said William D. Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University. He was speaking about drastic transformation coming to traditional law teaching.
A national task force urged in February 2013 to radically change the way the legal education is done. Whatever comes out of those recommendations remains to be seen, but the law program online looks to be the winner against the legal cronies guarding their turf.
Law programs online eventually will be the death knell of 2nd- and 3rd-tier law schools. That’s the feeling you get when you read a New York Times article on March 25, 2013 about the future of online education.
For the moment, it is not the case. The American Bar Association and state court systems have had their colleagues’ backs at the traditional law school. Only forward-looking California and a smattering of other states permit online law students to take the bar. But such late-adapter behavior is on the verge of change (being forced to change).
Traditional law schools have seen applications plunge to a 30-year low — due to skyrocketing tuition. The Internet is encroaching on the domain of the lawyer, with many forms now online, and this has taken a bite out of job prospects. Would you pay $150,000 for a law degree without a 6-figure job waiting for you at the end? (Top-grade earners at top schools will still command top dollar.)
Meanwhile, online education threatens to upend our “hallowed institutions of higher learning just” as it has disrupted every other industry. Stanford professors have founded Coursera and Udacity, separate “free” Massive Open Online Courses — or MOOCs — for other course work (so far, a law degree online is still not free), Lohr reports.
For the moment, the consumer must research carefully if her/his state accepts online law degreed students into its bar exam. But those policies are currently under scrutiny nationwide — and subject to change at any moment.
Before enrolling, make sure to ask:
- Credit-Earning Options
- Financial Aid
- Tuition and Fees
- Student Services
- Program of Interest
MOOC providers currently include:
- Coursera: Offers 220 courses in subjects including computer science, math, business, humanities, social science, medicine, engineering and education.
- Udacity: Classes on computer science, mathematics, physics and business courses.
- Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE): Offers 10 courses from Stanford’s School of Engineering.
- UC Berkeley: Courses on such as general biology and human emotion.
- MITx: Lists business, energy, fine arts, health and medicine, mathematics and science.
- Duke University: Uses ITunes U to deliver a diversity of courses.
- UCLA: Focus is on its writing program, which provides 200 online writing courses yearly.
- Harvard: Through edX (a joint Harvard and MIT initiative), teaches everything from Shakespeare to abstract algebra.
Law degrees online are crying out for a re-evaluation.Traditional law schools have jacked tuition up way beyond inflation. At the same time, the six-figure job offers remain elusive. The result? Newly-minted lawyers are being crushed under a burden of between $110,000 to $190,000 in debt. Law degrees online, though no easy path, make sense because their economical.
A New York Times article on Jan. 8, 2011, asserted that lawyers from traditional law schools need a gig that pays at least $65,000 to be able to handle their student loan debt. And there are too few cherries to pick for aspiring lawyers if they graduated from the bottom two-thirds of the U.S. News and World Report’s annual law school rankings.
Law degrees online: a cheaper alternative
So if you can’t get into Harvard or Yale where the mean income of graduates is $160,000, why not consider law degrees online, where tuition will be one-third? To be sure, online students have a harder time, statistically, passing the bar. But this depends on how applied the student is.
You also must research whether your state will allow you to even take the bar with law degrees online. (You may, however, want law degrees online for a career that doesn’t require bar passage. You can also pass the bar in forward-looking California, which recognizes online law schools, practice there for 5-7 years, and the submit to take the bar in your desired state. In some cases, you can request a hearing and persuade bar officials to allow you to take the test.)
Law school options today
So far the Medieval monks who run America’s legal education are convinced they will always have manuscripts to hand-copy, never mind that a certain Johannes Gutenberg has some crazy invention called the printing press. Will the current crisis be enough to persuade them to loosen their stranglehold on law education? Law degrees online are a growing option.
Fun facts (and not-so-fun ones):
- According to wikipedia, there are 199 ABA-accredited law schools (traditional) and only a handful online schools
- According to the National Association for Legal Career Professionals 2009 survey, of 44,000 law school graduates, less than 40% were employed as full-time non temporary attorneys.
- By raising its ranking with the U.S. News and World Report listing of law schools, a traditional institution increases not only enrollment but grants and endowments.
- By admitting just 25 students more, a traditional law school nets $1 million profit.
- According to the National Law Journal, 40% of law school graduates (of traditional institutions) default on student loans, incurring collection fees of 29%.
- Graduates from traditional schools default more often than doctors, engineers, and business school graduates