Feedback on Online Law Degrees is Positive
Web-based law degrees, such as J.D. and LL.M. programs, are becoming more popular, but can these programs provide the same education as a traditional law school class? Michael Foster went to law school in the 1970s, earning a master's of law or LL.M. at New York University's School of Law. Foster said that a master's in tax law advanced a student to the point where you were five or six years in an actual practice without the master's degree. Foster now is the managing member of Jackson Kelly PLLC, a law firm that represents clients across the nation. Nowadays, law school students pursue executive tax LL.M. degrees, but there's more ways than traditional law school now to get such a degree. Many students are turning to online schools. However, there are some things to be aware of, according to Foster.
For one, less distinguished schools, online or not, may not lead to a career. Students need to pick an online program just as they would choose a school, which means looking at the faculty credentials, selectivity, job placement rate, and student reviews. Foster said that students should be wary of ABC schools that no one has ever heard of in the law community. These schools won't allow you to advance, whether you get a J.D. or LL.M. degree.
The American Bar Association should also be listed as the accrediting institution for the program. Although ABA doesn't accredit LL.M. programs, whether traditional classroom or online, they do recognize LL.M. degrees for U.S. law to foreign lawyers who attend the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, a school that has offered distance learning and online law programs.
ABA also places limits on the number of credits for distance education, which includes online courses that law students at accredited schools can earn. The limit is set to 12, so if a school online is offering a total J.D. program online, with no traditional classes, then it probably doesn't have ABA accreditation.
Concord Law School at Kaplan University, California Southern University's School of Law and California's St. Francis School of Law are three schools that allow students to take fully online programs and also take the bar exam, due to a state law that allows non-ABA accredited school graduates to take the bar.
Online J.D. alumni have also talked about the quality of their education and how it changed their ability to go to school. Joy Nonnweiler, an attorney from Waukesha, WI, took the online J.D. program from Kaplan's school of law. She now practices and enjoyed being able to earn her law degree with flexibility online as opposed to a brick and mortar school.
As long as students research law degree programs beforehand and look for student reviews, they can find a worthwhile program that satisfies both ABA accreditation and successful JD or LL.M. completion.