Online law schools definitely have benefits for those who cannot attend classes at a traditional university program. For the most part, they are a second choice that is chosen only when a person cannot gain admission to a university law school or if that person cannot attend classes full time because of the need to work a regular job. For those who must work 40 hours each week to survive, but they are still determined to have a law degree, an online law school may be the solution to their dilemma. However, students should realize that many online law schools are not accredited. Accreditation is important in the eyes of those who hire graduates for new positions in law firms. Also, without accreditation, students may not be allowed to sit for the bar exam in their state. In that case, they have wasted almost $50,000 or more.
Distance learning definitely has its benefits for the student who is able to learn independently. Most law professors insist that classroom discussion, debate, and interaction is an integral part of a traditional university program, and this element is missing in distance learning. Students watch lectures online, write papers, and have little interaction with the professors who will grade them. It is often difficult to reach the instructor if the student has questions or does not understand some of the course content. Also, many students join distance learning programs, only to discover that the program takes much more time that they thought it would take. Online law schools require at least 25 to 35 hours of study each week.
Law firms are known for recruiting students who have recently graduated from top tier schools. However, if a lawyer who graduated from any school is eventually hired by a law firm, it is up to that individual to prove their worthiness in the field. Although the school that the lawyer attended may bring some recognition, this is not always the case. Lawyers become known as good ones when they win law cases and defend clients. The graduate of a distance learning program may lack some knowledge because they have missed hypothetical enactments and situations in the classroom. They must respond to similar experiences through their Real Player lectures, but discussion is lacking. Online law courses do attempt to provide many different types of cases and scenarios however, and these have prepared them for real life encounters in the law office.
The top traditional law schools are rated in tiers. There are no online law schools currently rated in the top 100 law schools, but Concord Law School is in the second tier according to lawschool100.com. It is not in second, third, or fourth tiers in other ratings by magazines, such as the U.S. News Education Grad Schools Ratings. The top three rated online law schools are all in California. They are from number one down to number three Taft Law School, Northwestern California University School of Law, and Concord law School. None of these schools are accredited. Rated as fourth is Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a program that has over 6,000 graduates. There is a possibility of completing a combined Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration with San Diego State University. The affiliation with the traditional university makes this program somewhat more recognized and respected.
The main benefit of these online law programs is that they offer those who have not been able to gain admittance to a recognized university law school to have a chance of becoming a lawyer. The problem is that if the student lives in Iowa or in New Jersey or any state other than California, they may not be allowed to take the bar exam in their state. This leaves the option of moving to California or giving up their dream of having a career in law while being $50,000 or more in debt.