If you have thought about attending law school, you are not alone. Thousands of Americans laid off during the recent economic turmoil have traded in their unemployment checks for mortarboards. Law school enrollment is at an all-time high, and that's no wonder: Attorneys are some of the highest compensated professionals in any industry, with many of the top law firm partners commanding in excess of $300,000 per year in salaries and benefits. Attorneys also enjoy excellent perks, including tuition reimbursement, firm-paid mortgage payments, and paid-for automobiles. People are more than happy to rush back to the classroom for the chance at a better life in a law profession.
However, law school is a very costly proposition; with tuition soaring upward into the tens of thousands per semester, very few potential students are afforded the opportunity to attend. First tier law schools such as Harvard can cost students close to $200,000, which most people are unable to afford without a stifling amount of student loan or grant funding. Even on-campus second tier schools can cost students in excess of $30,000 per year, with most Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs lasting three years for full-time students. Just walking through the door and being allowed to sit as a first year law student at many schools is a privilege few will have in their lifetimes. Additionally, those who are interested in leaving another professional field to attend law school may find that their time is limited; with most law schools requiring that students acquire their degree in a period of five years or less, finding the time to attend class is often a difficult task. Most people cannot simply quit their jobs to attend law school full time, leaving many would-be law students feeling as if they will never have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of a career in law.
Online degrees have gained quite a bit of popularity in recent years, with many employers coming to realize that an online degree is every bit as effective and worthwhile as one received in a classroom. Old stereotypes about online degrees have faded as these schools have become much more mainstream. It is no longer seen as taboo for a job applicant to admit to having an online degree. Thankfully, this has also become true with regard to law degrees. Online law degrees, while not yet as mainstream as standard classroom-earned degrees, have become much more prevalent as law schools around the country have begun struggling with an explosion in enrollment. Students can now earn a full Juris Doctor degree from fully-accredited online institutions based nationwide. Just like a standard law degree, graduating from an online law school permits graduates to sit for the bar examination in a given jurisdiction.
Attending online law school has two major benefits:
1. Pursuing an online law degree allows a much more flexible schedule than standard classroom attendance. While attending class may require a large change in a student's personal schedule to meet the requirements of the class, online courses are typically structured in such a way to allow students to work at their own pace. While online classes may still have specific due dates for assignments, students are free to work and study before or after work at their leisure.
2. Online law schools can offer significant tuition savings over a traditional classroom-based law schools. Without the requirement to utilize a classroom or other such resources, internet-based schools can pass the savings along to the student. While any online law degree is still a considerable investment, students selecting an online education may save tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and fees.
What You Will Learn as a Juris Doctor Student
The Juris Doctor (J.D.) is the first professional degree in the field of Law. It is the basic requirement for any would-be attorney to practice law, and is typically a requirement for new attorneys to be allowed to sit for the bar examination in their selected jurisdiction. It is typically a three-year program when done full-time, though many who pursue this education in an online environment will often take four years to complete it. An online law education will typically require approximately 90 credit hours of study, which still requires a fairly hefty workload to complete the degree in a four year span of time.
J.D. educations encompass a broad range of law study, typically including comprehensive courses on basic contracts, torts, criminal procedure, criminal law, civil procedure, wills and estates, and a variety of other topics. A strong background in composition and technical writing is encouraged before attending any law school, as much of the study will revolve around reading and interpreting legal contracts, laws, etc. While a Juris Doctor degree does not certify or license any person as an attorney at the completion of the program requirements, successful graduation will allow a graduate to sit for the bar examination. After passing the bar exam, the new lawyer will then be legally permitted to practice law.
Institutions Offering a Juris Doctor Degree Online
There is a wide range of American Bar Association (ABA) approved law schools that offer online law degrees, many of which allow graduates to sit for the bar exam in a variety of jurisdictions. While there are potentially dozens of online schools offering law educations, we will discuss three of the major players in the online world of J.D. educations.
Concord Law School
Perhaps the most popular online program is that which is offered through Concord Law School, in association with Kaplan University. Concord Law first began offering its Juris Doctor program in 1998, and has graduated over 1,000 students since its inception. With over 1,500 current law students, this is an online education worth looking into if you're serious about pursuing your J.D. on your own time at home. The contact information for Concord Law is included below:
They offer PhD programs in Public Policy. For more information, click here.
Earnings Potential for Juris Doctor Graduates
The potential for earnings for fresh law school graduates has waned over the past several years, most likely due to the marked increase in law school enrollment without large industry growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), law careers are anticipated to experience a growth rate of between 7 and 13 percent between 2008 and 2018. According to the BLS, competition for these jobs is expected to be "keen," with graduates from first-tier law schools with top academic records being the most competitive for these jobs. First-tier schools include Harvard Law, Stanford Law, and Yale Law. While those graduating from second-tier schools may find it more difficult to secure work as a lawyer immediately after graduation, many of these graduates are able to find temporary work as clerks in academic or judicial settings. This will allow the new graduate to gain essential experience before being allowed to practice law as a fully qualified attorney.
Long-term earnings prospects for attorneys are still excellent, with the median income for all practicing attorneys (salaried and non-salaried) being $110,590. The highest incomes were reported by attorneys serving as general counsel to businesses and organizations ($145,770), while the lowest earnings were reported by state government employed lawyers ($78,540). Partners in top law firms may earn considerably more than this average, with many earning in excess of $300,000 per year. However, this often takes years of dedication to achieve, and is never guaranteed.
These six-figure incomes are not often available to newly-graduated law students, however. The BLS has reported that the average income earned nine months after graduation from law school is $68,500. While this is a respectable income, the lowest income in the study was reported by academic and judicial clerks at $48,000. However, this is offset by recent graduates forming their own private practices with average earnings of approximately $108,500 per year. In addition to monetary earnings, most practicing lawyers receive a full array of benefits, including medical, dental, vision, and retirement. Many of the top firms are reported to provide extra perks to newer associates, including student loan payoff, mortgage assistance, and others.
For more information regarding future earnings and growth expectations of the lawyer profession, visit the website for the Bureau of Labor Statistics at http://www.bls.gov/oco/Ocos053.htm.
Best of luck in your professional law career goals.