Entering The Business of Legal Matters: Online Law & Legal Degree Programs

Online law and criminal justice programs can provide you with the specialized training you need to succeed with a career in the legal system. Whether you aspire to be a police officer, an attorney or a judge, online courses in the law and criminal justice field can help you reach your academic and professional goals. This sector of the industry is highly regarded and can offer a personally fulfilling lifelong occupation that meets the needs of society. If you already work in the law and criminal justice field, then advancing in your chosen directive can be obtained by continuing your education with online courses designed to help you reach the next level of your career. Whether you want to obtain your bachelor's or master's degree, online law and criminal justice programs can provide the flexibility and the quality of education you need to increase your responsibilities and your income.

Law Degree Programs

Law & Legal Studies Degree Information

Harvard Law School Dean, Christopher Columbus Langdell, reformed the legal education system in the U.S. during the late 1800s with the goal of turning the legal profession into a graduate study. While other countries offer law as an undergraduate program, the U.S. requires that prospective law students earn a bachelors degree first and then apply to law school, which is a separate graduate degree program. Although a high number of law school applicants major in political science or humanities studies, schools encourage people from all academic backgrounds to apply.

Law school takes three years of full-time study to complete and confer a Juris doctorate (J.D.) and has explicit limits on the minimum amount of time student must spend in program. Some schools offer joint degrees with another program, such as a six-year bachelors and J.D. degree program or a joint J.D. and MBA program. There are also combinations of a J.D. with a Master of Science or a J.D with a Master of Arts. Some schools offer clinical education programs, which focuses on training that is more practical.

The top law schools in the country are often connected with elite universities, such as Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Stanford, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, Duke, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, University of Chicago and University of Michigan. When applying to law school, make sure that it is professionally accredited by the American Bar Association.

LSAT For Law School

Admissions to law school are based on a candidates bachelor's degree, academic grades and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score, along with work experience, writing skills and extracurricular activities as an undergraduate. Most applicants take private classes and study for the test like a normal college-level course, as the LSAT score is one of the main indicators that law schools look at when choosing new students.

Earning A Juris Doctorate

A Juris Doctor, also known as a J.D., is the graduate degree and professional doctorate of the study of law. A J.D. gives students the necessary training to become a lawyer. Law students are often referred to as 1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls based on their year of study. Professors lead debates in class over court cases and issues or from casebooks used in class, which usually cover landmark cases. The change from lecture-based teaching to interactive debating among classmates is often a jarring change for 1Ls, as the casebooks push students to interpret the law and basic legal concepts on their own from the case without strict textual guidance.

In addition to the extremely rigorous studying involved in law schools, students are highly encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities, as well as search for internships and jobs for the summer. Certain extracurricular activities are important for boosting a law graduates resume and having the opportunity to participate in practical law situations outside of the classroom. Being a member of law review, which is a journal published by the school (e.g. Harvard Law Review), is a great indicator of academic performance and gives students insight into legal scholarship and editing, along with the chance to publish their own work.

Moot court membership provides the opportunity to practice legal training, particularly in a courtroom situation, through Trial Advocacy and Dispute Resolution. Order of the Coif membership combines grade point average with Latin honors, although many law schools do not offer this.

Earning Other Degrees In Law

While the J.D. is considered a professional doctorate, a student can earn other higher law degrees. After earning a JD it is possible to complete a one year Master of Laws degree. When doing so you can choose an area of specialization, for example tax law. The Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) and Doctor of Comparative Law (D.C.L.) are research-based academic degrees comparable to a Ph.D.


Law courses focus on learning how to analyze legal problems, read cases, condense facts and apply law to facts. The first year of law school is extremely standardized with a few exceptions. The course load is very heavy and comes from the following semester-length classes: contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, torts, civil procedure, property and a yearlong course in legal writing and research normally called lawyering skills.

The second and third years of law school is more flexible, with students able to choose from fields of law that interest them. However, professional responsibility is required in the second year and an upper-division writing course is required in the third year. Some schools offer a series of courses students can take as a specialization, while others have certification programs with research elements in such fields as public interest law, environmental law, international law and intellectual property law. Some areas of study that students pursue after the first year include corporate law, admiralty law, environmental law, venture capital, antitrust, intellectual property law, administrative law, international law and tax law.

The Socratic Method, the primary didactic approach in law school, tests students on the reasoning of the court in those cases. The Socratic Method forces students to teach each other based on their understanding of legal theory and the facts of the case. The Socratic Method encourages professors to call on students at random, ask about the arguments made in an assigned case and uses questions to expose flaws in the student’s argument. This combination of in-class debates, readings and exams train students in reasoning methods needed to determine, elucidate and prove legal precedents and statutes both in writing and orally.

Most law schools grade on a curve and the grading is very competitive. Exams involve writing an essay to interpret the facts of hypothetical cases and legal theories that apply to the case.

What Type of Specializations Exists?

In addition to criminal law, there are a few other specializations available when completing a law degree. Many share the same core modules, but after expanding your understanding of human society and the laws it has, you can then choose an area of particular interest to you in which to specialize. These can include intellectual property law, environmental law, commercial law, and family law, to name only a few.

Admission To The Bar After Law School

Since many of the best law schools focus solely on legal theory, law school graduates often need to attend special bar review courses in order to pass the test. Practicing law requires licensure and admittance to the bar of a state or territory or the bar of the federal courts. It is necessary to have earned a J.D. before taking the exam for admission to the bar.

Career Opportunities

Working as a lawyer is not limited to any one area of expertise. Private practice involves working for firms of any size, whether it is large corporate law firms or a smaller, specialized ones. Public interest lawyers argue for specific causes and provide legal services for lawsuits concerning public policy. Government lawyers work at any level of the local, state or federal government, such as a district attorney or public defender.

Clerkships are limited, desirable positions that allow law graduates to work with state and federal judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, researching and writing memos and opinion drafts based on the judge’s decisions in cases in addition to learning about the trial court system and motions practices.

Having a law degree can lead to careers outside the realm of law practices, including real estate, social services, education, and politics. In fact, many members of the U.S. Senate, along with governors, congressional representatives, lobbyists and more, first earned law degrees before entering the political stage. Opportunities in professional counseling as well as negotiation and conflict resolution also exist for those with good legal knowledge. Nongovernmental organizations also have a need for people with a knowledge of the law and for those interested in becoming entrepreneurs, it is very beneficial to understand and negotiate contracts. In addition, there is the field of banking and finance, especially areas such as taxes, small businesses and estates where a law degree can come in very useful. Finally, people with law degrees can also be found working in journalism, media, commerce, HR and recruitment, PR and marketing.

Earning Potential

Lawyers usually earn a substantial income. Salary depends on the field of law and the size of the organization as well as whether you are a partner in a law firm or own your own practice. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for lawyers as of 2015 was about $115,820. While the lowest 10 percent of people in this occupation earned less than $55,870, the figures for those in the top 10 percent reached as high as $187,200. The best industries in terms of compensation are finance and insurance, federal government and legal services.

Law and Legal Studies FAQs

Corrections -- A degree in corrections can provide you with the education and experience necessary to work in our nation's prison system. From correction officers and correction managers to correction supervisors and wardens, your career begins with a degree in corrections.

Criminal Justice -- There are a number of jobs available under the umbrella that is criminal justice. Those who work in this field are the police officers, corrections officers, court reporters, attorneys and judges.

Of course, the higher your degree, the more responsibility and income, you will earn. A degree in criminal justice will help you begin your career in the legal field, and online degree programs are available for continuing your education while you protect and serve.

Crime Scene and Forensics -- One of the more popular areas of law and criminal justice thanks to a certain television program, crime scene investigation, is a great occupational opportunity for someone who loves solving puzzles or who has an investigative eye for detail. Forensic scientists inspect the evidence gathered by the CSI team and together the two units work to put the pieces of the crime back together to help investigators arrest the guilty party.

Paralegal and Legal Services -- If you love law but don't think you have what it takes to be a full-fledged lawyer, or you are working toward being an attorney, working as a legal assistant can help you reach your goal. It all begins with an online degree in paralegal and legal services, in which you learn everything you need to know in order to perform as a qualified assistant to an attorney. You will research cases, manage client relationships and much more in this rewarding career.

What Types of Online Degrees Are Available in Criminal Justice?

There is a wide number of degree programs available online in the field of criminal justice. From certificate and associate's programs to PhD programs and everything in between, criminal justice online degree programs are available for every level of education. Some of the more popular programs include Master of Criminal Justice, BS in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement, Master in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration, and BS in Criminal Justice - Corrections.

Do I Need a Degree to Work Inside a Prison?

While a degree is not required, it is recommended if you have aspirations to advance your career. Higher prison officials like supervisors and wardens are typically required to have a degree in criminal justice.

What Is the Job Outlook in the Law Field?

The job outlook is about average in the law and criminal justice field According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a six percent growth is expected for the employment of lawyers between now and 2024. One of the fields with the most projected growth in terms of employment is forensic science technicians which, at 27 percent, is much faster than the average growth of all other occupations.

Why Should I Consider an Online Law Program Over a Campus Course?

An online degree program in law and criminal justice is the perfect way to begin your career in the legal field. If you currently work in a different field, or a related one, it is important that you maintain your income while you study.

Let's face it, nobody can afford to quit their day job and focus solely on academics. That's why so many accredited colleges and universities offer flexible online degree programs. In most cases completing an online program is much cheaper than attending a traditional campus class and requires no travelling. Find the job you want in the legal field by enrolling in an online degree program in law and criminal justice today.

Law & Legal Studies Student Guide

Legal education focuses on the study of law, legal systems, different kinds of law and legal rights. Those who intend to become legal professionals or use the degree to get law-related careers attend law school to study and earn a law degree. Most top law schools in the U.S. are more concerned with teaching legal theory and analysis than black letter law,î or hands-on practice and learning. This emphasis on legal skills over knowledge serves lawyers better, instead of teaching them a state-specific view of the law in one particular area.

Legal Books

While textbooks vary depending on the course and the professor teaching it, certain academic materials are used by every law student. Blacks Law Dictionary" by Henry Campbell Black is the most widely used textbook and will come in handy as a reference source years after law school.

Outlines are sought after as guides for a semester's worth of work, and while students should have detailed notes, other publications feature standardized topics and sources as a more complete version of the course. Gilbert Law Summaries are an excellent resource, while Westlaw has an online depository of outlines related to specific law schools, courses and professors.

Legal Research

Legal research is the process of identifying and recovering information that supports legal decision-making, from the analysis of the facts to the application and results of the investigation. The research requires primary sources to look up jurisdictions concerning cases and statutes, as well as background information regarding certain legal topics. Websites and databases such as LexisNexis and Westlaw provide are excellent resources, while many law libraries grant free access to legal information online, such as the Free Access to Law Movement from Cornell Law School.

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