Pros and Cons of Getting a Legal Degree Online

Legal degrees, such as the Master of Legal Studies or Master of Studies in Law, are intended for people who are not lawyers but need to have a strong understanding of the law for their future profession.

Paralegals, human resources managers, compliance officers, health services managers, and others can benefit from a legal degree.

However, it’s important to note that a Master of Legal Studies or a similar legal degree will not qualify you to take the bar exam or become a lawyer. To do that, you will need either a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree or a Master of Laws (LL.M.).

If you’re a full-time employee considering a career change but can’t afford to quit your job to attend school, an online program may be a good option for you.

Online legal degree programs vary depending on the law school and each program has its own unique benefits and challenges. Factors such as program design, cost, and accreditation are important to consider when deciding whether to pursue an online legal degree.

Pros and Cons of Getting a Legal Degree Online

Pros of Getting a Legal Degree Online

Online legal degrees offer an efficient and convenient way to acquire the necessary legal knowledge for your desired career, no matter the industry or practice setting. Pursuing a legal degree online has numerous benefits, such as greater flexibility and lower costs compared to traditional in-person programs. Below are some of the possible advantages to consider:

Similar Curriculum with Greater Flexibility

The curriculum for Master of Legal Studies program is usually the same whether it is offered online or on-campus. The foundational courses cover fundamental topics such as legal writing, legal procedures, and negotiation strategies.

Additionally, you may have the option to choose a legal degree specialization based on your interests and career goals. There are various concentrations available, including international law, intellectual property law, dispute resolution, and more.

Some programs offer part-time study options, so it’s vital to carefully review the program’s website to learn about the courses, concentrations, and enrollment options available.

Lower Total Costs

Enrolling in an online legal degree program can be a cost-effective option. Some online programs offer learning materials like online books and legal journal subscriptions at discounted prices. By attending online classes, you can save money on commuting and relocation expenses.

This can be particularly beneficial if the law school you’re considering is located in an expensive metropolitan area. You can attend classes from the comfort of your home, favorite coffee shop, or library.

More Degree Options without Worrying about Relocations

If you are a working professional with an established career or family to take care of, moving to another state or area just to attend school may not be feasible.

However, with more than 20 schools offering online Master of Legal Studies programs, you can now apply for programs across the country without the hassle and financial burden of relocating.

This gives you the flexibility to choose the program that is best for you, rather than settling for the one that is closest to you.

Less Interruptions in Careers

It is true that continuing your education can be beneficial for your legal career in the long run. However, taking a whole year off to go to school can have a disruptive effect on your short-term plans.

Fortunately, many online programs offer flexible options such as part-time, self-paced, and evening/weekend classes, which allow you to continue working while studying.

This way, you can balance your personal obligations, such as family or community engagements, with your academic goals.

Pursuing your education while still working also ensures that you do not miss out on possible promotions or have to search for a new job after graduation.

Improved Quality with Technology

Online degrees and learning programs are now more than just an add-on or uploading of class materials onto an online management system. Instead, online learning is leading to the emergence of a new pedagogy that offers students greater choice, collaborative learning approaches, and innovative forms of assessment.

Learn on Your Own Schedule

Online Master of Legal Studies programs often offer rolling enrollment, which means you don’t have to wait for the next academic year to start. This allows you to take advantage of a slow season at work. Additionally, many courses are offered asynchronously, meaning you don’t have to attend class at a specific day or time, as long as you complete all coursework within a certain period of time.

Cons of Getting a Legal Degree Online

Online legal degrees can be a convenient choice for many working professionals. However, they are not without their drawbacks. It is important to carefully consider the benefits and potential pitfalls of earning an advanced degree online, especially if you are considering pursuing a Master of Legal Studies.

Online programs Call for Self-motivation 

If you are planning to get your legal degree online, you should be aware that it demands a high level of self-motivation and discipline.

Since you won’t have the external accountability of attending a physical classroom, you will have to manage your own deadlines, particularly if you’re taking a self-paced or asynchronous course. This can be difficult if you’re used to a traditional classroom where the teacher sets deadlines for homework and exams. 

Online learning can be especially challenging for those who struggle with executive function skills, such as planning, organization, and task initiation. Therefore, before embarking on your online legal degree, you should have a plan to remain organized and consider finding sources of accountability to keep you on track.

Lack of On-campus Experience

Video conferencing has made online learning more interactive, but some students may still prefer face-to-face interactions with their classmates and instructors. Going to campus can help students escape distractions at home or work, allowing them to focus on their studies.

Being on campus also presents more opportunities to network and participate in social gatherings with peers and professionals. Some online programs offer in-person immersion experiences or optional on-campus courses for students who desire them.

Accreditations Issues

It’s important to note that not all online legal programs are accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), or other accrediting boards, even if the program is offered by an accredited university. The ABA approved law schools, which may also offer Master of Legal Studies programs.

Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the significance of accreditation and ensure that the online Master of Legal Studies program you’re considering is accredited before enrolling.

Less In-Person Interactions

Some students may struggle to participate fully in their classes if they are not familiar with video communication or online learning systems. In subjects like legal studies, it’s important to discuss and debate controversial topics as part of the learning process. If you miss out on these conversations or don’t engage fully, it could impact your progress in the course.

Technical Difficulties

Online degrees are often advertised as a convenient way to study from anywhere, but it’s important to have access to reliable, high-speed internet to connect to video conferencing and other online learning tools. Your ability to study may be limited by the availability of Wi-Fi and devices, whereas physical textbooks can be taken just about anywhere.

Additionally, new technologies and software may not work properly on older devices. Some online programs may still be using outdated software that may not be fully compatible with smartphones or tablets. Before enrolling in any program, it’s important to inquire about the technical requirements.

What is the difference between on campus and online degrees in legal studies?

The primary distinction between traditional and online Master of Legal Studies programs lies in their mode of delivery. Generally, both programs entail similar curricula and are expected to produce similar learning outcomes. Upon completing either program, the degree awarded is also the same. Ultimately, what’s most important is the knowledge and skills you acquire from the program.

Is it a good idea to learn a legal degree online?

An online Master of Legal Studies program can be a great option due to its flexibility and affordability. However, it may not suit everyone’s needs. Therefore, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages listed above, as well as your own career objectives and life circumstances. To clarify your requirements, you should ask yourself the crucial questions provided below.

How Do I Know If I’m Right for an Online Master of Legal Studies?

Learning new skills and knowledge is beneficial for career growth and personal development.

To know if an online Master of Legal Studies is right for you, ask yourself these essential questions:

  • Why do I want to pursue a graduate degree?
  • What benefits will I gain from getting this degree, both on my current job and future career path?
  • Am I willing to leave my current job for the time it takes to get my degree?
  • Can I finance my degree if I stop working for a year or two?
  • Am I willing and able to relocate to get my degree?
  • Am I comfortable with video calls and online learning platforms?
  • Do I have enough self-motivation and organizational skills to handle a self-paced or asynchronous program?

If you’re not familiar with online learning, it’s a good idea to take a few online courses through a community college or another institution to see how you perform in such an environment. Some single courses are free and can easily be integrated into your future studies. Different schools may use different platforms and technologies, but at least you will get an idea of how comfortable you are with online learning. 

While there are many benefits to obtaining a legal degree online, there are also some drawbacks. Therefore, it is important to consider all the pros and cons, as well as the specific circumstances of your career and life, before deciding to pursue an online Master of Legal Studies. You should also explore other legal degrees such as a master’s in compliance or a master’s in dispute resolution to learn more about your options.