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Sometimes, after you’ve established a career, you find that you aren’t quite as fulfilled as you’d like to be. You may have risen as far as you can with the education you have, or you may have already done everything there is to do in your chosen field. By this time, going back to school to start a new career is a challenge. With bills and responsibilities, it isn’t practical to spend four or more years living on campus and attending classes full time. In fact, with a full plate on your hands already, it can be difficult to find enough time for part-time endeavors.

If your goal is to go back to school and start a new rewarding career, you have to make time in the day. Thankfully, there are many flexible educational opportunities out there for people looking for a fresh start in life. There are two main options for busy would-be law students: part-time school and correspondence school.

The Appeal of Part-Time School

Full-time schooling is for people with part-time jobs or people who don’t have to work while they’re in school. This may describe those who are fresh out of high school, but most working professionals rely on their jobs to keep their bills paid. They don’t have time to attend classes all day and then do homework in the evenings.

Part-time law school’s flexible class times and manageable, spread-out course load are ideal for people who do not have the time for a traditional law school experience. With a little time management and an understanding family, someone working full-time can still get a law degree if they attend part-time law school.

The Downsides of Part-Time School

Even the flexibility of a part-time education brings its own rigidness to the equation. In in-person programs, travel time to and from the school takes time away from an already packed schedule, resulting in less time for responsibilities around the house or to spend with the kids. Time management is hard because those little moments of free time you have go unused while classes and rigid assignment schedules take up time that you don’t have.

Part-time school is a fantastic alternative to full-time school, but in many ways, it is still the same commitment, just taken at a slower pace. Thankfully, there are other ways to go to law school that combine the same rigorous, quality education of a full-time law school with the maximum flexibility possible.

The Correspondence School Alternative

Correspondence schools have been around since the days when they were conducted almost entirely by mail. These classes allow for maximum flexibility because you work at your own pace. If you have a few minutes after washing the dishes before you have to pick up the kids from dance lessons, you can crack open an assignment and get some of it done.

With correspondence school, all of your assignments essentially become homework, where you are in much greater control of when they get done and when something else takes priority. You’ll never have to worry about getting in the car and making it to class on time or sitting in that class doing coursework while there are things at home waiting to be done. Within reason, your time is yours to manage in a way that no other educational opportunity allows for.

Correspondence School Stigma

For many, because of the days when correspondence courses were conducted entirely through the mail, this method of learning has a negative connotation. The truth is, you cannot get a great education working entirely through the mail. You need interactions with faculty — and fellow students — that challenge your mind, and real-time video that demonstrates concepts and allows you to ask questions of your instructors on the fly. The first correspondence courses were made long before the technology was fully ready for them. For this reason, the courses offered back then were usually limited to certificate programs or degree options that did not require much interaction.

Not only has technology changed since those days, but society has changed as well. Just as the stigma on online dating gave way to it being one of the most common ways that young people meet, correspondence schools, now called distance or online learning, have become a very common way for young and old people alike to further their education. In fact, there are now millions of people enrolled in online courses.

The Evolution of Correspondence School: Online Law School

The days of filling out worksheets that arrived in the mail and taking tests that came in envelopes are long gone. Today’s distance learning uses the power of modern technology to create an experience that can rival, and at times surpass, what is possible in a traditional classroom. Now more than ever, work-friendly schedules meet the best educational opportunities available.

Interactive Video Conferencing

Correspondence classes of the past rarely offered so much as a VHS tape for you to watch. Today’s online classes use high-quality video conferencing software so that you can interact with both your instructor and your classmates in real-time. You’ll be kept on your toes with challenging legal questions that let you gauge how much of the material you are retaining and force you to think critically, developing the necessary mental skills required to be a lawyer.

Live Chat

In a traditional classroom environment, if something pops in your head, you have to wait until you are called on to ask it. This means that some important questions go unasked, and questions deemed too frivolous to interrupt the class don’t get asked at all. With live chat in the video conferencing software, students are free to think out loud in a way that just isn’t possible with any other learning method.

Proctored Exams

One of the big downsides to the old method of distance learning is that there was no way to verify that the student was the one actually taking the test, much less that they didn’t use the book to answer all of the questions. Nothing about a certificate given out by those institutions could give a potential employer great assurances that a job candidate had retained anything that they had learned.

With the internet, we now have the ability to give proctored exams. A qualified proctor will watch you as you take your exam the same way they would if you were taking your exam in person. They’ll know if you are checking answers, and they’ll know if someone else comes into the room to take the exam for you. Distance learning exams now mean every bit as much as their traditional classroom equivalents.

Highly Qualified Instructors

Because online law schools are now just as much a “real school” as any other law school, they are able to attract the same level of professor that would apply to teach at traditional colleges and universities.

The instructors themselves aren’t the only ones realizing the power of online learning. As far back as 2007, two-thirds of post-secondary educational institutes offered some form of online classes. These include some of the most reputable institutions in the world.

Choosing Between Part-Time and Online Law School

Now that you know how far online law schools have come, the question still remains of which one you should choose. Ultimately, this is going to come down to individual preferences. While the video conference classes of an online law school will provide you with faculty and social interaction, if you are someone who enjoys being around people on campus, that is certainly something to consider.

However, distance learning can be a better fit if you have a busy work schedule, don’t have time to commute, or just want to spend more time on studies and family time than you spend on the road.

About St. Francis School of Law

St. Francis School of Law was the first not-for-profit online law school operating in the United States, and remains one of the few. Our graduates not only pass the California State Bar Examination, but also come out ready to be an asset to any law firm that they join. Our online Juris Doctor program is a four-year program where our students practice professional skills and gain real-world, career-defining legal knowledge.