Going to law school as a mid-career or senior professional can be extremely rewarding. Earning a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree at an institution like St. Francis School of Law could be the best path to a satisfying and lucrative new career practicing law. If you’re considering law school, you may have questions about whether it is right for you, and whether an Online JD degree in particular will help propel you forward. 

There are a wide variety of reasons why students choose online law school to complete their degrees. If you are personally driven, intellectually curious, enjoy thinking analytically, and need a program that will accommodate your working schedule, then attending law school online might be a great option for you. Below is some information about online law school to consider while you’re making this important decision. 

Juris Doctorate Degrees

Earning a JD opens you up to a wide variety of career options as a practicing attorney. Once you pass California’s bar exam, and complete its other admission requirements, you’re free to practice in California in any number of fields, including contract law, bankruptcy law, family law, corporate law, or criminal law, to name just a few. At St. Francis School of Law, our curriculum includes legal research and writing, negotiation, alternative dispute resolution, law practice management, compliance, intellectual property, federal income taxation, bankruptcy, and other courses that cover practical skills essential to becoming a competent lawyer. 

If you’re looking to move on from your current career, the skills you’ve acquired may help you stand out as a practicing attorney. You may already have a good idea of how a better understanding of law could benefit you even in your current position. From marketing and medicine to management, having other kinds of experience within the area in which you plan to practice law will round out your legal expertise, and may make you a more desirable job candidate. 

While online JD programs help make it possible for you to work while earning a legal degree, they are not less rigorous than traditional law schools. Traditional full-time law schools take three years, and part-time programs take four. The St. Francis School of Law online program takes four as, in most cases, St. Francis students are working full time, too. They complete one course at a time because we designed this program with full-time working students in mind.

Benefits of Online Law School

Online law school is especially beneficial if you can’t or don’t want to commute or move to a law school location, and still want a quality education in law. Online JD degrees are generally less expensive than traditional degrees, and many are designed to accommodate individuals with full-time jobs or who travel extensively or have family care responsibilities. If you have a reliable computer and a quiet place to work, you can earn your JD degree at St. Francis School of Law entirely from home. 

You may be wondering if online JD degrees provide the same quality of education as an in-person law program. The answer is yes, if you choose the right program. Just like traditional classes, great online JD degrees provide rigorous live classes, courses in all needed subjects, and skills to prepare you to take the bar exam and other exams that enable you to practice law. Great online JD programs also include extensive faculty interaction and feedback, professional skills training courses to help you be ”practice ready”, and comprehensive practice and assessment opportunities to help you hone your knowledge and skills. In these ways and others, some online JD programs are actually better than many traditional, in-person programs, which often lack these features.  Based on First-Year Law Students’ Exam (FYLSE) and California Bar Exam pass rates, you can see that great online schools, such as St. Francis School of Law, more than adequately prepare students for the challenges of passing the Bar, and, ultimately, practicing law. 

Some law degrees can be completed through a combination of in-person and online classes, the so-called “hybrid” model of education. While these programs are great for some,  fully online JD programs like the one offered at St. Francis School of Law doesn’t require students to commute to school. You’ll have more time to study, see your family more, and save on commuting costs like gas, transit, and parking.  Consider your own study habits and the amount of support you tend to require as a student to decide whether you would benefit from more in-person meetings and attendance in class. How much ”face time” you want or require is an important factor when choosing what kind of Online JD program to attend. 

Things to Consider about Online JD Degrees

Law school is very different from undergraduate education. Students are expected to take charge of their education and academic success, and master a large and complex scope of material. The best online law students are good at taking the initiative to reach out to professors and fellow classmates, and are passionate about the subjects they are learning. While attending an online law school like St. Francis, you will take control of your own education, while still getting the direct support you need. Here are some of the qualities we commonly observe in successful online law students.  

Interest in Law and Related Topics 

Law school requires a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to delve into dense legal texts and cases to gain a comprehensive understanding. While most schools provide a variety of support, online students who are already motivated to know about the law generally have a better and more rewarding experience. 

If you possess a curiosity for exploring and understanding why things work as they do, and a passion for making them better, you might make a great law student. This interest can be in any one or more of the many topics studied in law school,  including torts (civil lawsuits), contracts, criminal law, property law, civil procedure (the rules of court), constitutional law, legal research and writing, and professional responsibility. These topics and others comprise the foundation of law school, along with evidence (rules for litigation and trial courts) and criminal procedure (rules for criminal prosecution and defense), so if you have an interest in any of them you have a leg up.

Analytical Thinking

Did anyone ever tell you that you were being “too analytical?” If breaking down an issue and then applying rules and arguments to different components sounds fascinating to you, you might be a natural law school candidate. Being skilled at analysis is another factor in law school success, since you will learn how to apply forms of argumentation to a variety of situations. Students have to be able to master the legal concepts on a deeper level so that they can apply them to different fact situations, and then demonstrate their arguments during class discussions.

Being able to see both sides of the argument is an essential component of becoming a good lawyer. You can’t rely on your professor to give you the right answer, either. Rather, you must be an independent thinker who can investigate, analyze, and formulate an argument for your position.

Critical Reading and Writing Skills

Students pore over cases, treatises, outlines, journals, and other written materials throughout law school, so having strong reading comprehension is important to law school success. Fortunately, most law students can and do improve these skills with practice, and  legal writing and research is a topic that is covered extensively in the St. Francis online law school program. We ensure our students have the thinking and writing skills necessary to become a lawyer.

Good study habits

Having good study habits is probably the main difference between average and great law students.  While the usual study methods of taking notes, paying attention in class, and asking questions are important to get the most out of your courses, in law school, you must also stay on top of the reading, and make your own detailed outlines and study guides to help you master the large volume of material you are studying. In addition, online law students often form study groups with their peers so that they have friendly and professional support networks when they graduate. Committing to a rigorous study schedule, and working together with your peers to hold each other accountable, is a vital step toward law school success.

Time management skills

One of the benefits of earning your law degree online is that you do not always have to physically attend class at specific times, depending on the class format of the online program. Many good online programs will have live classes available via Zoom or another conferencing technology, conveniently scheduled for attending from home after work. You still must have solid time management skills so you can stay on top of the reading and writing assignments. If you are able to prioritize your tasks, abide by a study schedule, and stay organized, so you can balance your homework with your job and stick to deadlines.

Quiet space for studying

While this may not seem like a big deal, it’s actually very important. Great students have a place where they can focus. Having an office or other private study area is necessary so that you avoid distractions from family and work. By designating a special place just for studying, you’ll be more likely to complete your tasks, because you won’t be tempted to indulge in other distractions.

Think you’re ready to earn a law degree while working? 

Online law school isn’t for everyone, but if you have the time, commitment, curiosity, and need for a program that accommodates your busy schedule, then it may be perfect for you. The intellectual and career rewards of the JD degree speak for themselves. Completing an online JD program can help propel you forward in a second career, or enhance your current career path, even while you continue to work.

How can I get an Online Law Degree from St. Francis?

The St. Francis School of Law was the first not-for-profit online law school in the United States, and is accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California. As a not-for-profit school, we make a promise to our students to continually reinvest in their education, and provide the resources they need to succeed. Our first priority is providing you with a quality education and first class support from our expert faculty and staff. 

The St. Francis School of Law provides an online JD program designed for full-time professionals. That means our rigorous curriculum is matched by an interactive online learning environment developed for your success. If you’re thinking about applying at St. Francis, you can learn more about our admissions process here

Our graduates go on to do great things! Many pass the bar exam and enjoy careers in a wide variety of legal fields. Others continue working in the fields where they were employed when they began law school, with an extra leg up gained from having the legal knowledge and the skills the online JD provided. California’s First-Year Law Exam and the California Bar Exam are two of the most challenging standardized law exams in the country, and our students perform exceptionally well on them. Our cumulative pass rate on the FYLSE through the June 2021 exam was 78.16%. On the California General Bar Exam, through February 2022, our graduates’ cumulative pass rate was 65.71%. See the breakdown of test takers here

We hope you choose St. Francis School of Law for your online JD degree. Have more questions about our curriculum or program? Discover why you should choose St. Francis.