Earning a law degree opens professional doors. However, law school graduates owe an average of over $145,000 in student loan debt. Scholarships and other forms of financial aid can help law school students obtain an online law degree with less debt.
A law degree prepares graduates for careers as lawyers, arbiters, and compliance offers. Many of these careers offer high salaries. For example, lawyers and judges earn median salaries of over $120,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Law school graduates can also work as public defenders, prosecutors, and public interest lawyers. Although these careers generally offer lower salaries, they qualify for many student loan forgiveness programs.
This article offers important financial aid information for anyone considering an online law degree, including online law scholarship opportunities.
Earning a Law School Degree Online
Students interested in an online law degree can choose a juris doctor, a master of laws, or a doctor of juridical science degree. A juris doctor, also known as a JD, prepares graduates to practice law. JD programs accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) currently do not offer fully online routes to a degree. However, students interested in a JD can enroll in a hybrid program where they complete some coursework requirements online while attending some in-person classes.
A master of laws, also known as an LLM degree, provides specialized training in a legal field. While the degree does not meet the requirements for practicing law, it can lead to jobs that benefit from legal training, such as compliance officer and regulatory specialist. A doctorate in law trains students for academic and research careers.
During a law program, students take classes on topics like contract law, employment law, and civil procedure. JD programs may offer specializations in areas such as business law, intellectual property law, and constitutional law. Similarly, most LLM programs provide specialized training in areas like business law and tax law.
The length of a law degree varies depending on the type of program. A JD program typically takes three years of full-time study to complete. An LLM may take as little as one year, while a doctorate can take five years.
Online law programs may offer classes on a synchronous or asynchronous schedule. Synchronous classes include live sessions at set meeting times, while asynchronous classes let students access lectures and other course materials on their own schedule while meeting set deadlines.
What Are the Requirements for an Online Law Degree?
Prospective law students must meet admission requirements. While requirements vary depending on the program, they commonly include college transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and LSAT scores. Prospective students should research the specific requirements of potential programs to learn more.
Law students finish several years of coursework to complete graduation requirements. In addition to required courses, some programs let students choose electives or specialize their studies with a concentration.
Most programs encourage law students to complete summer internships to strengthen their legal skills and build a professional network. Law students may also complete a capstone project or thesis at the conclusion of their program. Students planning to practice law must pass the bar exam in their state to become a lawyer.
|Can you go to law school online?||Yes, law students can attend law school online. However, ABA-accredited JD programs do not offer fully online programs. Instead, students can research hybrid options or master of law programs.|
|Are there any accredited law schools online?||Yes, several ABA-accredited law schools offer hybrid programs where students complete coursework online while completing on-campus residencies. Some law schools also offer part-time hybrid programs.|
|Is it hard to get a job after law school?||Law school graduates can improve their job prospects by networking while in law school, completing summer internships, and specializing their skills based on demand.|
|What is a good score on the LSAT?||LSAT scores range from 120-180. While a 150 represents an average score, many of the top law schools report average scores of over 160 for admitted students.|
Financial Aid for Law Students
Law school is expensive. The average tuition cost for law school ranges from $28,000 per year for public schools to over $49,000 at private schools. Fortunately, law students qualify for many forms of financial aid. Students interested in online law school can research financial aid options like loans, scholarships, and grants.
Law students can apply for federal financial aid. Federal loans generally offer lower interest rates and better repayment terms than private loans. For example, law students who take out federal loans can participate in the public service loan forgiveness program.
On average, law school graduates owe $145,000 in student loan debt. As a result, incoming law students should prioritize financial aid like scholarships and grants, which do not require repayment. Our list of online law scholarships below can help law students limit their student loan debt.
Law Student Loan Forgiveness and Repayment Programs
Law students who work in qualifying fields can apply for loan forgiveness and repayment programs. These programs discharge student loans for graduates who work in public service fields, such as nonprofit and government jobs. Several organizations offer loan forgiveness programs, including the federal student aid program, the Department of Justice, and many law schools. Researching student loan repayment and forgiveness programs can save law students thousands of dollars on their degree.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
The federal public service loan forgiveness program forgives any remaining balance on certain federal student loans for eligible borrowers. Participants in the program must work for a nonprofit organization or a federal, state, local, or tribal government. Serving in AmeriCorps or Peace Corps also qualifies. However, working for a labor union, a partisan political organization, or a for-profit organization, including for-profit government contractors, does not qualify.
Participants in the program make 120 monthly payments under the repayment plan while working for a qualifying employer. During the 10-year repayment period, participants make monthly payments using an income-driven plan.
The program requires full-time employment, using either the employer's definition of full time or 30 hours a week. Participants can work for more than one qualifying employer if their total hours average at least 30 hours per week. After completing the 120 payments, participants must submit an application for loan forgiveness through the federal student aid program.
Department of Justice's Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program
Law school graduates who work for the U.S. Department of Justice can participate in this student loan repayment program. The program helps recruit and retain qualified employees by offering loan repayment. Rather than providing payments to employees, the program pays the loan holder directly.
Attorneys who accept funding through the program agree to a three-year service obligation at the DOJ. Prospective DOJ employees must qualify for the program, and their student loans must also qualify. For example, only permanent employees qualify for the program, which carries several disqualifying conditions. Qualifying loans must be taken out by the attorney who will work at the DOJ. The program does not cover loan repayment for third-party loans.
Finally, attorneys who do not meet the service obligation must repay the amount received under the program. Recipients can receive a maximum of $6,000 per year in loan payments, up to a lifetime cap of $60,000.
American Bar Association Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
The American Bar Association provides information on loan repayment assistance programs administered by ABA-accredited law schools. These programs forgive loans for qualifying students who work in the public interest sector, government, or other low-paying fields.
Participants must generally meet income limits to participate in the program. For example, at Emory Law School, the LRAP plan accepts alumni who make between $50,000-$65,000 per year. Emory alumni must work in qualifying public interest and public sector positions to qualify. Loyola Law School caps the salary for recipients at $54,000 per year.
The loan repayment assistance may come in several different forms. At Georgetown University, for example, participants in the LRAP program receive an interest-free loan from Georgetown Law to cover their monthly payments. New York University Law offers an income-driven plan that fully forgives loans while lowering out-of-pocket expenses.
Current and prospective law students considering public service careers can visit the ABA page to compare LRAP plans offered by law schools.
Scholarships for Law School Students
Professional associations, private foundations, and legal services organizations all offer scholarships to support law students. In addition to the following scholarships, students can research opportunities based on their school, state, or career plans.
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