Online Juris Doctor Degree Programs for 2021

If you are looking for a flexible online law degree that enables you to sit for the bar exam, you might want to consider an online or hybrid program. Online Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree programs are a combination of online courses and on-campus instruction ideal for working professionals through an online hybrid or a weekend-based format. Read on to learn about the online J.D. programs approved by ABA and common admissions requirements, and compare different types of online formats to find the J.D. program best for you. 

What Is a Juris Doctor?

Juris doctor is Latin for Doctor of Law. A Juris Doctor, J.D. for short, is a professional law degree and academic credential conferred by law schools upon graduation. This graduate degree enables you to sit for the bar exam and earn a license to practice law. It typically consists of 85 to 90 credits and takes three years of full-time study. It is considered “the first degree in law” by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Sponsored J.D. Program

University of Dayton Law Logo

University of Dayton now accepts LSAT and GRE scores for the Online Hybrid J.D. program. Apply today.

The University of Dayton School of Law is providing wider access to a quality legal education through its Online Hybrid Juris Doctor program. The ABA-approved program prepares students to sit for the bar exam in most states.

  • Flexible online learning
  • Collaborative on-campus experiences
  • Semester-long legal externship

Online and Hybrid J.D. Programs

Aspiring attorneys can earn their Juris Doctor degree through any of the 199 schools and programs accredited by ABA. Among these schools, only a few offer hybrid online J.D. programs that combine online courses with on-campus components.

To determine which one is the best fit for you, consider your career goals, learning style and financial budget. Here are nine ABA-approved law schools offering online and hybrid J.D. programs:

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Location: Chicago, IL 
Program Name: Weekend Hybrid J.D.
Format: Online courses and in-person every other weekend 
Enrollment Options: Part-Time 
Length of Program: 4 years 
About the Program: The curriculum includes 86 credit hours and blends classroom instruction with online learning. In-person classes meet approximately every other weekend and fully online courses can be taken up to 15 credit hours after completion of third semester. All applicants must take the LSAT.

Learn more about the weekend hybrid J.D. at Loyola University.

Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Location: Saint Paul, MN 
Program Name: Online Hybrid J.D.
Format: Online courses and weekend visits 
Enrollment Options: Part-Time 
Length of Program: 3-4 years 
About the Program: First law program accredited, in 2015, by the ABA to offer a mix of online and residential courses. The school launched a blended law program in fall 2020 that will feature one-third online and two-thirds in-person learning for the first two years. Students can choose how they want to finish the final two years. Those who opt to attend classes during the summer may be able to graduate in three years. LSAT is required.

Learn more about the hybrid and executive J.D. programs at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Seton Hall University School of Law

Location: Newark, New Jersey 
Program Name: Weekend Online J.D. 
Format: Online courses and weekend visits
Enrollment Options: Part-Time 
Length of Program: 4 years 
About the Program: Enrolled students are required to visit campus Saturdays and Sundays, generally eight weekends each semester with one additional weekend for final exams. After the first two years, students can opt for more flexibility, such as some weekday or evening classes and online courses up to 15 credits. LSAT or GRE scores are accepted.

Learn more about the weekend hybrid J.D. at Seton Hall University.

Southwestern Law School

Location: Los Angeles, CA 
Program Name: Part-Time Evening J.D.
Format: Online courses and two evenings per week 
Enrollment Options: Part-Time 
Length of Program: 4 years 
About the Program: Requires campus visits only two nights a week. The rest of the courses are completed online part-time, with 87 units required to earn the degree. Students must submit LSAT scores.

Learn more about the part-time evening J.D. program at Southwestern Law School.

Syracuse University College of Law

Location: Syracuse, NY 
Program Name: Interactive Online J.D.
Format: Online courses and six required residency courses
Enrollment Options: Part-Time 
Length of Program: 3 years and 3 months 
About the Program: ABA-approved online law degree with 88 credits required. Courses taught by the same law school faculty who teach residential students. Live, interactive classes and self-paced online courses. J.D. Interactive students are eligible to join Syracuse Law Review. LSAT or GRE scores are accepted.

Learn more about the interactive online J.D. program at Syracuse University.

Touro College

Location: Central Islip, NY 
Program Name: FlexTime Hybrid J.D.
Format: Online courses and 10 Sundays
Enrollment Options: Part-Time 
Length of Program: Less than four 4 years 
About the Program: This 88-credit program allows students to tailor the combination of online and in-person instructional components. Students are required to attend classes in person for only 10 Sundays plus three to four fully remote Sundays with the option of taking up to 20 credits fully online. LSAT scores are required.

Learn more about the FlexTime hybrid J.D. at Touro College.

University of Dayton School of Law

Location: Dayton, OH 
Program Name: Online Hybrid Juris Doctor 
Format: Online courses and 10 campus visits
Length of Program: 44 months
About the Program: The University of Dayton School of Law is providing wider access to a quality legal education through its Online Hybrid Juris Doctor program. The ABA-approved program prepares students to sit for the bar exam in most states. The university accepts valid GRE scores from prospective students who have not taken the LSAT.

Sponsored J.D. Program

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Location: Denver, CO
Program Name: Hybrid J.D. 
Format: Online courses and every other weekend
Enrollment Options: Part-time
Length of Program: 4 years 
About the Program: This part-time hybrid J.D. program consists of one-third of the instruction time online and two-thirds taking place in person during the weekend sessions.  Each semester comprises eight weekend sessions and two additional weekends for final exams. LSAT scores are required.

Learn more about the part-time hybrid J.D. at University of Denver.

University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law

Location: Concord, NH 
Program Name: Hybrid J.D. 
Format: Online courses and four to nine days, depending on the semesters
Enrollment Options: Part-time 
Length of Program: 3.5 years
About the Program: ABA-approved Hybrid J.D. program with Intellectual Property, Technology, and Information Law concentrations. Students complete 85-credit coursework primarily online with minimal residential requirements. Valid LSAT or GRE score is required.

Learn more about the hybrid J.D. at the University of New Hampshire.

Why are There Only ABA-Approved Hybrid Online J.D. Degrees?

Attending a law school accredited by the ABA allows you to take the bar exam in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The ABA seal of approval means your school meets the association’s quality standards for legal education.

The ABA has yet to accredit any law school with courses offered entirely online. But as law schools increasingly expand into online instruction, the ABA has begun to issue waivers to hybrid programs–those that mix traditional campus learning with online courses–so they can apply for accreditation. With trained faculty and significant technological investment, distance learning proponents even argue that law degree programs can be completed exclusively online.

Attending an ABA-accredited school isn’t the only way to become a lawyer. In New York, California, 29 other states and the District of Columbia, you can sit for the bar exam with a law degree from a non-ABA accredited school. But it’ll likely be more complicated to enter law practice that way, as some employers look for candidates who have graduated from accredited institutions.

Before you decide to attend a school without ABA accreditation, be sure to research bar admission limitations and ensure that the school will provide you with adequate legal training to enter the field. You can also refer to the ABA’s Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2020 (PDF, 1.7 MB), for guidance.

Sponsored J.D. Program

University of Dayton Law Logo

University of Dayton now accepts LSAT and GRE scores for the Online Hybrid J.D. program. Apply today.

The University of Dayton School of Law is providing wider access to a quality legal education through its Online Hybrid Juris Doctor program. The ABA-approved program prepares students to sit for the bar exam in most states.

  • Flexible online learning
  • Collaborative on-campus experiences
  • Semester-long legal externship

Typical Online Juris Doctor Curriculum and Outcomes

An online law degree should teach you to think critically and creatively, educate you on a variety of legal doctrines, and expose you to subjects ranging from economics to sociology to help broaden your perspective. This holds true whether your program is offered on campus or in the hybrid online format.

But there are differences between online law degrees, such as the time to graduation, the level of flexibility in your school schedule, access to externships and other outside opportunities, and admissions requirements.

Admissions Requirements

Here are some common admissions requirements for J.D. programs:

  • A bachelor’s degree. Most schools don’t specify student’s disciplines in college, but strong reading comprehension and writing skills are normally preferred.
  • LSAT/GRE scores. Most traditional law schools accept only the LSAT; many hybrid and online programs accept either your LSAT or GRE score. In most cases, you must have taken the test within the past five years.
  • Transcripts.
  • Letters of recommendation (the number of letters varies but two is typically the minimum).
  • Personal essay.
  • Resume.

Program Courses and Areas of Focus

You can expect to take similar courses no matter the law school you attend. Some online and hybrid courses are taught by the professors who teach on-campus classes. Your J.D. curriculum may include:

  • Torts doctrine
  • Civil procedure
  • Contracts
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Intellectual property law
  • Trial practice
  • Family law
  • Legal analysis and professional skills
  • Legislation

Steps to Complete Your J.D. Degree

  • Meet GPA requirement: Graduation requirements typically include maintaining a minimum grade point average and completing the core curriculum.
  • Complete externships: Some schools may have a minimum number of credit hours for experiential learning, which may take the form of externships, clinics and simulated courses in which you will be required to solve a legal problem as if you were practicing in the real world.
  • Finish a capstone project: Another requirement is a capstone project on a legal topic to demonstrate your analytical, research and writing skills.

What Is a Juris Doctor Degree Equivalent to?

The answer to whether a juris doctor degree is equivalent to a Ph.D. is both complex and controversial. A Ph.D., called a doctorate, is the most advanced degree you can earn in many disciplines, typically taking five or more years to complete. You need a master’s degree before entering a Ph.D. program.

Many people view a J.D. degree as a functional, but not an absolute equivalent to a Ph.D. For one thing, a J.D. is not the highest law degree. You can earn a Master of Laws (LL.M.) or Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) after your J.D. Also, law schools require only a bachelor’s degree, not a master’s, for admission into a J.D. program.

But on practical terms, a J.D. is often viewed as the highest academic distinction for lawyers. Most U.S. law professors, for example, do not have a Ph.D. (PDF, 610 KB).

Is a J.D. Worth it?

A J.D. degree is a portal to more than just joining a law firm. People with legal training play a role in virtually every sector of the economy. They work at Silicon Valley startups in courtrooms and halls of academia and government.

The rigorous, analytical thinking that is the foundational skill of legal training can be an asset in many professions. President Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law. Dozens of CEOs for Fortune 500 companies hold J.D.s.

Law pays well, and it can pay extremely well at the highest levels of seniority and tenure. The top 10% of lawyers earn over $208,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The growing number of online or hybrid J.D. programs can make it possible for you to earn a law degree while you keep your current job. Distance learning opens up more schools to choose from.

The flip side is that the legal field can be grueling, intense and competitive. In 2019, there were a record 1.35 million actively practicing attorneys in the United States (PDF, 49 KB), according to the ABA National Lawyer Population Survey. Many large corporations are trying to economize by cutting back on outside counsel and reassigning tasks to paralegals and legal assistants.

To ensure your J.D. degree is a worthwhile investment of money and time, have a clear career goal and think through how your preferred degree program will help you meet that goal. Once enrolled, take full advantage of externships, networking opportunities, and your school’s career resources. Earning a J.D. is an important, but still just one, step toward your legal profession.

FAQs on Online Juris Doctor (J.D.) Degrees

Are there fully online J.D. programs accredited by the ABA?

No. While there is no fully online J.D. degree program accredited by ABA, there are nine hybrid online J.D. programs available that combine the flexibility of online learning and the engagement of on-campus programs.

Must I apply to a J.D. degree program accredited by the ABA?

It’s not mandatory. However, if you want to be qualified to sit for the bar exam and practice law in certain states, a law degree accredited by the ABA may be a better choice.

How long does it take to complete a J.D. degree online?

A traditional J.D. degree typically takes three years to complete, while an online J.D. degree takes about three to four years in full-time enrolment.

Can I sit for the bar exam if I graduate from an online J.D. program?

Yes, if your law school is approved by the ABA and you successfully meet your degree requirements upon graduation.

Are there any online J.D. programs that don’t require LSAT scores?

Yes, some online law schools accept LSAT or GRE scores taken in the last five years. Students can decide to either submit their LSAT or GRE scores.

Can I work full time while completing a J.D. degree?

Generally, schools allow students to work while studying. Some of them may also offer part-time enrollment to provide more flexibility for students. However, students should also take into consideration the workload of each term and make sure they can meet the graduation requirements.

How should I compare and choose the best online J.D. program for me?

Students may check the accreditation status of programs or schools, the bar exam pass rate, concentrations available, online student support options, curriculum and workload required.

What is the difference between a Juris Doctor and a Juris Master?

They are both postgraduate degrees. However, similar to Master of Legal Studies or other legal studies programs, Juris Master programs are designed for people who want to further their legal knowledge and may not want to become a lawyer or practice law.

Information on this page was last retrieved in March 2021.