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7 Effective Strategies for Success in an Online Law School Program

7 Effective Strategies for Success in an Online Law School Program

With the COVID-19 pandemic in the past and learning technologies getting better by the day, legal educators today have a good sense of how their students can be high performers in online legal education settings. For the most part, success in online learning closely correlates with planning, self-discipline, and class participation.

The evidence in favor of online legal education is promising to say the least.

In the 2022 Law School Survey of Student Engagement, conducted by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, the overwhelming majority of law student respondents said they had a positive experience with online legal education. The high reported rates of student satisfaction were equivalent for both online and in-person students.

“Widespread usage of a robust and satisfying form of online legal education is one of the most impressive outcomes to emerge from the shadows of the [COVID-19] pandemic,” the report stated, concluding: “COVID-19 shows that the online law school experience can be as successful, enriching, and satisfying as the traditional curriculum.”

So, what separates successful online learners from unsuccessful ones? Several factors, but not many. Just as Russian author Leo Tolstoy famously observed that “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” so it is with successful online learners. Academic success is built on adherence to a few critical practices.

Successful online law students share these attributes:

  • They’re realistic about the amount of time they can devote to online learning
  • They carefully schedule their class time, as well as the blocks of time necessary to complete assignments and prepare for exams
  • They possess adequate technology for online learning in a quiet, distraction-free environment
  • They take advantage of class participation opportunities and school support systems.

These winning study habits are even more important for law students from outside the United States, who may be unfamiliar with U.S. legal traditions and may have challenges when participating in classes taught entirely in English.

International students will find the University of Dayton School of Law well-prepared to help them be successful in obtaining an advanced legal degree.

Strategy 1: Be Realistic About Time and Motivation

Students considering taking advanced legal classes online should be realistic about both the benefits and drawbacks of acquiring an advanced law degree. Yes, a U.S. law degree may lead to career advancement or becoming a licensed attorney in the United States. But that degree will come at a significant cost in terms of time and effort. Current job and family responsibilities will have to be rearranged — or curtailed — to create space for success in law school.

Strategy 2: Be Aware that Courses are Taught 100% in English and Focus on the Common Law Tradition

Students from civil law countries should be aware that legal subjects taught at the University of Dayton School of Law are based on the common law tradition. In addition, all courses are taught in English.

The differences between common law legal systems and civil law legal systems should not present a significant hurdle for students from countries that follow the civil law system. Watch our video “Bridge to the Online LL.M.” from Professor Pablo Iannello and see how your previous legal experience can influence your studies in the Online LL.M. program.

Strategy 3: Learn and Adapt to U.S. Academic Policies and Grading Practices 

International students enrolled at law schools in the United States will encounter rigorous academic policies and grading practices  These may differ from the ones they are accustomed to, especially if they are entering the LL.M. program following an undergraduate course of study. 

As law school is a graduate program in the U.S., students are expected to adhere to the highest academic standards and are held accountable for academic performance from day one. In addition, violations of the Honor Code and academic policies prohibiting plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty, could not only result in dismissal from the Program but also reporting to the Bar in connection with future student applications for Bar admission.

Professionalism, responsibility, and timeliness are expected from all LL.M. students. Law students need to be proactive in their studies, maintain awareness of key deadlines, and keep informed by checking their university emails and class sites on a regular basis. U.S. law school courses are academically rigorous and do not provide multiple opportunities to repeat graded assessments. For example, students in the UDSL Online LL.M. Program can expect at least 50% of the final grade in a course to come from the final exam. This exam is taken once and cannot be repeated.  (The same applies to online LL.M. mid-term exams and assignments. They cannot be resubmitted for a higher grade.) 

Similarly, a U.S. law school class cannot be repeated for a chance to earn a higher grade. A course can only be repeated when a student receives a grade of “F”.  Even in that instance, when a student repeats the course, the original grade of “F” will remain on the student transcript and will continue to be factored into the cumulative grade calculation. 

Finally, U.S. law school students must maintain good academic standing and meet the degree requirements within a certain amount of time. In the UDSL Online LL.M. Program, students must maintain a 2.20 (C+) cumulative GPA and complete the Program within 3 years.

International students should take the time, at the beginning of each course, to familiarize themselves with the academic policies, grading expectations,  and the consequences of failing to meet course deadlines and academic performance expectations. This information is typically covered in detail in the course syllabus and the student orientation. In addition, students should utilize all the academic and student support services offered through the law school. The Online LL.M. Program at UDSL offers unparalleled student support (including a dedicated academic support professor, direct access to Program administration and professors, and supplemental study resources) to help students meet the academically rigorous standards and academic policies.

Strategy 4: Acquire the Right Technology for Online Success

Online learners need access to reasonably robust computer hardware (e.g., a laptop computer or tablet device) capable of accessing all the features of the online classroom. They’ll also need internet service fast enough to deliver text, audio, and video to their location. Headphones can be effective in promoting focus during course lessons and eliminating distractions. The internet service must also be reliable as all exams are offered and proctored online.

Because learning at the University of Dayton School of Law is asynchronous, it can be accessed at the student’s convenience. Even live sessions are recorded and made available to students to listen to at their convenience. As such, students have time to set up their technology perfectly before logging in and beginning prerecorded course lessons or taking their exams.

Strategy 5: Have a Quiet, Dedicated Space for Learning

Students should have a space in their home or office dedicated to online learning. Any room or space separate from the rest of the student’s living area will do. A dedicated learning environment will reduce stress, minimize distractions, and help ensure the focus necessary to participate in course lessons and comprehend the difficult legal subject matter.

Strategy 6: Treat Online Learning Like a “Real” Class

An online class is a real class. Asynchronous learning means that students can take classes whenever their schedule permits. However, many students report success when they take the time to schedule their classes and then stick to that schedule. These same students similarly set aside time for study and study breaks. Without a fixed schedule, the demands of everyday life and work will press in, creating an environment rich with opportunities for mediocre class work and last-minute “cramming” on tests and assignments

Strategy 7: Don’t Pass Up Opportunities for Class Participation

Online learners at the University of Dayton School of Law do not learn alone. Students can take advantage of the many opportunities to participate in course lessons. These include:

  • comment on classmate work and participate in discussion boards
  • email communication with the course professor
  • sign up for course professor “office hours”
  • reach out  Online LL.M. learning support services and resources available through the university.

It’s always a good idea for students to reach out to the course professor and establish a relationship as early in the course as possible. In addition, students in University of Dayton School of Law’s Online LL.M. Program also have direct access to the Program Dean and a dedicated team working with the Online LL.M. Program. We are here to support our students each step of the way!

Online LL.M. Graphic


Online LL.M. Program

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Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2772