Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice 2020

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The protective services continue growing and changing with the times. Today’s law enforcement professionals must patrol the streets in police uniforms, investigate digital crimes, use sophisticated new technologies, and keep civilians safe from terrorists. Jobs in the field remain widely available, growing on par with the national average growth rate for all occupations and paying up to $70,000 annually.

As criminal justice professions evolve, so does criminal justice education. Universities develop their criminal justice programs in keeping with ongoing changes in modern law enforcement, including concentrations in areas like homeland security, cybercrime, and forensics. Some institutions feature leadership components, as well, and many also prepare students for law school and social services careers.

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Featured Online Programs

Explore program formats, transfer requirements, financial aid packages, and more by contacting the schools below.

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Read on to learn more about the benefits of an online criminal justice degree, including potential career outcomes. This page covers the top 20 online programs, criminal justice career paths, and salary potential.

Top 10 Online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Programs

Rank School Location
1 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
2 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
3 Trine University Angola, IN
4 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
5 Peirce College Philadelphia, PA
6 Mercer University Macon, GA
7 Baker University Baldwin City, KS
8 Champlain College Burlington, VT
9 Bay Path University Longmeadow, MA
10 Norwich University Northfield, VT

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Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

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Top 20 Online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Programs for 2020

  1. Concordia University-Saint Paul
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A Christian university in the Twin Cities, CSP offers an online bachelor's in criminal justice aimed at working professionals. Participants can enroll in two tracks: one for those interested in Minnesota licensure and one for those with other goals. The 44-credit curriculum runs asynchronously, and students at CSP must earn a total of 120 credits for a bachelor's degree. All candidates must complete the university's general education requirements.

    This program takes a multidisciplinary approach to criminal justice education. CSP emphasizes current trends in law enforcement, professionalism, ethics, creative decision-making, and leadership. The core consists of 10 classes, after which students select from coursework in forensics and Minnesota law and traffic codes. The Minnesota Board of Peace Officers Standards and Training has given this curriculum their stamp of approval.

    CSP alumni enjoy a 95% employment rate within a year of graduation. The Higher Learning Commission accredits all CSP programs.

  2. LeTourneau University
    Location

    Longview, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A Christian polytechnical institution in Longview, Texas, LETU hosts criminal justice programs online and on campus. The school infuses biblical teachings into its 120-credit curriculum, and distance learners must complete 12 credits of theological learning. Criminal justice students can select from concentrations in human trafficking, homeland security, and criminal justice studies. Available entirely online, this program follows an accelerated format.

    The major requires 36 credits in the core curriculum and nine in a concentration area or elective courses. LETU emphasizes an understanding of criminal behavior and psychology, progressive methods of conflict resolution, and real-world field knowledge. Highlighted classes explore ethics, cybercrime, restorative justice, and addiction theory. Students must maintain a C average in all major coursework.

    LETU evaluates applicants based on character, service, transcript, test scores, and class rank. Veterans and law enforcement professionals may already have transferable credits. Online learners pay a flat tuition fee.

  3. Trine University
    Location

    Angola, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private institution in Angola, Indiana, Trine offers a bachelor's in criminal justice through its TrineOnline virtual campus. Renowned for integrating psychology into law enforcement training, the program allows students to focus their studies in law enforcement, agency administration, addictions, academy and professional training, or forensic and correctional psychology. Trine is one of only a few undergraduate schools in the U.S. to offer a correctional psychology specialization.

    The 120-credit curriculum breaks into several parts. Students must earn 42 credits in general education, 63 credits in the major, and 15 credits in their concentration. Classes run asynchronously in accelerated, eight-week sessions. Some distance learners with transferable credits can earn their degrees in as little as a year.

  4. Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private research university, Drexel offers one of the nation's best online bachelor's in criminal justice. The program brings together sociology, psychology, chemistry, biotechnology, computer science, and criminology to prepare students for 21st-century criminal justice careers. Distance learners can earn all necessary credits without having to visit the school's Philadelphia campus.

    Available on a part-time basis, the curriculum proceeds asynchronously in four, 10-week quarters. Students complete 11 classes in the major curriculum, two in research methods and analytics, five in a criminal justice concentration, and 10 in electives. These electives explore topics like cybercrime, investigation, domestic violence, terrorism, and law, and degree candidates can use them to focus their studies to meet their professional goals. They must also complete the university's general requirements.

    Applicants must submit evidence of a high school diploma or the equivalent, plus SAT scores. Drexel holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  5. Peirce College
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A career-oriented institution in Philadelphia, Peirce offers a bachelor's in criminal justice, which students can pursue online, on campus, or both. Taught by experienced law enforcement professionals, the 121-credit curriculum features classwork on criminal court systems, victimization, homeland security, criminology, and computer crimes.

    Founded for working adults, Peirce set up its asynchronous program to accommodate most schedules. Distance learners gain a deep understanding of crime and criminology and learn executive skills that help in any career. These include effective writing, research, and technology skills. Ambitious students can join Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice honor society.

    Graduates earn up to 57 credits for training at the Philadelphia Police Academy and up to 27 for Philadelphia Divisions of Prisons training. Peirce accepts up to 90 transfer credits for this program. Peirce holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  6. Mercer University
    Location

    Macon, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The oldest private university in Georgia, Mercer hosts an online criminal justice bachelor's degree emphasizing leadership skills. The Macon institution established this program to blend criminal justice theory and practice. It teaches students to make good decisions in the field, think critically, and act in an engaged, professional manner.

    The 120-credit curriculum comprises 42 major credits, 39 general education credits, and 39 elective credits. Classes follow accelerated, eight-week sessions. Highlights include supervision in criminal justice, a leadership seminar, and an independent study project, which lets distance learners explore a related area of interest. Requirements include a field experience with an approved agency.

    Mercer admits students to its program five times per year. The college boasts a generous transfer policy, accepting as many as two-thirds of its required credits. Applicants should hold a minimum 2.25 GPA.

  7. Baker University
    Location

    Baldwin City, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private liberal arts institution, Baker offers online and on-campus courses from its home in Baldwin City, Kansas. Affiliated with the Methodist Church, the school hosts one of the country's top online bachelor's in criminal justice. The 33-credit program prepares students for careers in law enforcement or to advance to graduate-level study.

    Baker's curriculum proceeds in a lock-step format, offering one class at a time. Required coursework covers subjects such as criminology, victimology, policing, youth and crime, and white-collar crime. A bachelor's at the university requires a total of 124 credit hours. Degree candidates must complete 36 general education credits before enrolling in a major, and they must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA while completing the program.

    The university's Prior Learning Assessment Center provides a straightforward way to earn credits for police, fire, or military training. Baker offers a comprehensive resource package.

  8. Champlain College
    Location

    Burlington, VT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Set in Burlington, Champlain hosts one of the nation's most unique online criminal justice programs. The Vermont school focuses its curriculum on economic crime, teaching students to investigate white-collar offenses. The course of study proceeds entirely online, using hands-on exercises to develop the skills to fight crimes like embezzlement and fraud. Graduates leave ready to pursue careers in law enforcement, accounting, and risk management, and to sit for professional exams.

    The 120-credit curriculum comprises 66 credits in professional courses and 54 in general education. It combines coursework in accounting, computer science, criminal justice, psychology, and sociology. Distance learners also acquire skills in effective communication, problem-solving, and analytical thinking. The program prepares students for the certified fraud examiner and certified anti-money laundering specialist exams. Most professors use an asynchronous format.

    Champlain schedules two seven-week sessions per semester. The school's academic calendar has three semesters per year. The college accepts up to 90 transfer credits toward the degree.

  9. Bay Path University
    Location

    Longmeadow, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Bay Path offers a women's-only bachelor's in criminal justice through the university's American Women's College. The program takes a public service approach to the field, featuring classes from the social services, corrections, probations and parole, juvenile justice, homeland security, and emergency management.

    The curriculum consists of 120 credits, including 42 in the university core, 42 in criminal justice, and 36 in general electives. Fifteen credits in criminal justice electives allow students to customize the program to their personal goals. Bay Path utilizes an asynchronous delivery format as part of the social online universal learning program. Professors use lectures, interactive discussions, and cases to hone participants' skills.

    Bay Path offers a minor in the field and encourages double majors. The university's generous transfer policy allows up to 90 credits toward baccalaureate degrees. Applicants should hold a minimum 2.0 GPA.

  10. Norwich University
    Location

    Northfield, VT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Vermont's military college, Norwich, offers an online bachelor's in criminal justice focused on the nation's criminal justice system. The program explores the workings of law enforcement, the courts, and corrections, and how to make them run ethically and efficiently. Students can specialize in intelligence and security management or create their own concentrations through electives. All learning takes place online, requiring no visits to the Northfield campus.

    A bachelor's at Norwich requires 120 credits, but the major itself comprises just 57. These include 15 credits in foundational courses, 18 elective credits, 18 in field studies, and a six-credit capstone. Many distance learners earn this degree in 18 months by transferring in credits. The university requires at least 30 credits to enroll in the program, accepting up to 90 transfer credits.

    Norwich carries accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.

  11. Azusa Pacific University
    Location

    Azusa, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A comprehensive Christian institution located in Greater Los Angeles, APU offers a degree-completion bachelor's in criminal justice online. The university expects students to transfer at least 15 credits before they enroll. Learners must complete 50 units to graduate. A bachelor's degree at the evangelical school requires a total of 120 credits. Hands-on field experience forms part of the curriculum.

    In APU's course of study, distance learners complete core coursework in courts and corrections, juvenile justice, criminological theory, race and crime, and victimology. They also complete three writing projects, including a capstone in which participants present their work to criminal justice professionals. Electives in areas like sex crimes, terrorism, domestic violence, and law allow learners to customize their degrees. An optional internship gives students real-world experience.

    The university extends discounts to law enforcement and military personnel.

  12. Citadel Military College of South Carolina
    Location

    Charleston, SC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    South Carolina's military college offers an online bachelor's in criminal justice, which allows students to design their degree paths. Based in Charleston, the school created a degree-completion program comprising just four required classes. Distance learners can use the remainder of their 55 required credits to craft their own curricula. The two-plus-two program assumes students hold credits from two-year schools or other universities.

    The Citadel's core includes an introduction to criminal justice, plus courses in police systems, corrections, and criminology. Participants can use electives to concentrate in areas like drugs, criminal investigation, juvenile justice, organized crime, white-collar crime, terrorism, and policy. Most classes run asynchronously. Many students opt to add leadership minors to the program. Some pursue internships or independent study opportunities. The college requires 120 credits for a bachelor's.

    All online learners pay the same flat-rate tuition fee.

  13. Rutgers University-New Brunswick
    Location

    New Brunswick, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Rutgers hosts its online bachelor's in criminal justice as part of its Rutgers Statewide Program. In partnership with community colleges, Rutgers Statewide features online and evening classes across New Jersey. Taught by top Rutgers faculty, the criminal justice course takes a social science approach, incorporating many other disciplines. The university highly recommends participants complete an associate degree prior to enrolling.

    The 42-credit curriculum includes classwork from sociology, psychology, social justice, and law. Students must complete four core courses, a writing project, and 27 elective credits. Rutgers emphasizes effective communication, critical thinking, research skills, cultural awareness, and a broad understanding of criminal justice theory. Due to the university's goal to develop well-rounded graduates, students must also pursue liberal arts concentrations.

    Most classes in the program follow an asynchronous format. Degree candidates must maintain a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA.

  14. University of South Florida-Main Campus
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Tampa, USF offers an online criminal justice undergraduate degree as part of its bachelor's in applied science. The program takes an expansive look at the United States' criminal justice system. As an applied science major, this course features a hands-on, technical education approach.

    The applied science major requires 120 unduplicated credits, including 36 in general education and 21 in the criminal justice concentration. The criminal science curriculum requires just two classes, including theories of criminal behavior and survey of the criminal justice system. Students choose the remainder of their classes, selecting five electives in the field. All degree candidates must complete a senior capstone and maintain a minimum C- average in concentration courses.

    The university accepts up to 42 transfer credit hours toward the degree. USF holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  15. Saint Joseph's College-New York
    Location

    Brooklyn, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    SJCNY hosts an array of criminal justice degree programs from its Brooklyn campus. The school offers a bachelor's focused on practice and policy, using evidence-based practices. The program incorporates sociology, political science, psychology, forensic bioscience, and law enforcement into a rigorous 120-credit curriculum. Most classes proceed asynchronously, allowing students scheduling flexibility.

    The curriculum features 36 credits in required coursework. Participants explore policy in the courts, corrections, criminal analysis, along with how it relates to race, gender, and class. Most complete their studies with a capstone synthesizing the program's core teachings. As part of this seminar, degree candidates produce a research paper. Learners must earn at least 60 liberal arts credits to take home their degrees.

    SJCNY uses a rolling admissions policy. Applicants should hold a high school diploma and a minimum 2.0 GPA on any previous collegiate studies.

  16. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    FIU combines traditional criminal justice studies with computer science developments through its online bachelor's in crime science. The technology-centered degree brings together forensics, IT, and criminology to come up with new approaches to law enforcement. The Miami university aims to prepare students for careers in the crime analysis field. The program runs entirely online.

    The 120-credit curriculum explores the impacts of new technologies on law enforcement, including DNA analysis, body cameras, smartphones, and sophisticated algorithms. The 43 core course credits include topics such as criminological theory, GIS and crime-mapping, criminal investigation, forensic science, cybercrime, and terrorism. The university's law enforcement apprenticeship program gives students specialized police training in the field.

    Crime science program prerequisites include statistics, a general biology course with a lab, and a chemistry course with a lab. FIU charges out-of-state distance learners slightly more than Florida residents.

  17. University of Mary
    Location

    Bismarck, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A Catholic institution in Bismarck, North Dakota, Mary grounds its bachelor's in criminal justice in Benedictine values. The 124-credit program teaches students the basic principles of law enforcement from a humanitarian, ethics-based perspective. The school recommends this program to anyone interested in careers in the protective services or who want to pursue law school.

    Curriculum highlights include a junior internship with an appropriate agency and a senior seminar based on research studies and legal cases. Elective classes explore serial killing, terrorism, human trafficking, human behavior, and social welfare policies. Some distance learners pursue additional internships during their final year to gain further work experience. Mary also encourages ambitious students to consider its emerging leaders program, which includes mentorship opportunities, leadership training, and additional field experience.

    Mary uses rolling admissions, admitting students every five weeks.

  18. University of Massachusetts-Lowell
    Location

    Lowell, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Part of the Massachusetts public university system, UMass Lowell boasts its own school of criminology and justice studies. Known for its research and nationally recognized faculty, the institution offers several online criminal justice programs, including a bachelor's degree. This 120-credit baccalaureate course of study blends a liberal arts curriculum with a strong education in contemporary law enforcement.

    The degree plan includes a diverse set of classes in areas like criminal law, corrections, policing, criminology, emergency management, homeland security, hate crime, profiling, and victimology. Professors employ modern, data-driven teaching techniques. Most classes run asynchronously. Criminal justice majors need 36 credits and can earn no more than 60. All degree candidates must complete 12 courses of general education credits. They must maintain a minimum 2.2 cumulative GPA, and a 2.5 GPA in major courses.

    UMass Lowell accepts up to 90 transfer credits toward this degree. The school reports that graduates from this program earn a median midcareer salary of roughly $80,000. It also offers an accelerated BS-MA program, through which students begin earning credits toward their master's during their undergraduate years.

  19. Washington State University
    Location

    Pullman, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public university in Pullman, WSU boasts one of the nation's oldest criminal justice programs. Founded in 1943, the course of study now takes place online. The curriculum assesses law enforcement through a policy lens, melding political science, sociology, and psychology with traditional criminal justice skills. It also prepares students to step into leadership roles in law enforcement, advocacy, the legal professions, and social work.

    To earn a bachelor's at WSU, all degree candidates must complete 120 credits. In the school's online criminal justice program, 18 credits come from the major core, 12 from electives, and the remainder from the school's general education requirements. All majors must complete a capstone project, typically during their final semester. Internships and the senior seminar serve as electives. Distance learners can pursue all credits online.

    Nonresidents pay slightly more for tuition than Washington residents. Most classes run asynchronously.

  20. McKendree University
    Location

    Lebanon, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The first higher education institution in Illinois, McKendree offers an online criminal justice degree as part of its sociology program. Designed to accommodate the schedules of working professionals, the program serves those aiming to advance in law enforcement, corrections, and the courts.

    This university's curriculum revolves around a 22-credit sociology core. The criminal justice component includes 21 additional credits. Course highlights include police and urban society, sociology of deviance, and juvenile delinquency. The university schedules classes in accelerated, asynchronous eight-week sessions. Students typically enroll in two courses per term. Degree candidates must earn a total of 120 credits for a bachelor's and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA.

    McKendree also hosts a four-plus-one program, in which students can earn a master's in criminal justice in five years. The university allows distance learners to take up to 21 credits before enrolling in a degree path.

What Is a Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree?

Many law enforcement agencies now require bachelor’s degrees to get ahead. Aspiring officers and corrections agents can enroll in police academies without a college education, but departments increasingly hire educated officers. Many departments require applicants to hold degrees for advanced positions up the chain of command. Criminal justice bachelor’s degrees provide the credentials employers often seek.

Like other bachelor’s degrees, criminal justice programs typically require 120 credits. These usually include the university’s general education requirements. Many programs take a multidisciplinary approach, incorporating coursework in sociology, psychology, computer science, and law. Courses like these accompany the traditional classes in criminology, corrections, and the courts.

Some schools emphasize leadership, preparing students for careers in administration while others might focus on the social services. Some programs integrate academy time or real-world experience from internships with law enforcement agencies.

Most programs require four years of study. Modern online education may allow students to shorten program length through accelerated sessions. Online learning often saves students on expenses, as well. Many schools charge distance learners in-state fees. Some online programs, especially asynchronous ones, allow students to continue working as they pursue their education.

What Can I Do With a Criminal Justice Degree?

Criminal justice degrees open the door to a variety of careers. These include traditional police positions, like patrol officer and detective. They also include forensic investigators, FBI agents, lawyers, cybersecurity professionals, teachers, and social workers. See below for a few ideas.


  • Police Officer

    Police officers keep communities safe. They patrol streets, direct traffic, and enforce laws. They investigate crime, representing the police and sheriff’s departments in schools and neighborhoods and offering outreach programs and education. Some work in schools, keeping student populations safe. Aspiring police officers often get entry-level jobs in the field by attending local police academies.

    As departments grow more sophisticated in the information age, many look to hire officers with associate or bachelor’s degrees. To rise in the ranks as detectives, ranking officers, or chiefs, candidates should hold degrees. Many of the top department jobs demand at least a bachelor’s, and sometimes a master’s. Most police officers and sheriff’s deputies earn minimum salaries of $40,000-$70,000.


  • FBI Agent

    FBI agents work for the nation’s chief law enforcement agency to investigate federal crimes and provide support to states on more complicated investigations. These professionals search for evidence, interview suspects, and build cases. They perform data analysis and forensics. Many travel state-to-state, working on complex cases. Agents track suspects, often spending hours and days monitoring their activity. When they compile enough evidence, they move in to make arrests, often putting themselves in harm’s way.

    Jobs within the FBI include field investigator, analyst, forensic specialist, and computer security professional. Agents must carry firearms and use deadly force, if the situation requires it. They must pass rigorous fitness tests through the FBI’s Quantico academy, along with background checks to acquire top-secret clearance. The FBI requires at least a bachelor’s degree for its special agents. The median salary for FBI agents sits at $65,000.


  • Corrections Officer

    The department of corrections manages jails and prisons. Corrections officers ensure prisoners make it from jails to trial courts. They provide security for lockdown facilities from the local to the federal levels. They oversee prison populations, maintaining order, discipline, and safety. Many work in surveillance positions, using cameras to monitor large areas. Some earn higher ranks based on education. Some entry-level positions in corrections require only a high school diploma.

    Higher-level jobs in administrative positions often require at least a bachelor’s degree. Federal corrections applicants must hold four-year degrees or higher. Pay ranges vary widely in corrections, with the median hourly salary sitting at $17.


  • Social Worker

    As a general rule, social workers help people cope with their problems. However, social work varies widely depending on the employer. Some social workers find employment with hospitals, advocating on their patients’ behalf. They counsel sick and injured individuals, helping their families cope. Some work in the field of addiction, assisting people with struggling with drug and alcohol dependency. They might run group sessions or meet one-on-one.

    Some find employment with government agencies at places like the Veteran’s Administration. These professionals work with soldiers, helping them transition back to civilian life after spending time in combat. Others might work with people with mental or physical disabilities, using art as therapy. Most social workers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree to gain licensure. Many hold advanced degrees. The median salary for social workers sits at $50,000.


  • Lawyer

    Lawyers work in a variety of areas to interpret the law. They might work in business, helping corporations adhere to their industry’s rules and regulations. They might represent defendants in court cases or work with the prosecution on the other side. These professionals work in small towns, helping couples with divorce and consulting in real-estate transactions. They might work for large urban agencies, representing corporate clients in major lawsuits. They work for environmental firms, ensuring builders and extraction companies follow the law.

    Many work in politics, running for office or on politicians’ legal staff. All working lawyers must pass the bar in their state, which usually entails earning a master’s degree in law school. Some begin their studies at the undergraduate level in the criminal justice field. This proves especially common among those working in law enforcement as government attorneys. Lawyers earn a median annual salary of about $85,000.


Salary Potential

Criminal justice careers vary widely. Graduates’ earning potential ranges across a broad spectrum. Some corrections careers, for example, pay on the lower end of the scale, while lawyers for top firms can make very large salaries. Everything depends on the field criminal justice students enter after graduation.

Even within industries and professions, pay scales vary widely. A beat cop, for example, might earn only $40,000, while a police lieutenant takes home $80,000 and a police commissioner earns $200,000. Lawyers for social services agencies might make $45,000 annually, while those with large corporate law firms often make $250,000 or more.

As is the case in most professions, education level, experience, and location all play critical roles in pay scale. Generally speaking, people with more advanced degrees and professional experience and who live in prosperous areas tend to earn more.

An online bachelor’s degree in criminal represents a good first step in entering the criminal justice world. Sufficient to enter many occupations, this degree also readies graduates to move on to the master’s-level degrees high-paying employers often require.

FAQs


  • Is a degree in criminal justice a BA or BS?

    Most online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice are bachelor of science degrees. However, this isn’t always the case. 


  • What is a bachelor's degree in criminal justice?

    A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a four-year degree in the law enforcement field. Programs vary widely, but most emphasize policing, the courts, and corrections.


  • What can you do with a bachelor's in criminal justice?

    Graduates of online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice can enter police forces, go into corrections, or work in security firms. They also work in social services or enroll in law school.


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