Consider Legal Studies over Law
You have a penchant for the law profession, but do not want to earn a law degree. It is a long process to complete law school. First, you must earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to law school. Once accepted, you have another three years of law school. Once you graduate from law school, you need to pass the bar exam. A bar exam refers to an examination that law students in the United States must pass in order to practice law. It goes without saying that the bar exam is the most important test for aspiring lawyers in the United States. In the U.S., if you have not passed a state bar exam you are prohibited from engaging in the practice of law.
If you were an average law student, then studying for the bar exam for about 400 hours will likely be sufficient. About 200 hours should be dedicated to learning the law and memorizing your outlines. The other 200 hours should be spent completing practice questions.
There is another option. You can pursue a master’s degree in legal studies. This program enables non-lawyers to develop superior legal expertise and credentials to advance within their chosen field. Students gain a solid understanding of many fundamental areas of the law without having to become a practicing attorney. Unlike traditional Juris Doctor (JD) programs, no LSAT scores are required to apply to a graduate program, and you can complete the degree in as few as 16 months.
A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) explores how law relates to a variety of careers, including topics such as contracts, intellectual property, health law, and corporate compliance. There is a school offering a 24-credit program that you can complete in as little as one year. In this example, students will complete the required introductory course and then select from a variety of elective courses to customize their learning experience based on their professional and academic goals. The electives comprise 21 credits. Examples of electives are civil procedure, intellectual property, constitutional law, employment law, and arbitration/mediation.
Areas of Specialization
At the master’s level, you can select a general legal studies program or choose from one with several specialized areas. There are schools offering a choice of eight or more concentrations in their MLS program. You have the option to specialize:
- Compliance and Legal Risk Management
- Criminal Law and Policy
- Environmental Law and Policy
- Family and Juvenile Law
- Human Rights
- Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy
- Intellectual Law
- International Trade and Business Law
- Mining Law and Policy
- Tax Law
It is possible to complete a Master of Legal Studies in one-year if you take the program on a full-time or part-time basis. The coursework will enhance the effectiveness of professionals whose work involves regulations, negotiations, or working with lawyers or legal issues.
In addition to the above, there are more concentrations to tailor to your career goals. These are:
- Oil, Gas, and Energy Law
- Healthcare Law
- Cybersecurity Law
- Cybersecurity and Information Privacy Compliance
- Immigration Law
- Nonprofit Organization Law
- Entrepreneurship and Law
- Financial Regulatory Compliance
The array of specializations provides an understanding of legal and ethical matters, regulations, and compliance issues, equipping you to operate effectively within a government, corporate, nonprofit, or legal environment.
Students who forego one of the many concentrations may prefer a Master of Arts in Legal Studies. This entails a more generalized curriculum that covers a spectrum of subjects. The degree provides students with an understanding of how the legal system interrelates with societal change and how citizens can assert their rights within the legal system. The degree is particularly suited for U.S. students who are pursuing professions where practical knowledge of the law and legal system is required. The degree benefits individuals participating in the judicial process with witnesses, investigators, or resource persons; enforcing compliance with the law and working with legal forms or requirements; or needing to know how legal regulations affect businesses.
The objectives of an M.A. degree are to:
- Outline the functional structure and operation of the American legal system.
- Conduct and analyze legal research and empirical research.
- Effectively advocate legal arguments both orally and in writing.
Your legal studies master’s program may also afford a clinical education experience. Government agencies, the state’s Supreme Court, and other organizations sponsor interns, both paid and unpaid. Placement options include courts, administrative agencies, state and federal attorneys’ offices, legal aid offices, private law firms, and other public interest groups.
Whether you decide to specialize or not, a master’s degree in legal studies offers numerous career opportunities. These exist in the fields of law, healthcare, IT, law enforcement, higher education, financial analysis, management, and human resources.