Master’s in Legal Studies

Many who have an interest in studying the law aspire to become lawyers or attorneys. Doing so requires a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from a school accredited by the American Bar Association and passing the bar exam in each state in which you wish to practice. Some opt to study for an LLM degree, otherwise known as  a Master of Laws degree, although this typically is a post-J.D. degree option. Another choice for those interested in studying the law is earning a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree. While one cannot sit for the bar exam and practice law with this degree, there are many other alternatives available to those who earn this degree.  It educates you with a working knowledge of the law without going into levels of technicality required to become an attorney. Here, we will discuss what sets the Master’s Degree in Legal Studies apart from other law degrees.

Careers Available for Holders of a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies

Getting a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree is perfect for anyone who regularly needs to communicate with attorneys or navigate laws and legal regulations in their job, but does not need to have the ability to represent clients. Many people who are already in the workforce decide to pursue an MLS degree, seeing that they could use one after they have entered their field.  Some examples of careers in which an MLS degree can be beneficial include, but are not limited to:

  • Paralegals or Legal Assistants – Paralegals and legal assistants work closely with lawyers and must have a thorough understanding of the law. While an MLS is not required for legal assistants or paralegals, it can help them to rise more quickly in their profession, or to specialize in other areas such as Corporate Paralegal or Government Paralegal.
  • Human Resources Director/Manager – Earning an MLS degree can help a HR manager in understanding laws and regulations that govern the actions they must take with personnel. It can aid them in handling problems between employees, between employees and management, administering employee benefit programs, and advising on HR issues like sexual harassment claims and equal employment opportunities
  • Contract Negotiator- As contract managers must prepare and negotiate the specifics of contracts, understanding the laws and regulations is vital. Contract negotiators and managers work with a variety of contractors and freelancers and must know the ins and outs of the rules and regulations governing them. An MLS degree can be abundantly helpful in this type of career.
  • Compliance Officer – A compliance officer or director must make sure that a company or organization maintains legal and ethical integrity. This means that they must always be up-to-date on laws and regulations governing their industry, that may change rapidly. Industries in which an MLS degree can be beneficial to compliance officers include healthcare, financial services, welfare, government agencies, food preparation, and biotech/medicine/pharmaceuticals.
  • Operations Director – An operations director must coordinate a business or organization’s internal structure, including its employees, policies and goals. They work with management as well as lower- level employees. A thorough understanding of the law, provided by an MLS degree, can help them to learn how the law and regulations impact their company and the jobs within it.
  • Government Contractor- Any job working with the government, at any level (federal, state or local) can benefit from having a thorough understanding of laws and regulations, which an MLS can provide.
  • Business Analyst – Business analysts must understand their business’ goals and challenges and make recommendations to improve and achieve them. Understanding laws and regulations surrounding their industry, company or clients can help immensely.

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Examples of Master’s Degree Programs in Legal Studies

In addition to Master of Legal Studies (MLS), the master’s degree in legal studies may go by other names. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
  • Master of Arts in Legal Studies (MA)
  • Master of Arts in Legal and Ethical Studies (MA)
  • Master of Science of Law (MSL)
  • Master of Jurisprudence (MJ)
  • Juris Master (JM)
  • Master in Law
  • Master of the Studies of Law

Courses You Will Take in a Master of Legal Studies Program

All curricula of MLS programs vary from one school to the next. However, there are usually courses that you can count on taking, such as:

  • Legal Analysis, Writing and Research
  • Constitutional Law
  • Property Law
  • Torts and Contracts
  • Civil Procedure
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Administrative Procedure

Possible Concentrations in a Master of Legal Studies Program

In addition to the above courses, some MLS programs offer specializations. If you take a specialized course concentration track, you may be able to specialize in areas like:

Length of Time to Get a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies

The length of time that it will take you to complete a master’s degree in legal studies will vary depending upon your student and work status. Most programs average 30 credits, and can be completed on a part- or full-time basis. Some students complete a MLS program in one year, while others might take two years to finish studies. The programs are typically designed to work around students’ flexible, varying schedules.

Salaries for Master of Legal Studies Holders

Because possible jobs and career options are so diverse, salaries can vary widely for those who hold an MLS degree. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the average salary for someone holding a MLS degree is $77,200. This is further broken down into typical jobs that MLS holders may have:

  • Paralegal:                                 $62,840
  • Executive Legal Assistant:          $63,000
  • Compliance Officers:                  $76,980

Referring to Robert Half’s 2019 Legal Salary Guide, further job possibilities for MLS degree holders, and their corresponding salaries, include:

  • Legal Administrator:                  $77,750
  • Legal Officer Manager:              $57,500
  • Case Clerk:                                $43,750
  • Legal Assistant:                         $50,750
  • Law Librarian:                           $64,750
  • Compliance Director:                $121,000
  • Contract Manager:                    $76,000
  • Lease Administrator:                 $77,500
  • Litigation Support Specialist:      $63,250

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Legal Support Workers, All Other, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, and Compliance Officers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023.