“Legal studies” is an academic endeavor focused on the meaning, practice and institution of law. Master of Legal Studies programs provide an interdisciplinary understanding of the methods, theories and principles of the US legal system, the social, political and economic impacts of the law, and how to navigate legal procedures in fields such as health care and business.
According to a survey from the American Bar Association, as reported by Hanover Research, student enrollment in non-Juris Doctor programs increased by 39 percent between 2005 and 2012. During the same time period, the number of first-year law students enrolled in JD programs decreased by eight percent. Along with the growing popularity of online educational settings in general, many people who have no interest in becoming lawyers are entering graduate programs in legal studies. Why are so many seeking these programs, and what can a prospective student expect from a Master’s in Legal Studies (MLS) degree? Explore this page to learn more about the legal studies curriculum, concentrations and career opportunities.
Students enrolled in an online Master of Legal Studies program encounter a curriculum similar to a student’s first year in law school, with the exception that MLS students may be able to tailor classes to align with their professional goals and personal interests. Whether you earn a general master’s degree in legal studies or choose to focus your studies and concentrate on an area of interest, you will be introduced to core substantive areas of law that provide the foundation for understanding and interacting with the US legal system.
Master’s in Legal Studies Online Courses
While exact coursework will differ depending on your program and concentration, some of the common elements of legal studies curriculum may include:
- Legal principles as they apply in social, economic and political areas
- Legal ethics as they relate to application of law and policy administration
- Legal writing, research and arguments
- Civil, criminal and administrative legal procedures
- Negotiation strategies for contracts and disputes
- Legal concentration electives such as criminal law, cyber security, regulatory compliance, healthcare compliance, business law, higher education, and financial compliance
Online legal studies programs may offer a variety of concentrations designed to help professionals in any business setting better compete in an increasingly globalized market.
The core provisions of a legal studies graduate program focus on the methods, theories and principles of the US legal system. But rather than simply teaching the laws, these programs teach students how the laws apply to their industries. Furthermore, these courses may prepare a student to better understand the social, political and economic impacts of the law in a particular field.
Consider some of the concentrations that may be available to graduate students enrolling in an online Master of Legal Studies degree program.
As the world becomes more globalized, the need for corporate leaders who understand international law become vital to corporate and organizational growth. An online MLS with a concentration in international law can help prepare those leading their companies in negotiation, contract law (as it relates to other nations) and more.
The internet has brought an explosion in the need to understand and protect intellectual property. An MLS degree program with a concentration in IP law can help prepare graduates navigate this important area of business.
Sports law helps students understand how to manage athletes and sports organizations. This track may focus on compliance issues with various professional sports organizations, contracts and negotiations.
Health care in the United States is subject to ever-changing regulatory and compliance issues. Students pursuing a healthcare concentration in legal studies may explore various regulations, including HIPAA, EMTALA and ERISA, as well as abuse laws, antitrust laws and tax issues.
This track of an online MLS degree will help those in the energy sector understand how to influence politics and public policy, how to comply with the existing policies and how to manage organizations impacted by environmental regulations.
The demand for professional with dispute resolution skills is growing. An MLS degree program with a concentration in dispute resolution can help prepare students to effectively resolve conflicts between parties and negotiate complex transactions.
Schools may offer several compliance programs from general regulatory to specialized fields such as human resources and financial compliance. Corporate officers may benefit from understanding how to ensure compliance with the SEC, the IRS and other regulatory agencies that can impact the bottom line.
MLS degree graduates typically use their degree to advance within their organization or field of work, but it may also lead to new career possibilities for those students who wish to enter a different field. Equipped with an understanding of core legal methods, theories and practices, MLS graduates may be able to leverage their previous education and work experience to pursue a variety of careers, including:
Master of Legal Studies Careers
- Human resources manager
- Compliance officer
- Health information specialist
- Legal publisher/law writer
Find more legal studies careers
Whether you want to gain a deep understanding of the US legal system to become a leader and decision-maker in your field or you wish to start a new law-related career, a Master of Legal Studies may be what you need to reach the next level in your professional development
After enrolling in an online Master of Legal Studies program, you will interact with the same course materials as traditional on-campus students. The difference, of course, is that as an online student you’ll be able to access lectures, assignments and study materials whenever and wherever it’s most convenient for you.
Depending on whether the program is synchronous or asynchronous, you may be required to “attend” live-streaming classes at set times along with other students. Asynchronous programs tend to be more self-paced, but they lack the rich human element of synchronous programs. In either case, you will need to satisfy the program’s credit requirements to earn a master’s degree in legal studies. Specific program requirements may vary in terms of coursework and credit hours.
Online MLS students who choose to specialize may spend the first half of the program on general legal concepts and theories before focusing on the concepts and theories specific to a field such as health care, intellectual property or international business. For each program you’re interested in, look at the course catalog and academic calendar provided by the school to learn more about the specific classes you’ll take and when you can expect to take them.
Although legal studies and criminal justice are related fields that lead graduates to similar paths, there is a considerable difference between the two fields of study. Criminal justice may deal with courtroom procedures, but its focus is law enforcement and corrections. Legal studies, on the other hand, focus on laws, legal terminology and legal procedures.
An online Master of Legal Studies program also provides more flexibility considering the wide range of MLS concentrations you can choose from. This means you may be able to focus your degree on the legal concepts that apply to specific industries or roles so you can prepare for a range of positions in government and the private sector.
Online MLS Degree Programs
Compare online MLS degree programs and find the one that best suits your needs.