You don’t have to want to become a lawyer to study law at the graduate level. Through online masters degree programs in law, you can gain a broad understanding of how the U.S. legal study works, as well as gain a foundation in legal theory. Areas of study typically include basic law courses like torts, contracts, and constitutional law, as well as topics in immigration, law, international law, and intellectual property. This degree may be beneficial for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in law or a related subject looking to advance in areas such as law office administration or litigation support, as well as business executives, policy makers, and human resource professionals looking to expand their legal knowledge.
Why a Master’s Degree?
A Masters of Laws, or LL.M., is not a Juris Doctor. In other words, you will not qualify to sit for the bar exam and potentially practice as a lawyer. Rather, this degree allows students to study legal theory and the role of law in American society, as well as gain an understanding of the legal system, without the end goal to practice law. This may be ideal for people whose professions deal with the practical knowledge of law and the legal system, such as business owners who work with legal forms or human resource professionals. The degree can also be a stepping stone for those who want to stay in academia and pursue a Ph.D. in law.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
Each school will have its own requirements for application to its online masters degree in law
program. Though for an idea of what may be expected of you, here are some typical educational and professional expectations of master’s degree applicants:
- Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university
- GPA minimum
- GRE score
- Professional experience in the American legal system
- At least one course in American government or the judicial process
- Letters of recommendation
Inside a Law Master’s Degree Program
A master’s degree in law generally takes two years of full-time study to complete, though this may be longer or shorter depending on the program and the student’s education and professional experience. The degree provides students with a foundation in legal concepts and history. Courses typically cover the major substantive areas of U.S. law, such as torts, contracts, criminal and constitutional law, business associations, and property. They may also be able to take classes in such areas as immigration law, wills, trusts and estates, international law, and intellectual property.
Master’s degrees in law tend to be very research and writing intensive. So in addition to gaining legal knowledge, students can expect to develop skills in legal research and legal writing and analysis. They may also be expected to complete a master’s thesis by the end of their program.
What’s Next for Law Master’s Degree Holders?
A master’s degree in law can benefit many different types of students looking to gain legal knowledge without going to law school. These include human resource professionals, business executives, policy makers, and entrepreneurs looking to expand their legal knowledge to help with their careers. Others may want to advance their careers in the legal profession, such as in law administration, mediation, or litigation support. For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master’s degree in law can provide a good background for those looking to become mediators.
A master’s degree in law can also lead to continued graduate study of the subject. Aspiring professors, for example, typically need a doctorate to teach at a college or university. Others may pursue a Ph.D. to achieve executive or distinguished levels in government, consulting, or law.