Masters in Law
To practice law, you need to have a Jurist Doctor (JD) degree. Such a degree typically involves a three-year course of study, followed by certification through the appropriate Bar association. However, working as a full-time attorney is not for everyone, and is certainly not the only way to gain an in-depth understanding of legal issues. A master’s in law offers you the chance to become familiar with legal matters, without having to dedicate yourself strictly to a legal career.
Before beginning your search for graduate programs, you must first understand that there are different types of legal master’s degrees: A Master’s of Law and a Master’s of Studies in Law. A Master’s of Law degree (also known as an LLM) is an advanced program offered to those already practicing law that wish to specialise in a certain area or discipline. You typically already need to have a JD or some sort of equivalent first degree in law to qualify for such a program. Those seeking an LLM are usually attorneys looking to increase their earning potential and participate in research or academic opportunities. A Master’s of Studies in Law (often referred to as an MSL), on the other hand, is quite different. When speaking of a Master’s in Law, most are typically referring to an MSL.
What is a Master’s in Law?
An MSL is a graduate degree offered to those interested in expanding their legal knowledge relevant to a particular field or discipline. Some may complete this degree and then choose to go on to obtain a JD, but for the most part, it’s pursued by non-legal professionals. Even when working outside of the legal field, understanding the local, state, and federal statutes that apply to your career can give you untold freedom to both benefit your clients as well as your company.
Many equate an MSL program to the first year of a jurist doctor program. Indeed, the course typically only takes one calendar year to complete. In it, you acquire a foundational knowledge of legal principles and theories, followed by a specialised understanding of specific laws and legal systems.
Rather than simply being a comprehensive study of the entire legal system, an MSL program offers concentrations in certain disciplines. Depending upon your career path, you can choose to focus your studies in areas such as:
- Business law
- Criminal law
- Labour law
- Tort law
- Sports and entertainment law
- Constitutional law
These specialisations can help supplement your already existing knowledge to help make you a more attractive candidate to prospective employers.
What Are the Benefits of Getting a Master’s in Law?
Many may wonder why one would choose to pursue any sort of degree in law short of becoming a full-fledged lawyer. As was mentioned earlier, some simply want to expand their understanding of the law without starting their careers over as attorneys. Being an attorney may bring with it certain stresses that you may not find in other careers. Understanding how complex legal matters apply outside of a courtroom and in the everyday business world, however, can turn you into a valuable asset. While large companies and organisations may rely upon lawyers to provide them with certain types of assistance, that doesn’t necessarily mean that attorneys are their sole source of legal knowledge.
In many cases, those pursuing an MSL are mid-career professionals who are looking to better understand how the law affects their particular industries. They are used as consultants by both their own firms as well as outside companies to help determine the legality of new policies and practices before they are implemented. Often, academics will also seek an MSL to bolster their resumes with legal credentials. In general, any career path in which the work is overseen by some regulatory statute can benefit by one having increased legal knowledge.
Aside from gaining further knowledge and insight, an MSL can also make you a more prized asset on the job market. Companies are constantly on the lookout for prospective hires that can help them in regulatory compliance. Bringing such a skillset to the table can dramatically increase your earning potential.
What Kind of Career Can You Expect with a Master’s in Law?
As was mentioned earlier, many MSL candidates are already firmly established in a career, and are simply looking for knowledge that will help support the current work that they are doing. Yet an MSL can also be the perfect way for you to alter your career path. If you’ve grown tired of the direction that you’re currently heading in, getting an MSL can open doors to new opportunities within your chosen field. For example, if you work on the clinical side of healthcare, getting an MSL may help you transition into healthcare administration. If you are a journalist, then an MSL may allow you to expand your skills to cover civil or criminal proceedings or offer expert opinions on popular legal topics. If you are a law enforcement official, you can also greatly benefit from an MSL. Gaining a fundamental knowledge of criminal legal procedures helps support the cases you investigate and process.
There are many advanced career opportunities out there to be explored. An MSL could be the ideal tool to help you take advantage of them.