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What is a Master of Legal Studies Degree? An Overview of the M.L.S. Degree

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A Master of Legal Studies degree is a degree in law intended for students who do not wish to practice law. The M.L.S. degree is also known as a Master of Science of Law (M.S.L.), a Juris Master (J.M.), or a Master of Jurisprudence (M.J.). Despite the many names, the degree programs all share the same goal–to provide non-attorneys with an overview of the legal system to help further their careers. While some law schools offer a general M.L.S. degree, most focus on an area of law that overlaps with another field such as health, environmental, or human resources.

Can I Practice Law with an M.L.S.?

To practice law, you will need to pass a bar exam in the jurisdiction where you intend to practice. Almost all jurisdictions require potential lawyers to have either a Juris Doctor degree or its international equivalent. Some jurisdictions require foreign-educated lawyers to also earn an LL.M from a U.S. law school. Instead, the M.L.S. is intended for professionals working in careers that frequently interact with the law. It is not a substitute for a law degree, and it is not the same as a legal studies master’s.

How Long Does it Take to Earn an M.L.S.?

Most M.L.S. programs are designed to be completed in one full-time year of coursework. Most programs require 30 hours of coursework for completion. However, since the M.L.S. degree is targeted towards working professionals, most programs allow for candidates to complete the degree on a part-time basis over an extended timeline.

What Will I Study in an M.L.S. Program?

Whether you opt for a general or specialized M.L.S. program, all programs begin with an introduction to the American legal system. In many cases, M.L.S. students attend the same classes as first-year law students. Other programs have overview courses specifically designed for M.L.S. students that ground students in the core principles of the American legal system. Generally, these overview courses take up one half of the program. In the second half of an M.L.S. program, students in a general program choose courses from the law school curriculum that meet their educational and professional goals. In a specialized program, students choose from a slate of courses related to their specialty.

Can I Get an M.L.S. Online?

Unlike the Juris Doctor degree which requires mostly (if not all) residential coursework, many law schools offer fully online M.L.S. programs. The availability is another recognition that the M.L.S. degree is designed for working professionals who benefit from the convenience of online learning. Online M.L.S. program allows students to earn their degree on their own schedule using the same lecture series taught in residence. Online programs also allow for substantial interaction between students and faculty through live sessions as well as feedback sessions.

Will an M.L.S. help my Career?

M.L.S. degree programs were designed to meet the increasing demand for professionals with a working knowledge of the law and the legal system. In general, these tends to be fields in tremendous demands. Careers such as a health services administrator, human resource professionals, and compliance officer are not only in high demand but also offers salaries competitive with entry level attorneys. Law schools continue to expand M.L.S. offerings to meet the demands of working professionals.

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