Earning a Master’s in Legal Studies Online

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Obtaining a master's in legal studies gives professionals in the legal industry and other related fields comprehensive legal and public policy knowledge. These employees work at all levels of the legal industry, and many currently support lawyers, judges, and other court officials. Aspects of law, such as human resources and compliance issues, affect every industry, especially as the economy grows and changes. Likewise, globalization prompts more companies to engage in international commerce, and these organizations must understand government rules and regulations involving global trade.

Holding a master's degree in legal studies gives students and current working professionals an advantage in the job market due to the advanced skills and knowledge they gain while completing their program. The availability of online master's degree programs makes a master's more attainable for people balancing work and familial commitments with school schedules. The following article will address who the ideal candidate for a master's in legal studies online is, why it is beneficial to pursue this degree, prerequisites for the program, and more.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Legal Studies?

The following guide provides the most up-to-date information for bachelor’s students pursuing a graduate degree, current working professionals seeking additional education, working professionals trying to advance their careers, and individuals interested in professional certification.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Legal Studies?

Pursuing Specialization

A program specialization allows students to focus on the aspects of the legal industry that most interest them. Although a degree in general legal studies boosts career prospects, a specialized degree in the field enables graduates to apply for expert positions. Along with a specialization, students can seek internships in their desired field to obtain relevant work experience. Additionally, course instructors can help students find organizations and placements that cater to specific industries.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Employees that want to advance in their careers go back to school to show their employer they possess the willingness and drive to challenge themselves and improve their skill set. Even if the employee does not receive a promotion from their current employer, an advanced degree increases their chances of landing a better position at another organization.

Online Learning Technology

Schools deliver online courses using the latest technology distributed by learning management systems. These schools allow students to interact with each other and professors through video conferencing, email, forums, and instant messaging. Students access courses on their own time from anywhere with an internet connection. By using online platforms, schools help students improve their computer literacy and increase access to education.

Prerequisites for Online Legal Studies Programs

This list describes typical prerequisite requirements for applying to an online master’s in legal studies program. Students should always check with a school’s admissions department to verify what the school is looking for.

    • Work Experience: Previous work experience in the industry as a legal support worker can help students navigate their courses, but prior work experience is not mandatory for every program. However, most programs require applicants to submit a copy of their resume.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Many schools want applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). The GRE evaluates a student’s reading comprehension, writing, and analytical skills to determine if they can handle graduate coursework. Schools look for high scores in the 158-170 range for the verbal portion of the exam.
    • Coursework: Most programs do not require previous coursework in legal studies or a legal studies degree, but requirements will vary by school. Programs require bachelor's degrees from applicants, and the admissions office wants to see GPAs of at least 3.0.
    • Recommendations: Schools request letters of recommendation as part of the admissions package. Letters should come from faculty members, employers, supervisors, colleagues, or anyone else who are familiar with an applicant's work ethic, capabilities, and skills. Sometimes, the recommenders must fill out and submit a form of recommendation along with the letter.
    • Essays: Some applications will request a personal statement or statement of purpose from the applicant. These statements detail the applicant’s academic accomplishments, including previous degrees.
    • Interviews: Schools with highly selective programs may decide to interview candidates as part of the admissions process. Interview candidates either meet with a faculty member for a one-on-one interview or attend a panel interview with members from the admissions office and faculty.
    • International Students: International candidates must take the TOEFL exam prior to applying to a master's in legal studies online program. This test evaluates the applicant’s English proficiency. Schools also request official transcripts and a physical copy of the degree or diploma certificate.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Legal Studies?

This section highlights common career paths for workers with an online master’s degree in legal studies. As graduates gain work and educational experience, their salary potential grows. Employees gain new skills qualifying them to lead other workers, departments, and spearhead new company programs and initiatives. Salary compensation depends on many factors, including geographical location and demand, but students with an advanced degree have a better chance of securing employment in their desired field.

Traditional Careers for Master’s in Legal Studies Graduates

Career Stats Description

Contracts Director

Median Pay: $121,056

Job Growth: N/A

Contracts directors need a background in law and ethics to negotiate local, national, and international contracts among different business entities. They use their leadership, communication, and negotiation skills to manage multiple contracts and maintain company policies.

Ideal for: Individuals that enjoy problem solving and marketing with good project. management skills

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Median Pay: $60,670

Job Growth: 10%

Arbitrators use their knowledge of the law to help disputing parties come to an agreement regarding a legal matter. Mediators schedule meetings between opposing parties and interview claimants or witnesses to better understand the issue.

Ideal for: People interested in helping others remedy legal issues without a trial.

Contract Negotiation Manager

Median Pay: $94,993

Job Growth: N/A

Contract negotiation managers help individuals or companies secure the most favorable contract terms and conditions. They talk to the other party’s lawyer or contract negotiation manager to change, add, or eliminate terms and draft a final agreement.

Ideal for: Individuals that enjoy negotiation and have a persuasive personality.

Additional Careers for Master’s in Legal Studies Graduates

Career Stats Description

Government Executive

Median Pay: $104,700

Job Growth: 8%

Executives supervise the organization as a whole to ensure goals are being met. Executives work with other department heads to devise strategies to deal with widespread company issues and monitor the financial health of the organization by making budget cuts or adjustments as necessary.

Ideal for: Professionals with strong leadership qualities that can take on challenges.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master's in Legal Studies

Oftentimes, cost-conscious students opt for online or part-time enrollment to reduce tuition costs. Schools do price online and part-time courses at a different rate, but part-time students often graduate much later than their full-time counterparts. However, part-time enrollment works for students that cannot dedicate themselves to the time commitment needed to satisfy full-time or accelerated degree requirements. Furthermore, students can also apply for scholarships and grants to minimize tuition costs.

Tuition Timelines

The following guide gives a brief overview and examples of the various enrollment options available and the approximate price differences between them.

Part-Time Path

Part-time students take one to two courses per semester depending on degree requirements. These students often need a flexible curriculum to accommodate their schedules, so they gravitate towards online programs that let them work at their own pace.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: The University of Arizona
Total Credits Required: 30
Summary: The University of Arizona gives part-time enrollees four years to complete their degree. Students can also specialize their degree in one of 15 concentrations.

Full-Time Path

Students enrolled in a full-time master’s in legal studies online program graduate in two years or less. Students will take a full course load each semester.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Northeastern University
Summary: Northeastern created this program to be completed in two years or less for full-time students. Degree candidates take six credits of foundational courses, 12 credits of core coursework, and 12-15 credits of elective coursework.

Accelerated Path

Accelerated pathways benefit busy individuals with even less time than part-time students to dedicate to school work. Usually, programs take less than two years to complete, and students take the maximum number of courses allowed each semester.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: New York University
Total Credits Required: 24
Summary: In one year, NYU students can graduate with an LLM degree in legal theory. This program requires students to work closely with a faculty adviser to create their own curriculum and take a legal theory thesis workshop course during the spring.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

Students pursuing online LLM degrees are eligible for the same scholarships as on-campus students, and many law firms and legal associations award scholarships to students enrolled in legal studies programs.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Legal Studies Program

Online master’s degree in legal studies programs take one to two years to complete. Programs with a thesis requirement allow students to enroll in the thesis seminar course during the second semester of their first or second year. Milestones vary by program, and most online LLM programs allow students flexibility in course selection and scheduling. With this flexibility, students can choose to study abroad, complete an internship, or specialize their degree with a concentration.

Major Milestones

  1. Application to MLS program: two years before graduation

    Applicants must fill out forms, pay the application fee, submit transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation to the school.

  2. Internship: first or second year

    Programs encourage students to participate in internships to gain valuable work experience. These internships can last for a few weeks or months depending on the placement. Oftentimes, students enroll in summer internships during their school break.

  3. Project: first or second year

    Some schools offer experiential learning opportunities to give students hands-on training. In these experiences, students collaborate with classmates to solve real-world problems affecting major corporations and also present their projects to instructors.

  4. Selecting a Concentration: first year

    Due to the broad nature of the legal studies curriculum, many schools offer concentrations to enable students to specialize their degree. Students select a concentration during the first year of study and must fulfill all degree requirements to graduate.

  5. Study Abroad: second year of program

    Students interested in traveling overseas and immersing themselves in a foreign culture opt for a study abroad program. Schools partner with foreign universities to offer courses to visiting students. Applicants must be in good academic standing with a decent GPA to apply to study abroad programs.

Coursework

The following curriculum gives prospective students a glimpse into the core courses taken for an online master's degree in legal studies. Courses focus on research, strategy, and disseminating information.

Law of Information and Records

In this course, students explore recordkeeping, due diligence, document production, and investigations along with the procedural and evidentiary rules regarding them. Students also examine rights to privacy as well as contractual and legal liability.

Law and Strategy

This course teaches students the application of legal knowledge and resources in strategic planning and implementation. The course helps students foster an appreciation of the legal environment and effectively use legal resources.

Negotiation and Advocacy

Students research the foundational elements of negotiating and resolving informal disputes. They analyze the bargaining range and the other party's needs, strategies to avoid deadlock, and principles of drafting.

Law and Organizational Management

Degree candidates study how partnerships, corporations, and government organizations regulate themselves. Students discuss organizational relationships, powers that organization members hold, workers’ rights, the need for workplace rules, and policies.

Data Regulation and Compliance

This course focuses on data compliance and the issues surrounding it. Students investigate the programs that organizations create to prevent or resolve data compliance, protection, and privacy issues.

Common Certifications

The following list features common certifications that online LLM programs prepare graduates for. Designations in the financial industry, as well as legal support occupations, are included. Obtaining a license or certification maximizes a student’s employment opportunities and shows employers that a potential candidate possesses advanced industry knowledge. For certain occupations, such as accounting, certification is mandatory, but for others, certification teaches new techniques and competencies to improve work performance.

    • Paralegal Certificate: It takes 14 weeks for students to complete this online paralegal course administered by The Center of Legal Studies. Students learn about the American legal system in section one and conduct legal research in section two. Both sections require tests and the completion of memos and class assignments.
    • INACCORD Mediator and Arbitrator: Mediators without Borders delivers this online course to students that want certification in the INACCORD conflict analysis model. The program features three courses, and students must register online to complete coursework and gain access to the program.
    • Certified Public Accountant: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers a pathway to becoming a CPA by administering the CPA exam. Each of the four sections takes four hours to complete. Students get 18 months to complete the entire exam and must score a 75 or higher on each section.
    • INACCORD Health and Eldercare Mediator: In this program, students use the INACCORD conflict analysis method to solve difficult disputes between the elderly and healthcare providers. Students enroll in three courses: INACCORD mediation, health/elder care mediation, and applied practice.

Professional Organizations & Resources

All online LLM degree candidates should consider joining a professional organization. These organizations provide invaluable resources to their members through industry publications, events, conferences, scholarships, awards, advocacy, and mentorship. Organizations foster a sense of community in the legal industry, which can sometimes feel disjointed due to its large size. These groups also help their members find career opportunities through networking events and training workshops.

  • American Bar Association: The American Bar Association provides special benefits to members, promotes professionalism and legal education, eliminates bias in the justice system, and increases respect for the rule of law.
  • Federal Circuit Bar Association: The FCBA hosts different committees to address issues and a forum to encourage dialogue among legal employees.
  • Law and Society Association: Founded in 1964, the LSA offers a slew of resources and programs, including federal funding for research, a job board, and collaborative and interdisciplinary networks. The organization emphasizes an empirical and theoretical approach to law.
  • Society for Empirical Legal Studies: The SELS operates as an international organization for empirical legal studies scholars. The organization hosts annual conferences, workshops, and awards its members for outstanding work and service.
  • American Civil Liberties Union: The ACLU, established in 1920, fights for the individual rights and liberties of Americans. Members work in the courts, legislative offices, and local communities to ensure the Constitution is upheld.
  • The Supreme Court Historical Society: Founded in 1974 by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, this nonprofit organization develops educational programs, publishes books, and collects artifacts to educate the general public and legal scholars.
  • World Wide Legal Information Alliance: The WWLIA curates legal articles and a dictionary to help legal scholars and students conduct research.
  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service: The NCJRS is an online database filled with research, policy, and practice information regarding the criminal justice system. Members receive a biweekly newsletter and access to relevant publications.
  • National Center for Preventive Law: California Western School of Law oversees the NCPL and Louis M. Brown Program in Preventive Law, more colloquially known as the Brown Program. Working in tandem, the Brown Program provides law students and other professionals in the field with educational resources, and the NCPL vets information and offers networking opportunities.
  • The Federalist Society: Comprised of lawyers, legal scholars, and law students, The Federalist Society prides itself on upholding limited government interference as outlined in the Constitution. Their website features commentary in written and multimedia formats.