Sunday, June 28, 2015

USNWR story on law schools offering master of law degrees

More law schools are now offering these programs that target professionals who hope for a career boost by learning about the law but who aren't inclined to make the full investment in a JD.  Here's an excerpt from USNWR's report:

Sharpen Law Skills With a Master of Legal Studies

When Chad Beights, a sergeant at the Southern Illinois University—Carbondale police department, wanted to raise his profile at work, as well as broaden his skills, he considered studying criminal justice or public administration. But the school's Master of Legal Studies program offered him something he couldn't refuse: flexibility.


"As an MLS student, you can take whichever classes you want within their guidelines," says Beights, who graduated from the program in May.


Beights is interested in employment law and SIU—Carbondale let him take classes in employment discrimination, labor law and negotiations, as well as courses in criminal law and evidence, which can help him in his current job, he says. He hopes the degree will make him more marketable in the future.


[Ask these four questions to decide if you should go to law school.]


"I wanted something to fall back onto and the ability to have another career," says Beights, who hopes the degree will position him to one day work in an administrative role in law enforcement.


Master of Legal Studies programs are an option for learning about the law without getting a J.D. and can increase job opportunities for those working in law-related careers.


These programs, and Master of Studies in Law programs, often take one year to complete if students attend full-time, and let students sit side-by-side with future attorneys while learning about the law. Many schools approved by ​the American Bar Association offer them.


The curriculum for both is ​similar to the curriculum for J.D. programs, but there's one catch for MSL or MLS graduates: "They cannot practice law," says Gordon Silverstein, assistant dean for graduate programs at Yale Law School, which offers an MSL.


Graduates can't represent someone in court or do anything that requires a law license. They can, however, work in jobs that overlap with law.


Anyone considering these programs should think about the kind of job they'd like to have,​ as well as how much time and money they can put toward a graduate degree, experts say.


Some students who come through the program at SIU—Carbondale have a background in health care​ and plan to use this degree to become hospital administrators​, says Michael Ruiz, assistant dean for career services and special programs at SIU—Carbondale's law school. Others might work in state or local government, or law enforcement, he says.

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