Master of Legal Studies versus Master of Laws
Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Degree
- Academic study. Courses in an MLS program are generally the same as those taken by first-year J.D. students who want to become attorneys. Topics include legal research and writing, civil procedure, contracts, intellectual property and other central subjects. Courses are traditionally taken alongside J.D. candidates, who will then go on to two additional years of study before taking the bar exam and eventually becoming attorneys.
- Admissions eligibility. MLS programs are targeted at those who already have undergraduate degrees (subject area restrictions tend to not exist).
- Career paths. An MLS degree is useful in almost any career field. The key is whether or not knowledge of the law is helpful to that field. Some jobs, like those in criminal justice, legal journalism and human resources clearly have a large legal overlap. Others may be less deeply intertwined with the law, but professionals may still benefit from a greater understanding of law.
- Cost. Equivalent to a single year of law school: $20,000-$50,000.
- Length of program. One year, but may vary depending on the number of courses taken per term.
- Who should seek it? An MLS is an excellent degree for anyone seeking to advance their career, if their chosen field is interrelated with the law in a meaningful way. Some examples include executives in industries with heavy international or environmental involvement, university professors, compliance personnel and many more.
Master of Laws (LL.M.) Degree
- Academic study. An LL.M. is generally focused on the law of a particular jurisdiction or topic area (U.S. law, human rights, intellectual property, etc.). Attorneys/students select the LL.M. focus that is most relevant to their career goals.
- Admissions eligibility.M. programs are available to those that already have a law degree, such as a J.D. or the international equivalent.
- Career paths. An LL.M. opens up the career paths an attorney can take. Armed with specialized knowledge, attorneys can expand their practice internationally, or serve entirely new client bases with their new expertise.
- Cost. Equivalent to a year of law school: $20,000-$50,000.
- Length. One year, but may vary depending on the number of courses taken per term.
- Who should pursue it? LL.M. programs are best for attorneys who want to develop their careers and serve new client bases (or serve existing client bases better). For example, if an attorney wanted to become an advocate for international human rights, an LL.M. on that topic would be a great step in the right direction.