Introductory Guide to Law Firm Work

A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) could be an excellent graduate degree for professionals who want to work in legal studies without having to go to law school and then pass the bar exam.

While uncommon, some students have used their MLS degree as a foundation to prepare them for success in law school. Some graduates went on to enroll in law school, graduate, pass the bar and practice law as attorneys and judges.


Paralegals are an integral part of law firms. Attorneys rely heavily on paralegals to conduct research and to help prepare cases for trials and hearings. They must conduct extensive research into case law and legal facts and precedents. That research is presented to attorneys to aid them in determining the direction their cases must take. They also draft pleadings, prepare court filing, write reports, and prepare legal arguments.

Learn more about how to become a paralegal.

Legal Assistants and Legal Researchers

Legal assistants and legal researchers perform most of the same duties as paralegals, however, there are some differences between paralegals and legal assistants. For example, paralegals are often certified professionals. All the work of legal assistants, legal researchers and paralegals is done under the guidance and supervision of attorneys.

The MLS programs equip graduates with communication, writing, research, negotiation, and conflict negotiation skills, all of which are essential to success working in a law firm. By concentrating in a specialized field in law, paralegals with a MLS degree may be able to advance in their careers and may eventually become managers of the paralegal department. Becoming a subject matter expert in a specialized field such as patent law, intellectual property, bankruptcy, personal injury, criminal law, or others, makes a paralegal more of an asset for firms that specialize in those respective areas.

Law School

MLS programs are not intended to prepare students for law school. Nevertheless, some students may choose to earn a master in legal studies as preparation for law school, and have eventually become lawyers or judges. The MLS degree imparts a deep understanding of legal theory and the role of law in both U.S. businesses and society in general. Graduates may leave the program with a comprehensive understanding of how the legal system works and affects individuals, societal groups, and corporations.

Learn more on what you can do with a master’s in legal studies.

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