Guide to Dual Law Degree Programs
Through dual law degree programs, students can pursue multiple professional interests at once—within or beyond the field of law. Students who want to become a lawyer typically enroll in a traditional Juris Doctor (J.D.) program. However, there are also degrees for non-lawyers, like the Master of Legal Studies (MLS), and a degree for specialized attorneys called a Master of Laws (LL.M.). These three degrees can all be combined with additional areas of study.
On this page, we explain the differences between dual law degree programs, and their admissions requirements to help you decide if a dual degree is right for you.
What is a Dual Law Degree?
A dual law degree (also known as a joint law degree) combines a J.D., MLS, or LL.M. degree with another program. By completing the coursework for both programs concurrently, students can potentially save time and money. Dual degree programs also allow a student to widen their fields of expertise, which may make it easier for them to find a job after graduating.
If you’re considering a dual degree, it’s important to know that many schools will require you to apply to both programs separately. Some programs require that you begin one before applying to another, like J.D./LL.M. joint programs. Other programs let you apply for both at the same time, like MLS/Master of Social Work dual programs.
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Types of Dual Law Degrees
There is a wide range of dual law degree programs for aspiring lawyers and non-lawyer professionals alike. These include J.D./LL.M. dual degrees, MLS dual degrees, and cross-disciplinary dual degrees.
Juris Doctor (J.D.)/Master of Laws (LL.M.) Dual Degrees
The J.D./LL.M. dual degree combines general law with master’s-level coursework in specialized areas of the law. If you’re a second-year or third-year law student and already know the area of law you would like to practice in, this degree may help you achieve your goals in less time.
For instance, if you’re confident you would like to become a tax lawyer, a dual degree can allow you to pursue a master’s in tax law while finishing your J.D. coursework. By choosing this route, you may be able to complete both degrees in six to seven semesters, instead of eight.
Global health law, international law, or environmental law are just a few of the concentrations you can explore by pursuing an LL.M. degree. J.D./LL.M. dual degree students typically begin their LL.M. coursework in their third year of law school and apply at the end of their second year.
Legal Studies Dual Degrees
Legal studies dual degree programs provide working professionals who don’t need a full J.D. degree with a foundation in law and helps them to enhance any existing skills relevant to the field of law. Master of Legal Studies degrees, Master of Science in Legal Studies degrees, and Juris Master degrees are all types of legal study programs. Programs that can be combined with a master’s degree in legal studies include master’s in dispute resolution, social work, and forensic psychology.
Legal studies programs introduce professionals to basic concepts of law—like compliance, risk management, and contracts—so they can apply this knowledge to their own careers. There are a variety of part-time, full-time, and online Master of Legal Studies programs available to working professionals.
Cross-Disciplinary Dual Law Degrees
A cross-disciplinary dual law degree combines a J.D. or MLS program with another field of study. A few examples of cross-disciplinary degrees include an MLS/Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, a J.D./Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, or a J.D./Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.
Admissions requirements for these programs vary widely, according to their respective fields. For example, a dual J.D./M.D. program will contain pre-medicine and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) requirements.
Dual Degree vs Double Major vs Minor in Law: Differences and Benefits
Students in dual law degree programs graduate with two degrees—either two degrees in law or one degree in law and another in a second discipline. These programs allow students to obtain an additional degree in less time than if they pursued both degrees independently. An example of a non-J.D. dual law degree is a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) and Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) dual degree.
Dual degrees are different from double majors. By double majoring, students can meet the requirements for two majors—but these majors fall under one degree, not two. On the other hand, dual degree students integrate the requirements for two different degrees into their coursework and ultimately obtain both.
Meanwhile, a minor or concentration lets you specialize in certain areas of your larger field of study. Students who pursue a minor or concentration only graduate with one major and one degree. An example of this is a J.D. student concentrating in business and financial law.
Tips on How to Choose a Dual Law Degree Right for You
Choosing a graduate or professional program is no easy decision—and dual law degree programs may require even more deliberation because of the time and financial commitments involved. Reflecting on your career goals can help you determine whether this is a sensible investment for you.
First, it’s important to decide whether you want to become a practicing attorney or simply want to learn more about the field of law. If you are a professional hoping to learn more about law to integrate into your current career, you can complete an MLS program in less time than a J.D. program. If you’re confident you would like to complete a J.D. degree dual degree, consider that studying for two programs may make it more difficult to participate in extracurricular activities.
Another relevant factor is your previous experience. If you haven’t yet begun your J.D., you will have to wait to apply to a J.D./LL.M. dual degree program. Additionally, you should decide whether you can invest the time and money into pursuing two degrees. Although dual degree programs take less time than pursuing two degrees separately, they tend to be more expensive as they require you take more courses.
Keep in mind that it is also possible to specialize in law—an alternative to pursuing an extra degree. J.D., MLS, and LL.M. programs offer a number of law degree specializations, including entertainment, human resources, public policy, and business law, to name a few.
Frequently Asked Questions on Dual Law Degrees
Still wondering whether a dual law degree is right for you? Here are some frequently asked questions about dual law degree programs.
Dual law degrees allow aspiring lawyers and non-lawyer professionals to widen their fields of expertise. They’re designed for people with very specific career goals, who are willing or able to invest additional time and money into completing two degrees.
Dual law degrees generally require a hefty investment (in terms of money), but if you’re confident you would like to complete two degrees, they will ultimately save you time. They can enhance your understanding of your specialty—and may even make you more marketable in the job market.
To pursue a dual degree, you must be accepted by each program. The timeline for applying to the programs may overlap, or you may have to begin one program before applying to the second. Requirements vary by school, especially for cross-disciplinary degrees, so it’s best to check with each university separately.
Depending on the program, dual law degrees can take as little as 12 months to complete—and up to several years. For instance, Master of Legal Studies programs typically take 12 to 24 months to complete, but they can take two years when combined with another master’s program. On the other hand, full-time J.D. programs last for three years, or six semesters. When combined with an LL.M., they typically take seven semesters.
Information on this page was last retrieved in August 2020.