Types of Law Degree Specializations: Which Areas of Law to Study?
Interested in pursuing a degree in law? Choosing a specialization can frame your educational and professional journey. There are different types of law degree specializations available to prepare students to work in their desired legal field, augmenting their existing skills and providing new, specialized knowledge.
No matter what type of law or legal degree program you are enrolled in—whether it’s a Master of Legal Studies (MLS), Master of Laws (LL.M.) or a Juris Doctor (J.D.) program—most law schools offer a broad range of law specializations. This guide will help you navigate 20 types of law degree specializations to find one that best aligns with your personal interests and career goals.
Areas of Law to Study
From healthcare law to commerce law, there are many different law specializations to choose from. Depending on the school or degree type, the names of these specializations may vary slightly.
The following list, featuring 20 types of law degree specializations, is a round up of practice specialties from the American Bar Association. Learn more about some common law degree concentrations below.
Animal law is the combination of statutory and case law that relates to nonhuman animals. This specialization addresses issues of animal cruelty, property, entertainment, farming, federal statutes around exotic animals and more. Of the law degree specializations available, this one may be a fit for individuals interested in animal welfare and activism.
Administrative law focuses on the regulation, operation and procedures of government agencies. This specialization exposes students to the legal principles that govern federal and state administrative agencies and how this affects financial, health and workplace regulations, among others. This type of law degree specialization is most suitable for individuals interested in government administration on a federal and state level.
Admiralty (Maritime) Law
Admiralty law, also known as maritime law, is one of the many fields of law available to law students. It focuses on legislation that regulates economic transactions involving marine trade, sailors and navigation. This is not to be confused with the Law of the Sea, which refers to international public law surrounding coastal waters jurisdiction. This specialization may be optimal for professionals interested in the legal implications of activities at sea.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative dispute resolution is a field of law dedicated to solving disputes without litigation. Students in a master’s in dispute resolution program learn about conflict negotiation, domestic mediation and area-specific dispute resolution. This concentration may best suit professionals who are peacemakers dedicated to creative and ethical conflict resolution.
Construction law refers to the broad field of law that protects industry workers, including construction workers, financial institutions, architects, planners and occupants, as well as the regulations that govern the planning, design and construction of buildings and structures. This type of law degree specialization is suitable for professionals who are interested in ethical work regulations, safety, project administration and more.
Corporate compliance law ensures that companies and employees abide by laws, regulations, standards and ethical practices to avoid fines and lawsuits. Legal students pursuing this track will likely enroll in a master’s in compliance program. The program allows them to gain insight into business regulations as well as how to navigate compliance issues with risk assessment. Professionals who are interested in applying law to business and workplace ethics are best suited for this concentration compared to other areas of law practice.
Criminal law is one of the more common areas of law and provides students with the necessary training to become prosecutors, defenders or lawyers with a firm. Students learn about individual liberty, fundamental rights, law enforcement, criminal behavior, juvenile justice, criminal investigations and more. This type of law degree specialization may be ideal for people interested in public safety.
Cybersecurity law is a legal field that supports the privacy, confidentiality and protection of public and private information systems. Students with a focus in cybersecurity will learn about domestic and international laws and regulations surrounding cybersecurity as these laws will continue evolving in the digital age. This field of law may be a good fit for individuals interested in online security, data management and policy surrounding privacy.
E-commerce law is a relevant field in the digital age as it supports businesses, governments and consumers in navigating commercial transactions that happen over the internet. In this concentration, students will learn about the legal challenges that e-commerce presents as technology continues to advance. This specialization option may be best for professionals interested in business, digital markets and trade.
Education law explores the policies and regulations that govern K–12 education, as well as higher education systems. Some of the issues related to education include equal education opportunity, gender or racial discrimination, school finances, special education and more. This law degree specialization is geared toward individuals interested in educational policy, rights and equality.
Environmental law involves all levels of government, statutes, regulations and laws related to the protection of the environment. This includes issues like natural resource management, pollution, land disputes, environmental policies and more. This type of law degree specialization is a viable choice for students interested in climate change and environmental activism.
Family law is another one of the common types of law to specialize in. It centers around legal relations involving any individuals within a family unit. Professionals in this field manage legal arrangements around child welfare, adoption, custody, domestic partnerships, divorce and more. Students learn about legal implications within the context of a family. This area of law practice may be the ideal choice for individuals interested in working closely with families, many of whom are navigating transitional periods.
Health law encompasses any legislation related to healthcare, including the representation of patients, health practitioners, clinics, insurance companies and more. Students studying healthcare law learn about the legislative, executive and judicial regulations that govern the healthcare industry. This field of law might be suitable for professionals interested in evolving healthcare systems.
International law is a broad category that refers to the rules and regulations governing international relationships, including relations between United Nations states and individuals, international organizations and more. Students pursuing this area of law are exposed to the legal responsibilities of how UN states engage with one another. This type of law degree specialization may likely interest professionals who enjoy learning about global affairs and international policy.
Litigation and Trials
Litigation and trial law involves litigation management, as well as pretrial, trial and appellate practice. Students learn how to represent parties in trials before federal, state and local courts. This law degree specialization targets professionals interested in gaining practical experience in the process of interviewing clients, creating trial strategies, and drafting pleadings, complaints, and counterclaims.
Labor and Employment
Labor and employment law encompasses legal questions surrounding employee-employer relationships. This includes issues like wage compensation, harassment, gender, racial or disability discrimination and more. Students studying labor and employment law are exposed to mandates and regulations in the workplace. This field of law, like other areas of law practice, may be best suited for people with specific passions, namely professionals interested in workplace equality, fair compensation and employee protection.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Mergers and acquisition law explores the legal implications of transactions related to the ownership of companies, particularly when ownership is blended or transferred. This law degree specialization exposes students to corporate restructuring and strategy, as well as finance principles. This path may be a good fit for professionals who are committed to improving corporate performance or developing new business strategies.
Sports law involves any legal issues related to the sports industry, including labor laws, injuries, contract issues or unfair competition. Lawyers may work with collegiate athletic organizations, professional sports leagues, individual athletes or coaches. Sports law students learn about the rules governing sports as well as contract negotiations and more. This area of law practice may be best suited for people interested in the rights and regulations in the world of sports.
Taxation law looks at the legal rules and procedures governing how federal, state and local governments calculate taxes. Taxation lawyers may work with the federal and state government or in law and accounting firms. They can also serve as in-house counsel for businesses. This is one of the common types of law to specialize in, and it could be a good fit for professionals who are interested in finance and tax procedures and who are willing to continue adjusting to new tax modifications. Individuals may get started on this career path by earning a master’s in taxation.
Trusts and Estates
Trust and estate law concerns the protection of assets during a client’s lifetime. It also encompasses the distribution of those assets after death. This type of law degree specialization requires students to learn about the legal implications of wills, living trusts, debts, liabilities and more. This type of law practice may be a top choice for individuals interested in fostering long-term relationships with clients, teaching them to navigate financial and personal issues over time.
MLS Programs With Specializations
Master of Legal Studies (MLS) programs often have specialty concentrations or areas of focus that qualify you for professional certification along with your degree. Here’s a list of schools that offer MLS programs with specializations.
|American University – Washington College of
|Arizona State University – Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law||
|Drexel University – Thomas L. Kline School of Law||
|Fordham Law School
|Northeastern University – School of Law||
|Pepperdine Caruso School of Law
|Washington University in St. Louis – School of Law
|Seattle University – School of Law||
|University of Arizona – James E. Rogers College of Law||
|The University of Oklahoma – College of Law||
FAQs on Areas of Law to Study
Learn more about various types of law degree specializations and which one is right for you, with these common questions:
A law degree specialization is an opportunity to specialize your study of law, based on your own personal interests and career goals. From healthcare and education to sports and taxation, there are many different paths you can take.
There are dozens of types of law degree specializations to choose from, including sub-categories. For example, health law encompasses sub-categories such as malpractice, insurance procedures and more. Begin by exploring our list of 20 law degree specializations.
Depending on the school and program, specializations may vary on campus and online. However, some universities offer the same specializations in their on-campus and online programs.
Typically, students are able to complete dual concentrations, meaning they can specialize in two different categories, like sports and taxation law. However, it’s important to check with your school first and to consider the workload that comes with such a commitment.
Depending on the law school and program, you may be able to change your concentration after your program begins. That said, MLS and LLM programs generally only take one year to finish, so you may find that planning and choosing your specialization early on makes the most sense for your law school journey. Keep in mind that additional credits may be necessary to complete a new degree—so be sure to check in with your university and academic advisors first.
Many law schools have general tracks, and some students may not declare a specialization. However, confirm with your university and program first to make sure you aren’t missing any information.
If a law or legal studies degree sounds interesting to you, consider finding your niche with a law degree specialization that combines your personal interests and professional goals. If you are also considering learning online, check out our list of online J.D. programs to learn more about online law programs or online LL.M. programs if you already hold a JD.
If you don’t want to become a lawyer or practice law in the future, an online master’s in legal studies may be a good option for you—and the degree can be completed in one year.
Last updated October 2021.