How to Choose a Law Degree Concentration or Specialization

There are numerous areas of law practice that you can choose to specialize in, no matter your professional background or interests. While you are on the path to earning your Master of Legal Studies (MLS), you’ll be able to get a feel for concentrations that appeal to you the most through coursework and relevant experience. 

A law degree specialization or concentration gives you the chance to focus on a specific area of law that piques your interest the most. Expanding your knowledge and growing skills in a single legal area not only prepares you to work in your desired role or industry, but it can also make you an attractive job candidate to future employers. 

By answering some common questions and suggesting some tips, this page will guide you through ways that you can find the best law degree specialization or concentration for you. 

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Consider Different Areas of Law Based on Your Interest

Focusing on your interests may be a good place to start when determining which one of the areas of law practice you would like to go into.

For example:

  • If you find that you are drawn to managing tax matters and tax regulations on different levels, a master’s in tax law may be an option for you. 
  • If you are interested in working in the area of local, state, federal law and crime and punishment theories, criminal law may be a viable option for you.
  • If you have strong and effective communication skills or are good at solving disputesdispute resolution is an area of law practice to consider.

Regardless of what interests and drives you, it is important to keep in mind that all areas of law practice will require a different set of skills. 

Research Background Requirements of the Concentration

Some legal degree programs may have specific requirements compared to others. Researching your desired program offering can help prepare you for what you need to know before making a final decision. 

Examples of this include required test scores, and relevant coursework or work experience you will need to complete. Determining such factors can give you an idea of what to expect before committing to a concentration in law and help you determine where you stand in terms of preparedness for the concentration and overall, the program. 

Consider Industry Growth Projections

Another benefit to researching your concentration is to gain a better insight into what jobs are in high demand within the legal landscape. For example, tax law is a career option that will remain relevant for as long as tax exists. This could result in a strong earning potential and growth within the field. 

From 2019 to 2029, legal occupations are projected to grow by 5%, according to job outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some of that demand will come from financial firms where specialized financial knowledge is indispensable.        

With a tax law specialization or related legal concentration, you may work as an accountantfinancial specialist or a financial manager. According to the BLS, all three of these occupations are expected to see above-average job growth from 2019 to 2029.   

Every law concentration has its unique benefits. Researching each one can give you a strong idea of job trends as well as where you may stand, a few years down the line.

Research on Career Paths and Work Settings

Depending on your concentration or specialization, legal career paths and work settings vary. If you have an ideal career plan in mind or there are some organizations you would like to work for,  think about what concentration might help you achieve the right career path.

For example, the path to becoming a compliance officer is different from the path to becoming a tax lawyer. For the former, a concentration in corporate compliance or healthcare compliance in an MLS program might be a better choice. There are also master’s in compliance programs to choose from. By choosing one of these options, you might be able to also earn certain compliance certificates that are potentially helpful for your career path. However, if you would like to become a lawyer in taxation, earning a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in taxation is one way to achieve that.

Some common work settings for careers in law include law firms, government agencies and private sector businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits and more. A compliance officer can work for a healthcare organization, and a lawyer may work in legal offices or law firms. Think about which working setting best suits you.

Reach Out to Your Network for Advice

Sometimes the people in your own network may have many of the answers to questions you have about choosing a law degree. This includes academic advisors, graduates in the field and even friends or family who work in the field.

Your advisor can work with you to help you develop a plan for your desired concentration. Even if you are still unsure of what law degree you feel is best for you, they can help you weigh the pros and cons of each degree offering that you’re considering or assess how prepared you are to pursue graduate study. 

Graduates in the field have gone through the full academic journey and can provide insight on what to expect in terms of coursework and more.

Compare the Strength of Law School with Your Preferred Concentration

As you’re doing research on your concentration, consider the strengths of the law school you are attending or wish to attend. Some law schools may have strong programs in certain concentrations which may look good on a resume, thus giving you more credibility when entering the concentration’s industry. 

If you are attending a school that you like, try looking to see which law concentrations your school is particularly strong in and compare your strengths to that concentration.

What is a Law Degree Concentration or Specialization?

law degree concentration or specialization is a particular area of focus within law. Students can choose to work within their chosen concentration, sometimes referred to as “legal specialty,” or put their newfound knowledge to use in a role that requires it. Whether you are enrolled in a master’s in legal studies degree program or other law program, you’ll study certain areas of law along the way and can choose one concentration that matches your career goal.

Which semester do you need to choose a concentration?

It may vary depending on different law schools. Some allow students to choose a concentration track at the end of the second term. This may provide you with enough time to identify your interests and strengths, and eventually determine the concentration that fits your standards and career goals. The earlier you start your research, the better you may be prepared for to declare a concentration.

What are the benefits of choosing a concentration?

Choosing your legal concentration will provide you with the tools you need to become an expert in the chosen field. You will be fully equipped with the specific law knowledge, skills and information you need to know how to be a master in your chosen area or industry. You will also have a clear idea of what to expect before entering the industry.

What if the universities you like don’t offer the concentrations you want?

It is important to weigh the pros and cons of sticking with your desired school choices and exploring other options. You should also take your individual needs into consideration. So, for example, ask yourself the following: 
• Am I in a position to explore other school options?
• Would I be comfortable relocating for school or committing to an online program?
• What are some of my strengths and weaknesses, as both a student and professional? 
• Can I apply my strengths to the concentrations that are available at my school?

Is it possible to work in an area of law besides my specialty?

Yes, it is possible to work in an area of law besides your specialty. Some legal career options, like a compliance officer, require a mix of strong communication, problem-solving skills and legal knowledge to be in the occupation. The skills and knowledge you gain through your degree program may apply to multiple areas of law, which can give you a few different legal specialties to choose from.

Is a general track less advantageous than a degree with a concentration?

Not necessarily. Regardless of what path or law degree concentration you choose, you will be equipped with a lot of knowledge that can apply to many levels within the industry. You may be able to determine which law degree concentration meets your needs best while enrolled in a general track program. Remember, your career goals likely differ from that of your peers. So, make a decision about your legal education based on those goals and what drives you.

Do J.D., LL.M. and MLS degrees offer the same concentrations?

These degrees may offer similar law specializations, but they are different in terms of what is required at each level. For example, an MLS degree may allow you to explore concentrations that require general legal knowledge, including becoming a paralegal, arbitrator and more; J.D. programs cover broad theories and concepts within the U.S. legal system; and LL.M. degrees are designed for lawyers to demonstrate enhanced expertise in certain fields of law. Learn more about the differences between MLS vs LL.M. vs J.D.

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Pepperdine University

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Master of Legal Studies

  • No GRE or LSAT scores required to apply 
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Washington University

Washington University School of Law


Master of Legal Studies (MLS)

  • Complete in as little as 18 months
  • Bachelor’s degree required  
  • Students can choose to concentrate in one of five specialization areas 


Last updated: February 2021