How to Choose a Law Degree Concentration or Specialization

You can specialize in any of the many areas of law practice, no matter your professional background or interests. While you are on the path to earning your Master of Legal Studies (MLS), you can explore which concentrations appeal to you through coursework and relevant experience.

A law degree specialization or concentration gives you the chance to focus on a specific legal area that interests you and expand your knowledge and skills, preparing you for your desired role or industry.

This guide answers common questions and offers tips as you explore law degree specializations or concentrations.

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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 area of law practice you would like to pursue.

For example:

  • If you find that you are drawn to managing tax matters and tax regulations, 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 might be an area of law practice to consider.

Regardless of your passions and motivations, it is important to keep in mind that each area of legal practice demands a distinct set of skills.

Research Requirements of the Concentration

Some legal degree programs may have specific prerequisites. Researching your desired program’s requirements can help you make a final decision. 

Requirements can include test scores, relevant coursework and work experience. Determining these factors can help you understand what to expect before committing to a law concentration and assess your readiness for the concentration and the program overall.

Consider Industry Growth Projections

Researching law concentrations can help you identify jobs that are in high demand and choose a path that may set you up for success. For example, tax law is a perennial career option with strong earning potential and growth opportunities as long as taxes exist.

From 2022 to 2032, legal occupations are projected to grow by 6%, according to job outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Many large corporations are growing their in-house legal teams to save money, and specialized financial knowledge can be an asset for job candidates, according to the BLS. 

With a tax law specialization or related legal concentration, you may work as an accountant, financial specialist or a financial manager. According to the BLS, these occupations are expected to see above-average job growth from 2022 to 2032. 

Researching each law concentration can give you a good understanding of its unique benefits, job prospects and where you may stand in a few years.

Research Career Paths and Work Settings

Legal career paths and work settings vary depending on your concentration or specialization. If you have an ideal career or employer in mind, choose a concentration that can help you achieve your goal.

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 good choice. Master’s in compliance programs are also available options. By choosing one of these, you might be able to earn certain compliance certificates that could potentially help your career. However, if you would like to become a lawyer in the field of taxation, earning a Master of Laws (LLM) in tax could be helpful but it does not qualify you to sit for the bar exam. Keep in mind that in most states, lawyers need to have successfully completed a Juris Doctor (JD) program accredited by the American Bar Association and pass the bar exam to obtain their license to practice law. An LLM in taxation could be the next logical step after earning a JD.

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 answers to questions you have about choosing a law degree. They may include academic advisors, graduates in the field and even friends or family with legal experience.

Your school advisor can help you develop a plan for your desired concentration. Even if you are still unsure of what legal 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. Their experiences can provide insight about 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 résumé, thus giving you more credibility when entering the specialized field. 

If you are attending a school that you like, you may consider the law concentrations it is well known for as well as any available graduate employment data.

What is a law degree concentration or specialization?

law degree concentration or specialization is a particular area of focus within law. Students can work within their chosen concentration, sometimes referred to as “legal specialty,” or put their 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 to determine the concentration that fits your standards and career goals. Starting your research early can help you be better prepared to declare a concentration.

What are the benefits of choosing a concentration?

Pursuing a legal concentration can equip you with specific legal knowledge, skills and the necessary tools to become a specialist in your chosen field. 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?

Law school students should weigh the pros and cons of sticking with their desired school choices or exploring other options. You should also think through your individual needs. Consider your strengths and weaknesses as both a student and professional, ask yourself whether you would be comfortable relocating for school or are better off commiting to an online program and determine whether you can apply your strengths to the concentrations that are available at your chosen 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, benefit from a mix of strong communication, problem-solving skills and legal knowledge. 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 and careers as options.

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

Not necessarily. Regardless of your chosen law degree concentration, you can apply the knowledge you gain to a wide range of roles in the legal industry. While enrolled in a general track program, you may be able to determine which law degree concentration aligns best with your requirements. Remember, your career goals may differ from that of your peers. So, make a decision about your legal education based on those goals and what drives you.

Do JD, LLM and MLS degrees offer the same concentrations?

These degrees may offer similar law specializations, but the requirements and scope for each can differ. For example, an MLS degree may allow you to explore concentrations and roles that require general legal knowledge, including becoming a paralegal, arbitrator and more; JD programs cover broad theories and concepts within the U.S. legal system; and LLM degrees are designed for lawyers who seek enhanced expertise in certain fields of law. Learn more about the differences between MLS vs. LLM vs. JD.

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  • No GRE or LSAT scores required to apply 
  • Complete in as few as 12 months 
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Last updated September 2023.