Six Things You Can Expect from Master of Legal Studies Programs

Before you enroll in a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program, you will need to decide if this degree aligns with your career goals. An MLS may help you begin a career in the legal field as a paralegal, legal assistant or other non-lawyer professional. This degree is also useful for a variety of other industries, including government and the private sector. Some career paths you may be able to pursue with an MLS degree include:

  • Human Resources Manager
  • Compliance Officer
  • Corporate Executive
  • Social Worker
  • Police Officer
  • Lobbyist

Coursework in your MLS program may assist in developing working knowledge of the law. Most programs have a general track designed for non-lawyer professionals like paralegals or HR professionals, as well as specialized tracks. You can choose a specialization based on your interests and career goals.

If you’re wondering whether a Master of Legal Studies degree is worth it, consider these skills you may learn.

1. Legal Knowledge and Understanding

While some MLS programs offer concentrations, all will provide some level of legal education. Depending on your specialization or track, your MLS program may include business law, entertainment, health care compliance or cybersecurity.

Here are some courses you might take to gain or expand your legal knowledge:

  • American Legal System
  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Courts and Law
  • Legal Methods and Process
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Regulation and Compliance
  • Torts

2. Legal Research and Writing Skills

Legal professionals need to effectively communicate with their team, clients and the courts. They also need to back up their arguments with solid research. This is why some MLS programs incorporate research and writing into their curriculum. coursework may include:

  • Applied Research in Legal Studies
  • Introduction to Legal Research
  • Legal Drafting
  • Law of Information and Records
  • Legal Research, Analysis and Writing
  • Legal Research and Citation

Depending on your concentration, you might also take courses that are focused on an area of legal research, such as business or the environment.

This will benefit you if you want to become a paralegal or work in a law firm, because your duties may involve legal research and writing. Many other industries use legal writing principles. Patents, contracts and grants all require legal interpretation. No matter what your career goals, strong writing and research skills will help you stand out among other candidates.

3. Communication and Negotiation Skills

The American Bar Association considers negotiation the primary tool for lawyers to solve client problems. Paralegals or legal assistants working with lawyers will likely also face clients on a daily basis. Even in non-legal industries companies may focus on fair agreement for sales, service contracts and other business transactions. You can be a valuable asset to your employer if you learn how to effectively negotiate. MLS coursework that may help with these skills includes:

  • Arbitration and Dispute Resolution
  • Negotiations, Communications and Ethics
  • Negotiation and Advocacy

There are also master’s in dispute resolution programs and concentrations in dispute resolution that focus on negotiation skills. Examples of courses within these programs include:

  • Arbitration Advocacy
  • Conflict Theory
  • Organizational and Workplace
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Managing Litigation and Conflict
  • Mediation, Arbitration and Conflict Resolution
  • Mediation Theory and Practice

Good communication is the foundation for effective negotiation. Most MLS programs teach communication skills alongside negotiation skills with courses such as client interviewing and counseling and effective communication for litigators.

4. Organization Skills

Organization skills include the ability to manage your schedule, complete tasks on time, break large projects into smaller tasks and successfully manage multiple projects at once. You will practice all of these skills in an MLS program by completing assignments on time and taking multiple courses at once. 

Legal matters are often complex, so organization skills are key for any career in the industry. Your employer may ask you to work on several matters at once, handle multiple documents or keep track of updates to existing laws. You need to demonstrate you can handle the workload.

5. Critical Thinking and Decision Making

Decision making goes hand-in-hand with critical thinking, and both skills are integral to legal matters. Master of Legal Studies coursework hones your ability to think critically by asking you to analyze legal principles and apply them to real or hypothetical situations. 

For example, in contract law, you’ll look at the foundational principles of contractual arrangements and how they’ve developed throughout history, then apply these concepts to modern contract law. 

6. Networking Resources 

While your MLS courses will mainly focus on technical skills like writing and research, “soft” skills such as empathy and persistence are also important to succeed in your chosen field. Most schools offer networking resources for current students. These may include professional organizations, virtual networking events or alumni mentors. Your professors and classmates are also a valuable source of connection.

The goal of networking is to connect you with a wide variety of people in the industry. These contacts may provide you with learning resources and job opportunities. For example, you might shadow an alumnus for a day to see if you’re interested in a similar career, or a professor might tell you about a job opening that was recently posted.

Is an online Master of Legal Studies program the same as an on-campus one?

Online and on-campus MLS programs share very similar curriculum and admissions requirements and usually are delivered by the same department of school. The main differences are how the material is taught and how coursework is completed. You may expect the same learning outcomes.

Online courses are taken over the internet from your own home or workspace. You will submit work electronically rather than in-person. However, there are hybrid programs that combine online learning with on-campus experiences.


If you’ve decided to take the next step in your career by earning a Master of Legal Studies degree, consider getting your degree online. We compare programs from over 20 schools to help you find the right fit. Explore more about online Master of Legal Studies programs.

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