Legal Certificates Guide and List in 2020

Are you interested in broadening your legal knowledge or deepening your expertise in a particular legal niche? Would you like to do that without necessarily enrolling in law school? Or are you a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) student looking to enhance the value of your degree? A legal certificate may be an answer. 

In as little as one semester and for much less tuition than for a law or master’s degree, a legal certificate may offer you formal recognition for your specialized legal knowledge. 

What is a Legal Certificate Program?

A certificate is not the same as certification, which is a professional badge or license for specific occupations. A legal certificate is a broad term that signals advanced legal learning and skills. Schools offer legal certificate programs that can differ greatly. They range from one-week online seminars that accrue continuing legal education credits to certificates that students can earn concurrently with their graduate degrees. 

Generally, legal certificates are offered by law schools and require an undergraduate degree. Some programs are designed specifically for students who don’t plan to practice law. Others are aimed at professionals in fields such as engineering or science, where knowledge of intellectual property law and other legal issues may be valuable. Depending on which program a student selects, an externship may be required. Often, a certificate of completion is awarded to candidates when they complete a certificate program.

Types of Legal Certificate Programs

You have a broad range of legal certificate programs to choose from. Some concentrate on a narrow legal niche, such as law and technology or clean energy. Others focus on more general legal fields like corporate law. 

Paralegal Certificates and Outcomes

A paralegal certificate is designed specifically for people who work as paralegals or want to become a paralegal. In other words, non-attorneys who handle legal tasks. Take care not to confuse it with a paralegal certification, which signifies that you’ve passed a paralegal exam or met other requirements set by the certifying organization.

There are a number of paralegal education programs that are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Most require a bachelor’s degree to apply, but some are open to students who hold a two-year associate degree or significant legal work experience. 

You can expect to learn about court systems, court procedures, legal ethics, conducting legal research online and more. Some certificate programs incorporate internships for hands-on learning.

Legal Studies Certificates and Outcomes

Designed for people who don’t plan to become licensed attorneys, a legal studies certificate often concentrates on a specific area or industry, such as cybersecurity or bank regulations, offering a thorough understanding of relevant laws and regulations.

Certain universities allow their undergraduates to take extra courses that count toward a legal studies certificate. Other schools allow applications from professionals who intend to pursue careers as paralegals or legal-related occupations.

Certificates in Specific Areas of Law and Outcomes

While there are legal certificates for Master of Legal Studies candidates and non-attorneys, there are also certificate programs for practicing attorneys, as well as Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) students. 

Some schools will let you earn multiple legal certificates at the same time. Similarly, some courses may count toward more than one certificate. You can earn certificates in various specialty areas of the law. They include:

  • Law and technology
  • Environment, energy, and natural resources
  • Media
  • International trade
  • Human resources
  • Tribal law
  • Intellectual property
  • Constitutional law
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Estate planning
  • State and local taxation

Pros and Cons of Legal Certificates 

Depending on your professional goals, earning a legal certificate can be an investment in your career. Possible advantages of earning a legal certificate program may include:

  • Concentrating your learning in legal topics that matter most to you
  • Qualifying to apply whether you’re an undergraduate, enrolled in law school, practicing attorney, or a professional outside the legal field
  • Less costly than earning a law degree
  • Does not require years of schooling as full degree programs do

But you may find that there are also some drawbacks. One could argue that certificate programs are limited and don’t cover the breadth of knowledge that advanced degree programs are known to. Below, we compare certificate programs with some common legal degree programs to help you weigh the pros and cons of each.

Legal Studies Certificates vs. Master’s Degrees in Legal Studies

A legal certificate can usually be completed in one to three semesters. It often costs less money than a full degree program. You might choose to earn one or more legal certificates by adding extra classes as part of your master’s program.

A master’s degree in legal studies, such as a Master of Legal Studies(MLS) or Master of Science in Legal Studies is a graduate degree for people who don’t plan to take the bar exam to practice law. You need a bachelor’s degree to earn an MLS, which usually takes one to two years.

Law Certificates vs. Master of Laws (LL.M.)

Lawyers who choose to earn a law certificate may gain a competitive edge. You may be able to earn a law certificate as part of your LL.M. degree, depending on the school.

A Master of Laws (LL.M.) is a one-year, in-depth graduate degree for those who already have a J.D. A Master of Laws is a way for lawyers to hone their expertise in a particular field. Some universities gear their LL.M. programs toward professionals who plan to teach law.

Certificates vs. Short Courses 

Generally, certificate programs take longer to complete than short courses. While short courses are a way to enhance existing skills and broaden your knowledge, certificates often signify deeper understanding of a topic area. You’ll usually receive a certificate of completion once you’re through with a certificate program or short course.

Many universities and professional organizations offer short courses and seminars in a multitude of academic disciplines. Short courses tend to have a less strict application process than certificate programs. Courses usually run for a few days to weeks, instead of the months and semesters that certificate programs tend to require.

Short courses can be in the form of in-person workshops and lectures, covering a wide range of legal topics including business law, data law and beyond. Some even target professionals in leadership positions. Many short courses have a hands-on practical approach, teaching students advocacy skills and more. Short courses can be completed online too, allowing you to interact with classmates and professors in a virtual classroom. If you choose this option, you’ll likely be exposed to interactive course content, such as videos, quizzes and discussion forums among other materials. 

Certificates Programs Offered by ABA-Approved Law Schools

There are legal certificate programs run by law schools that are approved by the American Bar Association. They may carry more prestige than a certificate from a non-ABA approved program. But that may not always be true, or always matter.

Here is a comprehensive list of ABA-approved law schools offering legal certificate programs: 

ABA-Approved Law Schools Offering Legal Certificate Programs
School Name Certificate Name City Online or On-Campus
The University of Akron – School of Law
  • Certificate in Intellectual Property Law
  • Certificate in Health Law
  • Certificate in Litigation
  • Certificate in Constitutional Law
Akron, OH On-Campus
Albany Law School
  • Certificate in Financial Compliance and Risk Management
  • Certificate in Cybersecurity and Data Privacy
Albany, NY On-Campus and Online
The University of Kansas School of Law
  • Certificate in Media, Law, and Technology
  • Certificate in Tax Law
  • Certificate in International Trade & Finance
  • Certificate in Business & Commercial Law
  • Certificate in Advocacy Skills
  • Certificate in Tribal Lawyer
Lawrence, KS On-Campus
University of Arkansas School of Law
  • Certificate in Business Law
  • Certificate in Criminal Law
Fayetteville, AR On-Campus
University of Baltimore School of Law Certificate in Estate Planning Baltimore, MD On-Campus
Boston University School of Law
  • Certificate in Enterprise Risk Management & Compliance
  • Certificate in Estate Planning
  • Certificate in Financial Services Compliance
  • Certificate in International Business Law
  • Certificate in Legal English
  • Certificate in Transactional Skills
  • Certificate in Legal Research Skills for Practice
Boston, MA On-Campus and Online
University of California Hastings Law Certificate in Legal Research San Francisco, CA On-Campus
Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Certificate in Business Law
  • Certificate in Criminal Litigation
  • Certificate in Environmental and Energy Law
  • Certificate in Financial Markets Compliance
  • Certificate in Intellectual Property Law
  • Certificate in International and Comparative Law
  • Certificate in Labor and Employment Law
  • Certificate in Legal Innovation & Technology
  • Certificate in Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Certificate in Public Interest Law
Chicago, IL On-Campus
University of Cincinnati College of Law
  • Certificate in Legal Studies
  • Certificate in U.S. Law
  • Certificate in Fundamentals in U.S. Law
Cincinnati, OH On-Campus
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
  • Certificate of Health Care Law
  • Certificate of Cybersecurity and Data Privacy
  • Certificate in Electronic Discovery
Cleveland, OH On-Campus and Online
Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law
  • Certificate in Financial Regulatory Compliance
  • Certificate in Criminal Law
  • Certificate in Cybersecurity and Information Privacy Compliance
  • Certificate in Health Care Compliance
  • Certificate in Higher Education Compliance
  • Certificate in Human Resources Compliance
  • Certificate in NCAA Compliance and Sports Law
  • Certificate in Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Regulatory Compliance
Philadelphia, PA Online
Georgetown Law
  • Certificate in International Human Rights
  • Certificate in Food and Drug Law
  • Certificate in U.S. Health Law
  • Certificate in World Trade Organization Studies
  • Certificate in International Taxation
  • Certificate in Estate Planning
  • Certificate in Employee Benefits
  • Certificate in State and Local Taxation
  • Certificate in Securities & Financial Law
  • Certificate in International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution
  • Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies
Washington, DC On-Campus and Online
Georgia State Law
  • Certificate in Health Law
  • Certificate in Advocacy
  • Certificate in Entertainment, Sports & Media Law
  • Certificate in Environmental & Land-Use Law
  • Certificate in Intellectual Property Law
  • Certificate in Legal Analytics & Innovation
  • Certificate in Public Interest Law & Policy
Atlanta, GA On-Campus
Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law Certificate in Legal Studies Bloomington, IN On-Campus
University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law Certificate in Health Law Louisville, KY Online
Mitchell Hamline School of Law
  • Certificate in Child Welfare
  • Certificate in Conflict Resolution
  • Certificate in Law and Business
  • Certificate in Health Law
  • Certificate in Patent Law
  • Certificate in Professional Legal Education
  • Certificate in Advocacy and Problem-Solving
  • Certificate in Global Arbitration Law and Practice
  • Certificate in Health Care Compliance
  • Certificate in Law and Business with Intellectual Property Concentration
Saint Paul, MN On-Campus and Online
University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law
  • Certificate in Cyber and Telecommunications Law
  • Certificate in Cyber and Cyber Security Law
  • Certificate in Space Law
Lincoln, NE On-Campus and Online
University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law
  • Certificate in Entertainment Law
  • Certificate in Intellectual Property Law
  • Certificate in Health Law and Policy
  • Certificate in Sport and Entertainment Law
  • Certificate in Sports Law
Concord, NH On-Campus
University of New Mexico School of Law
  • Certificate in Indian Law
  • Certificate in Natural Resources and Environmental Law
Albuquerque, NM On-Campus
New York University School of Law
  • Certificate in International Taxation
  • Certificate in Estate Planning
  • Certificate in Corporate Taxation
  • Advanced Professional Certificate in Law and Business
  • Advanced Professional Certificate in Taxation
New York, NY On-Campus and Online
Northeastern University School of Law
  • Certificate in Intellectual Property Law
  • Certificate in Human Resources Law
  • Certificate in Health Law
  • Certificate in Business Law
Boston, MA On-Campus and Online
Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Certificate in Corporate Tax
  • Certificate in International Tax
  • Certificate in Tax Controversy
  • Certificate in Wealth Transfer and Legacy Planning
Chicago, IL On-Campus
Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law
  • Certificate in Environmental Law
  • Certificate in International Law
  • Certificate in Health Law and Policy
New York, NY On-Campus
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Certificate in Law Philadelphia, PA On-Campus
Pepperdine Caruso School of Law
  • Certificate in Criminal Legal Practice
  • Certificate in Dispute Resolution
  • Certificate in Entertainment, Media and Sports
  • Certificate in International and Comparative Law
  • Certificate in Law and Entrepreneurship
Malibu, CA On-Campus
University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • Certificate in Disabilities Legal Studies
  • Certificate in Health Care Compliance
Pittsburgh, PA On-Campus and Online
Samford University Cumberland School of Law
  • Certificate in Financial Services Regulatory Compliance
  • Certificate in Health Law and Compliance
  • Certificate in Higher Education Law and Compliance
  • Certificate in Legal Operations
Birmingham, AL Online
Seton Hall University Law
  • Certificate in Health and Hospital Law
  • Certificate in Intellectual Property Law
  • Certificate in Financial Services Compliance
  • Certificate in Privacy Law and Cybersecurity
  • Certificate in Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Law and Compliance
  • Certificate in Data Privacy Compliance
  • Certificate in Healthcare Compliance
Newark, NJ On-Campus and Online
University of Southern California Gould School of Law
  • Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Certificate in Business Law
  • Certificate in Financial Compliance
  • Certificate in Compliance
  • Certificate in Human Resources Law and Compliance
  • Certificate in Health Care Compliance
  • Certificate in Media and Entertainment Law
  • Certificate in Public Interest Law
  • Certificate in Technology and Entrepreneurship Law
  • Certificate in Transnational Law and Business
  • Certificate in Privacy Law and Cybersecurity
Los Angeles, CA On-Campus or Online
Temple University Beasley School of Law
  • Certificate in Trial Advocacy and Litigation
  • Certificate in Public Health Law
  • Certificate in Business Law
  • Certificate in Employee Benefits
  • Certificate in Estate Planning
Philadelphia, PA On-Campus
University of Tennessee College of Law Certificate in Health Policy Knoxville, TN On-Campus
University of Toledo College of Law
  • Certificate in Criminal Law
  • Certificate in Environmental Law
  • Certificate in Intellectual Property Law
  • Certificate in International Law
  • Certificate in Labor and Employment Law
Toledo, OH On-Campus
Tulane University Law School
  • Certificate in Maritime Law
  • Certificate in Civil Law
  • Certificate in Environmental Law
  • Certificate in European Legal Studies
  • Certificate in International and Comparative Law
  • Certificate in Sports Law
New Orleans, LA On-Campus
Vanderbilt University Law School
  • Certificate in Law and Business
  • Legal Executive Certificate
Nashville, TN Online
Vermont Law School Certificate in Restorative Justice South Royalton, VT On-Campus or Online
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
  • Certificate in Employee Benefits
  • Certificate in Estate Planning
  • Certificate in State and Local Taxation
Villanova, PA On-Campus
University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School
  • Certificate in Consumer Health advocacy
  • Certificate in Russian Area Studies
Madison, WI On-Campus

What Can You Do with a Legal Certificate?

Legal certificates aren’t the same as law degrees. And they don’t allow you to sit for the bar to become a licensed attorney. But selecting the right certificate for you may boost your legal knowledge within your chosen specialty and give you an edge in your job hunting.

Even less-intensive certificate programs can be valuable. They may offer a way for you to explore new legal niches and ultimately allow you to redirect your career. You might, for instance, switch from financial advice to focus more directly on estate planning. You also could pursue certificates for specific occupations such as a paralegal.

Frequently Asked Questions about Legal Certificate Programs

Undecided or unclear about whether a legal certificate is right for you? Here are the answers to some common questions about pursuing legal certificates.

How long does it take to complete a legal certificate?

The length of time varies widely by programs. But most take a couple semesters. Some students who want to earn a certificate while pursuing their undergraduate or graduate degrees may be allowed to spread out the required certificate courses over several semesters. A few certificate programs that accrue continuing legal education credits can be finished in days or weeks.

Is a legal certificate worth it?

This is a question you can answer best after careful consideration. Costs for  legal certificate programs vary. Some law schools charge per  single course credit. And some legal certificates require a dozen or more credits for completion. It’s up to you to weigh if the financial investment and effort will be worth it in the long run.

What background do I need to enroll in a legal certificate program?

Most legal certificate programs are offered by law schools and require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree at minimum. The exceptions are programs that allow undergraduates to work toward a legal certificate concurrently with their degree.

Some legal certificate programs are aimed at lawyers who hold a J.D. degree or for those who are enrolled in graduate school for their LL.M or MLS. Still, other programs are open to students and working professionals who want to acquire legal knowledge without necessarily pursuing a law-related degree.

Information on this page was last retrieved in July 2020.