Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Programs in California

A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree provides an opportunity for California students who want to advance their understanding of California and federal law, but who do not wish to become practicing lawyers. Unlike a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, an MLS degree does not allow students to take the California bar exam or become practicing attorneys. Instead, an MLS degree is an option for California graduate students who wish to pursue a career that requires a thorough understanding of the law, such as legal compliance officers or contract negotiators.

With the highest level of employment for legal occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California offers many employment opportunities for MLS graduates, including positions in legal firms and technology and entertainment companies.

Sponsored Online MLS and Law Programs

Master of Legal Studies (MLS)

Sponsored Online MLS Program

Online MSL in Corporate Compliance

Sponsored Online Law Program

Master of Legal Studies program

Sponsored Online MLS Program

Master of Legal Studies (MLS)

Sponsored Online MLS Program

There are a number of schools in California that offer online Master of Legal Studies programs or other legal degrees, including 2U-powered Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law. Jump to our table below to learn more about colleges with online MLS programs in California.

Overview of Legal Degrees in California: Types and Concentrations

While students who complete a Master of Legal Studies program are ineligible to sit for the California bar exam, they have opportunities to take advanced courses in various legal topics and concentrations. MLS programs in California offer students options to specialize in various areas of the law. Through elective courses, students may be able to tailor their education in a number of different legal areas, including:

  • Business Law
  • Employment and Human Resources Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Government and National Security Law
  • Health Law and Policy
  • International Law
  • Sports Law

Please note that curriculum and concentrations will vary by university and program requirements.

Through their legal studies, MLS program graduates may better understand how laws, rules and government policies regulate their field. Additionally, these programs help to sharpen analytical and critical thinking and writing and interpretation skills, all of which can help people progress in their careers.

Law School Highlights in California

California has a number of law schools accredited by the American Bar Association or California Bar Association. As of 2020, California has 18 law schools accredited by the ABA, including Pepperdine University School of Law, University of San Francisco School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law. In addition, there are 24 California law schools accredited by the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners but not the ABA.

Students pursuing a legal degree at a California law school have a number of program options and concentrations available to them. For example, the UCLA School of Law offers these eight specializations in the MLS program:

  • Business Law
  • Employment and Human Resources Law
  • Entertainment and Media Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Government and National Security Law
  • Health Law and Policy
  • Law and Technology
  • Public Interest Law

Generally, California law schools that offer MLS programs give students two or more concentration options. If you are interested in a specific area of California law, be sure to check which MLS programs offer concentrations in that area. 

Legal Career Outlook in California

California has the highest level of employment for legal occupations in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2018, 135,520 people worked in legal occupations in California and earned average annual wages of $130,560—the third highest, behind Washington, D.C., and New York. 

Careers with a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in California

Across California, graduates of MLS programs can find employment in a range of industries, including state government, courtrooms, legal firms, higher education and in many private corporations as managers, compliance officers or contract negotiators. 

A Master of Legal Studies can lead to a number of career paths. Some common jobs held by California MLS graduates include:

  • HR Manager or Director
  • Compliance Officer or Director
  • Contract Negotiator
  • Paralegal or Legal Assistant

California graduates may work in a number of industries and settings, from large private sector businesses to public state and federal institutions. Many legal professions are in high demand in California. For example, demand for paralegals and legal assistants in California is projected to grow 18% from 2016 to 2026, compared to 15% nationally.

Top Legal Employers in California

Because of its size and economy, California is home to many large entertainment and technology companies. Individuals with a Master of Legal Studies degree can find work as contract negotiators, paralegals or compliance officers with a number of organizations in these fields. 

Prominent employers in the state include The Walt Disney Company in Burbank, which offers paralegal, compliance, and media and network law positions. 

Other prominent employers in California include tech and industrial companies, such as Lockheed Martin. Graduates may find positions with entertainment firms and agencies that represent actors and other personalities, such as Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein, one of the top entertainment law firms in the country.

Colleges with Online MLS Programs in California

List of Colleges in California with Online MLS Programs
School Name Degree Name City Full-Time or Part-Time Additional Information
Abraham Lincoln University Master of Science in Law Los Angeles, CA Both Registered by the California State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners as unaccredited distance-learning law school.
Pepperdine Caruso School of Law
Sponsored Program
Master of Legal Studies Malibu, CA Both Master of Legal Studies program granted acquiescence by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law Masters of Legal Studies Santa Barbara, CA Part-Time Accredited by the California State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners.
Santa Clara University School of Law Master of Legal Studies in Corporate Compliance Santa Clara, CA Both Accredited by the ABA and California State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners.
University of Southern California Gould School of Law Master of Studies in Law Los Angeles, CA Both Accredited by the ABA and California State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners.

Information on the above legal programs in California was last retrieved as of April 2020.