Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Programs in Illinois

Many Illinois professionals whose occupations regularly intersect with aspects of the law may benefit from having a legal education. If you don’t intend to take the bar exam and become a practicing attorney, a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree may be an appropriate option for you. This degree program is designed for non-lawyers but gives you a good understanding of legal issues that regularly come up in your job.

Here’s a look at the kinds of legal degrees available in Illinois, the career outlook for jobs with legal aspects, and colleges and universities that have online MLS degree programs.

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Overview of Legal Degrees in Illinois: Types and Concentrations 

A Master of Legal Studies (MLS) or similar degree, such as Master of Studies in Law (MSL), may allow students to choose courses that emphasize a particular type of law. In Illinois, there are a variety of concentrations available for students, including human resources, estate planning, international business law, health law and technology. 

The master’s degree in legal studies does not qualify a student to take the bar exam or become a lawyer, but can help with such careers as paralegals or legal assistants. 

Law School Highlights in Illinois

There are nine law schools in Illinois approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), according to the Law School Admissions Council:

  • DePaul University College of Law
  • Illinois Institute of Technology – Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Northern Illinois University College of Law
  • Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Southern Illinois University School of Law
  • University of Chicago Law School
  • University of Illinois College of Law
  • University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) John Marshall Law School

The University of Chicago Law School opened in 1902, just a dozen years after the university itself was founded. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and current Justice Elena Kagan were former professors; Justice John Paul Stevens was an undergraduate at the university. Former President Barack Obama was a professor at the university from 1992-2004.

The Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law School, founded in 1859, has notable graduates that include Supreme Court justices John Paul Stevens and Arthur Goldberg, former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, and Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago.

UIC’s John Marshall Law School is the most diverse law school in the state. It has a long history of welcoming all kinds of students, graduating its first female student in 1903, its first African American student in 1904, and its first Hispanic student in 1912.

Of these universities, six of them offer Master of Legal Studies programs: University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Illinois, UIC, DePaul University and Loyola University Chicago.

Legal Career Outlook in Illinois

Illinois has the fifth-highest employment level in the United States for legal occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on legal occupations. As of May 2019, Illinois had over 50,000 positions in this field. 

In the state of Illinois, judges earn the most of all legal occupations at a median salary of $190,450, and title examiners, astrators and searchers earned the lowest at an average of $49,610.

Careers with a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies in Illinois

What can you do with a master’s in legal studies? There are many career options for those who earn an MLS degree. The BLS includes all of these positions under its general umbrella of legal occupations:

Top Legal Employers in Illinois

The number of people employed in various legal occupations in Illinois, according to the BLS as of May 2019:

Top Legal Employers in Illinois
Legal Occupation in Illinois Number of Employed
Lawyers 31,270
Paralegals and Legal Assistants 13,980
Title Examiners, Abstractors and Searchers 1,750
Judges, Magistrate Judges and Magistrates 1,070
Legal Support Workers, All Other 800
Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators and Hearing Officers 550
Judicial Law Clerks 320
Arbitrators, Mediators and Conciliators 300

In addition to the more than 63,000 state government jobs in Illinois, Chicago is home to some of the U.S.’s largest law firms.

Colleges with Master’s in Legal Studies Programs in Illinois

Of the nine law schools in Illinois, six offer a master’s program in legal studies. 

Colleges with Master’s in Legal Studies Programs in Illinois
University Name and City Degree Name Credits Type of Program
University of Chicago – Law School
Chicago, IL
*Master of Legal Studies (MLS) 27 Credits On campus
Northwestern University- Pritzker School of Law
Chicago, IL
*Master of Science in Law (MSL) 28 Credits Both
University of Illinois – College of Law
Champaign, IL
*Master of Studies in Law 32 Credits On campus
UIC John Marshall Law School
Chicago, IL
*Master of Jurisprudence (MJ)Concentrations:
– Employee Benefits
– Estate Planning
– Intellectual Property Law
– International Business and Trade Law
– Privacy and Technology Law
– Real Estate Law
– Tax Law
30 Credits Both
DePaul University – College of Law
Chicago, IL
*Master of Jurisprudence (MJ)Concentrations:
– Business Law and Taxation
– Criminal Law
– Health Care Compliance​
– Health Law
– International and Comparative Law
– Public Interest Law
30 Credits On campus
Loyola University Chicago – School of Law
Chicago, IL
*Master of Jurisprudence (MJ)Concentrations:
– Children’s Law and Policy
– Compliance and Enterprise Risk Management
– Health Law
– MJ in Rule of Law for Development (PROLAW)
24-30 Credits Both

Note: *Programs granted acquiescence by the American Bar Association (ABA)

Information on this page was retrieved in August 2020.