Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Programs in North Carolina

Many students are attracted to careers in the law without wanting to become practicing attorneys. Instead of obtaining a Juris Doctor (J.D.), they can pursue a Master of Legal Studies (MLS), which prepares students for careers where it’s important to understand or work within the law but not litigate. Learn more about master’s in legal studies programs in North Carolina and the potential career outlook in this state. 

Overview of Legal Degrees in North Carolina: Types and Concentrations

Six law schools in North Carolina offer J.D., LL.M., and dual degree programs. All the J.D. programs are accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).

While the ABA does not extend its accreditation to legal studies, master’s in legal studies programs may request acquiescence from ABA. Additionally, those interested in an MLS program in North Carolina should make sure prospective institutions are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. North Carolina residents who want to pursue an online degree hosted by a college or university outside of the state should make sure the proper authority accredits the school. 

Two law schools in North Carolina offer a master’s in legal studies program with acquiescence by the ABA – Master of Studies in Law (MSL) at Law Wake Forest University, and Master of Legal Studies at Northeastern University. And both of them offer concentrations in Business Law, Health Law and Human Resources. Intellectual Property Law is also available.

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Law School Highlights in North Carolina

There are six law schools approved by the ABA in North Carolina: 

  • University of North Carolina School of Law: This public institution has been awarding law degrees since 1845 and has been accredited since 1923.It offers several dual degree programs in which students can obtain a J.D. and other master’s or doctoral degrees.
  • North Carolina Central University School of Law: This law school has been accredited since 1950 and has one of the oldest accredited part-time programs. The School of Law partners with UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University to enable students to take electives with each school. It also offers several joint degrees and other certificate programs.
  • Duke University School of Law: This law school has been accredited since 1931 and is one of the top law schools in the country. Duke offers a Master of Judicial Studies (L.LM.) program for sitting judges, as well as other LL.M. programs for attorneys.
  • Wake Forest University School of Law: This school was established in 1894 and has been accredited since 1936. In addition to J.D., L.LM. and dual degree programs, Wake Forest offers three MLS tracks.
  • Campbell University, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law: This is a private law school accredited since 1979. It offers several dual degree programs.
  • Elon University School of Law: This is a young law school, founded in 2006 and accredited in 2008. It’s known for its innovative legal education, including course-connected residencies in legal practices.

Legal Career Outlook in North Carolina

Knowing the law and becoming equipped to navigate complex legal and regulatory processes can help professionals advance in many types of careers, whether in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. MLS programs in North Carolina might be right for soon-to-be graduates interested in learning more about the law of this state, specifically in a certain field.

Legal occupations are projected to grow 7% in the United States from 2018 to 2028, which would add 93,300 new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Among legal occupations, the median salary was $81,820 as of May 2019. In North Carolina, the median wage for legal professions was $90,650 in 2018, with a total of 24,550 jobs, according to state data from the BLS.

Careers with a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies in North Carolina

Students with a master’s in legal studies have many career options. They might work closely with lawyers at a private firm. Or they might hold positions in business, finance, human resources, health care, government, policymaking or the nonprofit sector. In NC, employment opportunities vary from organizations to universities. The North Carolina Justice Center offers legal and nonlegal roles such as court and investigative reporting and part-time attorney roles. Other positions can be found at the North Carolina Bar Association’s career center.

Some common careers include:

  • Mediators: Mediators, arbitrators and other professional neutrals facilitate discussions and negotiations between parties. In some cases, they decide disputes. Mediators in North Carolina can gain various certifications via the Dispute Resolution Commission, which allows them to work in the court system. The 2019 median salary for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators in North Carolina was $52,0401.
  • Court reporters: These professionals transcribe testimony at trials, depositions, other legal proceedings and other important meetings or negotiations. The 2019 median salary for court reporters and simultaneous captioners in North Carolina was $54,5501.
  • Paralegals: These professionals assist attorneys in many ways, conducting research, drafting letters, documents and court pleadings, managing their schedules and filing documents with the courts. There are positions at private firms and government positions, such as in the district attorney’s office. The 2019 median salary for paralegals and legal assistants in North Carolina was $47,3701.  

1 Salary data for these North Carolina careers is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2019 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: North Carolina.

Legal Employers in North Carolina

MLS graduates can look for careers at North Carolina’s largest law firms, like Womble Bond Dickinson, Moore & Van Allen, and McGuireWoods. These firms usually have many non-lawyer roles supporting functions of the firm. Small and mid-sized law firms also need skilled paralegals and other support staff. 

They can apply for positions within the court system. There are nine departments of the North Carolina Judicial Branch that need a variety of non-lawyer staff members to function, including clerks, legal assistants, administrators, service coordinators and court reporters. Job hunters also can look for positions in other North Carolina governmental departments—knowledge of the law is helpful in more places than the courts. 

Graduates can seek administrative careers in the healthcare industry, often intersecting with legal and compliance issues. Some employers in healthcare in North Carolina include Atrium Health, Duke University and Health Systems, Novant Health, Carolinas HealthCare Systems, UNC Health Care, WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Cone Health, and Wake Forest Baptist Health. 

Another option is to look for positions in large corporations and banks. An MLS degree enables professionals to learn the law and navigate legal systems, like financial regulations. Most of these institutions may need skilled compliance officers and human resources professionals. 

Colleges with Master’s Degrees in Legal Studies Programs in North Carolina

Just one master’s in legal studies program in North Carolina has received acquiescence by the ABA. Individuals interested in MLS programs shouldn’t be disheartened by the lack of options specific to the state. Many online MLS programs developed by other colleges and universities accept North Carolina residents with or without a satellite campus in the area. 

Colleges with Master’s Degrees in Legal Studies Programs in North Carolina
University Name and City Degree Name Credits Type of Program
Wake Forest University – School of Law
Winston-Salem, NC
Master of Studies in Law (MSL)Concentrations:
– Business Law & Compliance
– Health Law & Policy
– Human Resources
30 Credits Online

Information on this page was retrieved in August 2020.