What does it take to get an online master’s degree in law?

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The connection between legal knowledge and graduate-level education isn’t only about earning a law degree. Another category of legal education can suit professionals who want to deepen their expertise and experience with specific parts of the framework. Master’s degrees in law encompass several programs—some suitable for lawyers and other law firm employees who desire to expand their credentials and others meant for individuals outside of the legal profession who use related information to complete their everyday duties.

A legal professional studies on a laptop

The rise of online learning models has enabled professionals to seek these degrees on their own schedules, fitting asynchronous classes in around their present full-time roles. To decide whether this is the right step along a particular career path, prospective students can investigate the possibilities around master’s degrees in law, what they can learn while earning these credentials and how long these programs take to complete. Whether they seek to gain an enhanced grasp on the entire framework of the U.S. legal system or specialize in a subject such as health care, professionals have options to discover more.

Can you earn an online master’s degree in law without being a lawyer?

Earning a master’s degree in law can serve as a point of distinction in a professional’s career, demonstrating an ambition and ability to add to an individual’s expertise. The related programs are not limited to just people in the profession of law, but the specific role of a master’s degree in a legal subject does depend upon whether the professional earning the new credential is a lawyer.

Lawyers and other members of their firms may study for a Master of Laws (LL.M.), which represents specialization, while non-lawyers who rely on legal knowledge may strengthen their engagement in the field with a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree, such as an M.A. in American Legal Studies or M.A. in Health Law and Policy. Each of these programs contains a different focus, suited to applicants’ existing experience and the roles in which they hope to advance. In fact, the courses contained within each program are similar, with the key difference that M.A. programs also contain introductory classwork to ensure students have the background they’ll need to excel in later courses.

A more involved look at specific areas of the law pertains all corners of today’s corporate world. Law firms that need personnel—paralegals, lawyers, arbiters, partners or other members of staff—who have mastered specific subsets of legal work such as health care law and policy may find value in employees who have an LL.M. in the relevant subject.

M.A. degrees target professionals who interact with legal frameworks regularly but do so from roles other than lawyer or legal functionary. For example, an M.A. in health law and policy could help administrators, social workers, compliance officers, insurers and others understand the rules and regulations that surround their professions. Such knowledge could prove critical as legal requirements change and evolve over time. Individuals with these degrees can serve as subject matter experts in their workplaces and advocate for positive change.

What does a master’s degree in the legal field signify?

An LL.M. may prove that lawyers are committed to their profession, willing to go beyond the years of study required to earn a JD A person with an LL.M. in a focused subject has shown a passion for that area of the law and an ability to gain advanced insights about the related concepts. This educational path can appeal to lawyers who feel there is more to learn in a higher education setting and are prepared to make time for the all-online courses.

An M.A. in a legal subject can apply across various industries and professional settings, as many organizations must comply with complex and unique regulations. From international, federal and regional laws to more specific statutes, contracts and policies, each workplace delivers a specific group of concepts to master. Professionals who aren’t lawyers may not understand the jargon of the legal field, and M.A. courses offer this insight. Furthermore, these programs grant experience with soft skills such as communication, analysis and critical thinking.

In either scenario, earning an advanced degree in law is a sign of seriousness and willingness to take on a specialized role dealing with a relevant subject. Through education, professionals can show of a unique skill set and background, whether seeking out specialized responsibilities, negotiating for a promotion or applying for a new role within the industry. Therefore, earning a master’s degree in a legal subject may represent a turning point in their careers, one pointing to positions that more thoroughly express and explore those individuals’ areas of greatest interest. When searching for professionals to deal with highly specialized situations, leaders can find value and relevance in turning to individuals who have advanced credentials to their names.

Law books and a gavel

What are some of the master’s degree options in the legal field?

One of the primary purposes of a master’s degree in law is to deliver specialized and targeted knowledge dealing with present legal issues, professionals should find a program that fits their needs and objectives. The Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University offers four options within its master’s program, with two LL.M. degrees targeting legal professionals and two M.A. offerings suitable to individuals without law degrees.

By comparing the details of these program options, from potential career paths to the nature and focus of the curriculum in each, professionals can determine whether they want to seek any of these master’s degrees. The factor uniting all the programs is the quality of the faculty, consisting of experts who are engaged in the granular areas of law they teach and prepared to deliver up-to-date viewpoints. These educators work from consistent materials developed to reflect the needs and practices within the legal field.

Online M.A. in American Legal Studies

The M.A. program in American Legal Studies is designed to give students outside the legal profession a wide-ranging and practical knowledge of present U.S. law. With the experience gained through these courses, graduates can become change agents at organizations of all kinds, whether they are most interested in entering the public sector and developing legislation, seeking a new role at a firm that requires in-depth legal knowledge or even taking on an international position that calls for proficiency with American law.

The core curriculum of the M.A. program incorporates subjects such as contract, property, tort and constitutional law, giving graduates a grounding in the types of legal situations they are likely to encounter in the professional sphere. Beyond these legal explorations, students can also gain background on the way ethics intersect with the legal field along with the ways in which companies are organized and regulated. Students complete the program by creating a 40-page capstone paper that combines at least two of the topics from the course into a coherent and in-depth piece of legal scholarship.

Studying for an M.A. in American Legal Studies allows students to network with their peers, who may come from all industries and backgrounds. These connections may prove helpful later in an individual’s career, and the diverse perspectives they introduce may assist in professional growth and knowledge building. Graduates may further their roles as compliance officers, financial examiners, accountants, auditors, property and real estate managers, insurance officials and more, seeking promotions and new positions.

Online LL.M. in American Law

The LL.M. in American Law is similar to the M.A. in American Legal Studies in that it focuses on learning the rules guiding the American legal system. Where it differs is its intended audience. This is coursework for individuals who have earned law degrees and are currently part of the legal services industry but want to build on their knowledge to advance within their current career paths or seek out a different related role. International lawyers seeking an in-depth overview of American practices may find it particularly helpful, as may law students who want to enhance their expertise in the subject matter.

Students in the American Law program will see the current state of the U.S. legal system in detail, as well as the reform efforts and policy changes taking effect within the sector. Classes within the program teach graduates to deliver legal services to clients dealing with U.S. regulations, which has proved pertinent for companies and firms worldwide. Today’s legal services industry frequently crosses borders, and that global nature makes this level of expertise useful around the world.

Individuals who complete the program may take on a number of roles within the legal industry, potentially using their newfound insights to change professional paths or otherwise advance. From paralegals and legal assistants to arbiters, mediators, conciliators and lawyers, numerous positions within legal firms can make use of the in-depth information gained in an LL.M. program. Court reporters, judges and hearing officers may also come from such an educational background, demonstrating the many ways to make a mark in the legal profession.

M.A. in Health Law and Policy

The specific legislation relating to health care practice and policy has always been complex. In recent years, driven by landmark events such as the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the laws around the medical profession have multiplied and become ever more complex. Employees at any of the numerous businesses providing health care services can seek a Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy to heighten their understanding of the many intersecting and evolving laws that guide their profession. Nurses, administrators, educators, compliance officers and more may take these courses to deliver more targeted knowledge to their teams.

The M.A. program begins with overview of the legal system and health law in particular, ensuring that students from outside the profession can grasp the terms and concepts other courses will use. From there, subjects include Medicare and Medicaid, as well as ethical health care and public policy. In addition to the legal framework around providing care, students will also receive an introduction to the business side of the care sector, learning how to manage and oversee transactions. Specific laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, as well as more general topics such as bioethics, appear in the curriculum.

Potential professional outcomes from the M.A. course cover a wide range of careers due to the diversity of options within the health care sector. Graduates can put their newfound legal knowledge to work in interviews as they seek leadership positions in nursing teams or community health organizations. Health care social workers and community service managers may also find experience with health care law is called upon as part of their work and helps to convince hiring managers of their ability to handle additional responsibilities.

LL.M. in Health Law and Policy

Lawyers dealing with health care organizations require in-depth knowledge of specific legal frameworks and ever-changing regulations. Recent changes such as the introduction of the ACA have given these legal representatives new areas to focus on, with duties reflecting rules that have gone through several iterations in just a few years. Legal firms may therefore find value in professionals earning LL.M. credentials with a specialty in health law and policy, as these programs represent an up-to-date view of related legal concepts.

The curriculum for the LL.M. in Health Law and Policy is similar to the M.A. program, with the exclusion of the courses designed to familiarize on the basics of the legal industry. The LL.M. degree is designed for individuals actively working with legal organizations at present, giving them an understanding topics such as medical product development and compliance with the network of present-day health care rules. Representing Healthcare Providers, for example, covers situations lawyers tend to encounter when taking clients in the medical sector.

Graduates with a Health Law and Policy degree may use their new expertise to seek in-demand roles at firms that serve health care clients or as part of in-house legal departments. From paralegal and legal assistant work to arbitrator, mediator, conciliator or lawyer roles, these professionals can explore many avenues to turn a medical law grounding into new sets of duties and responsibilities. Individuals with a passion for health care work can show off that commitment with such a master’s-level education, and hiring managers may take notice.

How long will it take to earn a master’s degree in law?

One of the most exciting parts of studying for a master’s degree in law is the relatively short time it may take to earn such a credential. These programs differ depending on which path a professional selects, but the general time expenditure for an online program ranges from one-and-a-half to two years. At Hofstra Law, the M.A. in American Legal Studies takes under two years to complete, as does the LL.M. in American Law. In health care, the M.A. in Health Law in Policy requires a minimum of two years, while the LL.M. program may take as few as 18 months.

What are the advantages of studying for a degree online?

Online coursework enables professionals to study for master’s degrees in specialized legal subjects while serving full time in their present roles. This flexibility allows individuals to augment their knowledge through asynchronous online courses while not interrupting their career trajectories or foregoing their salaries for the duration of the program. Whether these students are legal firm representatives seeking LL.M. degrees or professionals in related industries pursuing M,A. credentials, this online framework can open doors to continuing education.

When should you begin applying for a master’s degree in law?

Collecting the materials required to apply to law school takes some time. While this period will differ for every applicant, it is prudent to set aside two to three months before a given program’s application deadline to prepare. Professionals considering a master’s-level education in law should begin the process by retrieving transcripts from undergraduate education, along with professional letters of recommendation. While some law schools require scores from examinations such as the Graduate Management Admission Test, the Graduate Record Examination or Law School Admissions Test, Hofstra Law does not.

The months of information collection, both from previous schools and professional colleagues, should come after applicants have investigated the programs and courses they are most interested in. The decision to pursue graduate education in law, whether in the context of a legal firm or another organization with some legal engagement, may be an important career turning point, and candidates for these programs should therefore give ample time and consideration to their best choices for law school.

Seeking an M.A. is a way for individuals outside the legal field to show their engagement in regulations and the legislative processes behind them. An LL.M. represents a current legal professional’s persistent interest in staying engaged with the latest developments in the field. Either type of master’s degree may prove to hiring managers and colleagues that an individual is well-suited to leading the organization through today’s legal complexities.

To learn more about all the available paths for students, and to discover the ways in which these programs may intersect with current professional roles and point to exciting new chapters, reach out to the Hofstra Law applications department.

Recommended Readings:
Why get an LL.M. if you already have a law degree?
How a Master of Arts in American Legal Studies can help you grow in your career

Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law – Online Master of Arts in
American Legal Studies
Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law – Online Master of Laws in American Law
Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law – Online Master of Arts in
Health Law and Policy
Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law – Online Master of Laws in
Health Law and Policy