What are law degrees for non-lawyers?

Law schools offer a host of options for people who want legal training, but not to become a practicing attorney. Whether you are looking for advanced knowledge in health law, compliance, intellectual property law or taxation law, there is a program just for you.  

These programs go under many names, including Master of Law Studies, Master of Studies in Law, Master of Legal Studies and Master of Jurisprudence. They are all similar in that they are designed for non-attorneys.  There are also certificates and other offerings. 

The programs typically last one year, and are designed to gives you a better understanding of legal issues, without the depth and time necessary to complete a J.D., which is the traditional law degree for lawyers. 

Most programs allows you to customize your curriculum, so you are taking law classes that relate directly to your field. 


Does an MSL make me a lawyer?

No. Once you finish the program, you cannot practice law. If you want to be a lawyer, you have to go through the three-year J.D. program. The MSL does, however, have the potential to give you an edge when it comes to understanding the legal world compared to peers who don’t have such a degree.

“MSL degrees fulfill an important niche of having a program tailored for a large group of people who don’t want to become lawyers but really would benefit from a deeper dive into legal reasoning,” Kelso said. 


Suppose I really like learning about law. Can I use the credits earned in an MSL toward a law education?

In most cases, no. You would still need to apply and get accepted into a law school and complete the three years of study. The program, though, might give you an advantage in law school because you already have learned some elements 
of law.