Top 25 Best Online Master’s in Legal Studies for 2019

We generally think of legal expertise being the role of lawyers, but a working understanding and knowledge of the law is valuable in all sorts of settings – the courtroom is just one of many. In banking and finance, business, education, nonprofit charities, government agencies, and a host of other areas, being able to navigate the law is crucial. Lawyers aren’t the only ones who can read and interpret contracts, write briefs, and do research. Working professionals in all sorts of fields can enhance their career with a Master’s in Legal Studies – no LSAT or Bar exam necessary. (It’s also a smart step up for paralegals.)

Not everyone who wants to make a career in law needs to get a JD and pass the bar exam to practice law as an attorney; a professional with an MS in Legal Studies or a related degree can do everything a lawyer can, except for represent clients in court. An online MSL degree gives managers, executives, accountants, educational administrators, nonprofit coordinators, and all sorts of other professionals the tools to apply legal knowledge to their field. For working professionals looking for a convenient way to take their career to another level, Online Paralegal Programs has ranked the Top 25 Online Master of Legal Studies programs.

Ranking Method: How We Chose the Best Masters in Legal Studies Online Programs

To rank the Top 25 Online Master of Legal Studies programs, Online Paralegal Programs searched for accredited, reputable colleges, universities, and law schools offering the Master of Laws, MS in Legal Studies, Master of Studies in Law, and any other variation in a fully online or hybrid format. Programs were then ranked by four equally-weighted criteria:

With these 4 criteria – drawn from College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche – students can feel confident that their online Master of Law degree will have a real job market value, increasing their career opportunity and salary.

1. Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University’s School of Law offers a Masters in Legal Studies online degree program with a customizable curriculum for non-JD students. Degree candidates, along with their advisors, work together to create the coursework that sets the student towards their educational goals. Through the innovative distance-learning platform, students communicate with other students around the world. WashU St. Louis’ online master of law program has been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Washington University in St. Louis was established in 1853. The Academic Rankings of World Universities has ranked WashU among the top 20 universities in the world. The school’s urban 345+-acre is home to more than 15,000 students. The school is considered highly selective with a 2018 acceptance rate of 15%. WashU consists of 7 schools offering a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies

2. Northeastern University

Northeastern University’s School of Law offers a Master of Legal Studies online degree program that has been specifically designed for ‘non-lawyer’ legal professionals. NU’s online master of law degree allows students to customize their program of study to meet their needs. Each degree candidate works with a career advisor until graduation. Coursework prepares students with legal tools and expertise to obtain more positions of leadership.

Northeastern University was founded in 1898 with the first class held at a local YMCA. The school operates three Boston neighborhood campuses. Additionally, Northeastern University has three satellite campuses in California, Washington, and North Carolina. During 2018, Northeastern University ranked among the top 40 national universities in the country. The school offers its renowned education and internship programs through its nine schools. NU’s School of Law is recognized as a top-ranked law school for public interest law.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies

3. Georgetown University

Georgetown Law’s online Master of Law in Taxation offers non-lawyer legal professionals a graduate tax degree from a world-renowned school of law. Degree graduates must complete courses in Federal Income Tax, Tax Accounting, and Corporate Income Tax Law. The online Master of Law degree’s synchronous coursework requires students to complete 24-credit hours, either as a part-time or as a full-time student. The degree is generally completed in three years when attending part-time.

Georgetown University is a private institution of higher learning that was established in 1789. The school is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Georgetown University holds the distinction as having the largest student-operated business in the country and the longest running student theater ensemble. Georgetown’s elite alumni include President Bill Clinton, King Felipe of Spain, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Degree: MSL in Taxation

4. University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma College of Law offers a Masters in Legal Studies online degree program designed to meet the educational needs of non-lawyer legal professionals. Coursework offers students several specialty pathways: Gas, & Oil, & Energy Law, Indigenous Peoples Law, Healthcare Law, and International Business. Each legal specialization degree can be completed in as little as fifteen months. OU Norman’s online master of law program has been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).

The University of Oklahoma is a private institution of higher learning that was established in 1890. It is the flagship school of the Oklahoma University system and a space grant university. Its suburban 3,000-acre campus is home to nearly 32,000 students. US News ranks the University of Oklahoma among the country’s top public national universities. The University of Oklahoma holds a long-standing, solid reputation for its elite athletic programs.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies – 3 concentrations

5. University of St. Thomas

The University of St. Thomas offers a Master of Studies in Law that can be completed entirely online. The school’s online Master of Law degree is specifically created to meet the needs of non-lawyer law professionals responsible for compliance and ethics. St. Thomas’ MSL online program coursework can be completed in as little of 21 months and is the only program of that focuses on ethics and compliance that has been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business(AACSB). Students complete the online coursework is small cohorts that never exceed 25 students.

The University of St. Thomas is a Roman Catholic school that was established in 1885. The school was founded as a seminary. The university’s 75+-acre campus is home to nearly 10,000 students. The school was named for the famous theologian Thomas Aquinas. It holds the distinction of being the state of Minnesota’s largest nonprofit, private institution of higher learning.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies – Ethics and Compliance

6. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law offers a Master of Legal Studies online or on-campus at the University Park campus. The school’s online Master of Law degree program is designed for non-lawyer legal professionals who want to broaden their knowledge of complex legal issues. Applicants can apply to the program without submitting an LSAT for a GRE result. USC’s program can be completed in about sixteen months, and students have the option of earning an additional certificate in five fields – for no additional cost.

The University of Southern California is a space grant and sea grant university that was founded in 1880. USC is the oldest private research university located in California. It is estimated that the University of Southern California supplies about $8 billion dollars to the LA metro area. USC holds the distinction of being the alma mater of more than 500 players drafted by the National Football League.

Degree: Master of Studies in Law

7. Wake Forest University

Wake Forest Law offers a Master of Studies in Law degree program designed for legal professionals who support practicing lawyers. This Master of Jurisprudence online program prepares graduates to professionally negotiate the concepts compliance and risk. Students have the option of studying full-time (in 21 months) or part-time (48 months) while earning their MSL online degree. Wake Forest Law’s MSL program offers asynchronous flexible scheduling to busy working adults.

The Baptist State Convention established Wake Forest University in 1834. Wake Forest has hosted national presidential debates several times from the Wait Chapel. The debate was between George HW Bush and Michael Dukakis. The school proudly offers dozens of merit-based scholarship, in addition to financial aid for those in need. The American Bar Association accredits Wake Forest’s School of Law. Wake Forest law is a member of the Association of American Laws Schools.

Degree: Master of Studies in Law

8. Arizona State University

Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law offers a Masters in Legal Studies online degree program with six areas of concentration to choose from. These include Criminal Law, Sports Law, Corporate & Health Care Compliance, Law & Sustainability, Intellectual Property Law, and HR & Employment Law. Coursework for this Master in Legal Studies online program includes ten classes to earn 30-credit hours. Graduates enter the workforce with a deeper understanding of the U.S. legal system, prepared to apply the knowledge to many disciplines.

Arizona State University is a public institution of higher learning that was established in 1885. The school operates with several campuses, the Tempe Campus, The Polytechnic Campus, The West Campus, and the Downtown Phoenix campus. ASU holds the distinction of being one of the nation’s largest institutions of higher learning in terms of its student enrollment. The several campuses are home to nearly 80,000 students. US News recognizes ASU as one of the top innovative universities, and the 25th best law school in the nation.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies

9. West Virginia University

West Virginia University offers a Masters of Legal Studies degree program for students to explore and examine the United States’ legal system. This online master of law program provides students with three concentrations from which to choose. Students can opt to follow a track in Justice Systems, Homeland Security, or Health Care. Degree candidates typically complete the required 30-credit hours in about 1½ years and find employment as Mediators, Social Workers, Legal Assistants, Magistrate Judges, and Private Investigators.

West Virginia University was established in 1867 as a part of the enactment of the Morrill Land Grant Act. WVU is also a space grant university that holds the distinction of being the flagship school and the only law school in the state of West Virginia. WVU’s College of Law was West Virginia’s first professional school. The school’s Juris Doctor, full-time degree, is ranked among the country’s 100 law programs.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies

10. American University

American University’s Masters in Legal Studies online degree program, from the Washington College of Law, offers students the option of five specialty tracks. They include health Care Compliance, Technology, Business, and General MLS. Each legal specialty has been created to explore and examine industry-specific matters and responsibilities. Degree graduates are required to complete 30-credit hours to graduate as either a full-time or part-time basis. Coursework includes Drafting Policies and Contracts, Negotiations, Courts & Law, and Regulation & Compliance, among others.

American University was established in 1892 and remains affiliated with the Methodist Church. The university consists of 8 schools that offer more than 150 programs of study. The school’s suburban 85-acre campus is home to more than 13,000 students; a fifth of whom are from more than 140 countries worldwide. American is recognized as a school that produces an elevated number of Fulbright Scholars.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies

11. Seton Hall University

Seton Hall Law offers a Master of Jurisprudence online program through its Division of Online Learning. The school’s MSJ degree is designed for non-lawyer legal professionals. Seton Hall Law’s advanced legal studies degree can be applied to the fields of Cyber Security, Medical Device Law, Intellectual Property Law, or Privacy Law, among others. When studying part-time, degree graduates can completed this program in less than 2 years. Graduates become Clinical Operations Directors, Patent Assistants, Lobbyists, and Risk Managers.

Seton Hall University was established in 1865 and holds the distinction of being the oldest diocesan institution of higher learning in the nation. The school operates with eleven schools in the quaint town of South Orange – less than an hour’s drive to New York City. US News recognizes Seton Hall’s School of Law among the top 65 schools of law across the country.

Degree: Master of Science in Jurisprudence

12. Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Mitchell Hamline School of Law offers a Master in the Study of Law that is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). It is noted that MHL’s online Master of Law program requires a portion of their coursework-completed on-campus. Students typically graduate from this program in 18-months, when studying full-time. Classes include Transactions and contracts in Business, and Foundations in Law, among others. The degree program requires the completion of 22-credit hours, which includes a 2-credit capstone project.

Mitchell Hamline School of Law was established in 1900. The MHL School of Law has been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Students can attend on a part-time or full-time basis and offers degree candidates practical internships in the Upper Midwest. MHL was the first United States Law School to offer a Juris Doctor hybrid program accredited by the ABA.

Degree: Master in the Study of Law

13. University of Arizona

The University of Arizona offers a Master of Legal Studies online that can be completed in just one-year. UA’s master of jurisprudence online degree broaden the knowledge of legal professionals who are responsible for supporting lawyers in the matters of negotiations, regulations and risk management. Students explore and examine laws and cases specifically in the area of law of their choice. For degree graduates an opportunity to choose three areas of concentration: Criminal Law & Policy, Environmental Law & Concentration, and Compliance & Legal Risk Management Concentration, among eight other legal study topics.

The University of Arizona was established in 1885 before the territory’s statehood began. The school holds the distinction of being the first university chartered in the Arizona Territory. The school’s urban Tucson campus is home to nearly 45,000 students, and UA’s influence in Arizona’s government and business cannot be overstated.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies

14. Samford University

Samford University’s Master of Studies in Law MSL online program can be completed completely online in 24 months. Students are required to take 36 credit hours to graduate from the Cumberland School of Law. This program is geared towards students who are not lawyers but still want to advance their career. This program has four concentrations from which students can choose.

The financial services regulatory compliance concentration gives students a deeper understanding of the regulations and laws for the American financial services after 2008, which includes the Dodd Frank Act, the Bank Secrecy Act and the UDAAP laws. Students focus on advances in payment systems and technologies and the future of the regulatory environment. The health law and policy concentration gives students a foundation in health law, public policy, regulatory affairs, and health care administration. The higher education law and compliance concentration is geared towards compliance officers, financial aid employees, accreditation managers, and higher education administrators. This concentration teaches students to research, apply, and communicate about laws and regulations today. The legal project management concentration focuses on the ethical side of litigation. Students gain tools to study opportunities for outsourcing, other fee arrangements, and the role of technology and innovation in legal project management.

Degree: Master of Studies in Law

15. New York University

New York University’s MSL in Taxation is one of the nation’s best Masters in Legal Studies online programs, from a university that defines excellence. This program can be complete part time and is geared towards students currently employed as accountants, or some other financial professional. This program gives them the tools they need to assist customers with advanced tax and business transaction. NYU’s influence in New York City means master of law graduates can have their pick of career paths.

NYU’s MSL students will gain a foundation in tax law policy, including the judicial and regulatory aspects of it. They will learn about corporate tax law, estate tax law, international tax law. Students will take classes on the tax rights of Native Americans. They learn the benefit to technology in the tax world, as well as tax fraud. Students gain a foundation in the taxation of acquisitions and mergers.

Degree: MSL in Taxation

16. Drexel University

Drexel University’s online Master of Legal Studies degree can be completed online or in the classroom on campus. It can be taken on a full time or part time basis. This program is geared towards students who are not lawyers but would like a solid foundation in the legal system and the laws pertinent to their particular employment industry. Drexel offers eight concentrations within the Master of Legal Studies from which the students can choose.

The Criminal Law concentration focuses on the criminal justice system and its laws. The Cyber Security and Information Privacy Compliance concentration focuses on data breaches and how to prevent them. The Entrepreneurship and Law concentration focuses on the regulations of starting a new or building on an existing business. The Financial Regulatory Compliance concentration focuses on the regulations within the financial industry. The Health Care Compliance concentration focuses on the health care industry and its laws, including HIPAA. The Higher Education Compliance concentration focuses on rules around financial aid, campus safety and accreditation of higher education institutions. The Human Resources Compliance concentration focuses on the relationship between employer and employee, including hiring, negotiation, and mediation. The NCAA Compliance and Sports Law concentration focuses on the regulations that govern NCAA recruitment, eligibility, and ethical conduct.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies

17. Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University offers an online Master of Legal Studies created for students who are not lawyers but are interested in developing knowledge about the law to propel their current career. The LSAT exam is not required and it is possible to complete the program in around 16 months online, if taken on a full time basis. It can also be taken on a part time basis.

Pepperdine’s MLS students will learn to analyze legal concepts, interpret the law to be able to make more sound decisions. Students will gain the fundamental knowledge of legal procedures, such as contract, civil procedures and litigation, constitutional law, and regulatory compliance. Students gain a better understanding of intellectual property, health and education law. Students are given the opportunity to complete residencies where they can apply their class room knowledge to real world situations. They will participate in mock trials and debates.

Degree: Master of Legal Studies

18. University of Illinois at Springfield

University of Illinois at Springfield’s MA in Legal Studies is an online master of law degree program that can be taken 100% online or in the classroom. In an effort to remain flexible for students, University of Illinois also offers classes at night. Their program gives students a solid foundation in legal theory and the impact of the law on society. Students are given a broad understanding of the legal system and how individuals can ensure their rights are met within the legal system.

UIS’s master of law degree is geared towards students who want a strong foundation in usual knowledge of the law and the legal system. This is for students that do not want to be a lawyer, but would like to work with lawyers. Students will learn how to be valuable and proper witnesses, investigators, or a resource person. They understand the value of compliance, legal forms and requirements, and how regulations impact organizations.

Degree: MA in Legal Studies

19. Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University’s online Master of Science in Law degree comes from the Shepard Broad College of Law and offers a flexible online program to allow students to work around their current schedules. Students can earn their degree in around two years. Nova Southeastern University does not require the GRE or LSAT exams. They offer four concentrations.

The Education Law concentration focuses on the changing needs of the educational system. Students can an understanding of the existing regulations and understands the need for nationwide change. The Employment Law concentration focuses on a foundation in the legal relationship between and employer and employee. Students gain an understanding of what is needed to provide equitable and fair employment for everyone. The Health Law concentration focuses on teaching students to research and identify the legal issues and regulations around health care. The Law and Policy concentration focuses on providing a strong foundation in the US legal system.

Degree: Master of Science in Law

20. Webster University

Webster University’s MA in Legal Studies program is designed to be flexible for students and can be taken online or in the classroom on campus. This program gives students a broad foundation in the legal rights of people and organizations. This program is for individuals who are looking to improve their prospects at their current job, and not those that want to become lawyers.

Students in Webster’s online master of legal studies will gain an understanding of professional responsibility and how that impacts behavior and decision making. Students learn hot to think critically and apply strategies for reasoning and legal analysis. They will learn to evaluate legal documents and apply them to problem solving. They will improve their written and oral communication skills.

Degree: MA in Legal Studies

21. Thomas Jefferson School of Law

San Diego, California’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law offers an online Master of Studies in Law. The Thomas Jefferson School of Law is innovative in the way it addresses the needs of its students. In an effort to remain flexible for their students, they offer part time evening classes and full time classes. Their programs can also be completed 100% online. This program has three concentrations from which student can choose.

The Financial Compliance & Risk Management concentration focuses on compliance and identifying and implementing successful risk management programs. The financial services and wealth management concentration focuses on managing the finances of customers and putting them on the right path to managing and growing their money. The taxation concentration focuses on providing a comprehensive background and knowledge of taxes and their impact on everyone.

Degree: Master of Studies in Law – 3 concentrations

22. Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University’s online degree in MS in Criminal Justice – Legal Studies specialization provides all of the knowledge and expertise of an online master of law degree from a criminal justice perspective. Saint Leo University is a proud military-friendly college that has a mission to provide an education that is built on the moral beliefs the everyone has value and gifts and deserves dignity. This program is geared towards those currently employed as criminal justice administrators, correctional officers, probation and parole officers, and first responders.

Students in Saint Leo’s online master of law program gain a better understanding of the US legal system and its role in society. Students will be given an in depth look at legal procedures and how the judicial system functions in criminal processes, as well as civil processes.

Degree: MS in Criminal Justice – Legal Studies

23. Regent University

Regent University offers a Master of Jurisprudence online with their MA in Law. This program is completely online and is eight week sessions. Students must have a total of 30 credit hours to graduation. This program provides students with a strong legal background to assist them in their health care, legal, government, or non profit organization. Regent University offers 14 concentrations within their MA in Law degree program.

The Advanced Paralegal Studies concentration allows students to develop their legal knowledge and critical thinking enabling them to assist attorneys with cases. The Cyber Security Law concentration focuses on the prevention of and protection from cyber crimes against organizations and individuals. The Human Rights & Rule of Law concentration focuses on providing students with the tools to help them advocate for the vulnerable members of society. The Nonprofit Organization Law concentration focuses on the laws and regulations for non profit and tax exempt organizations. The Alternative Dispute Resolution concentration focuses on the critical thinking skills needed to control business deals and provide conflict resolution. The Immigration Law concentration focuses on providing a foundation of the legal system in the US along with the concepts of immigration law.

Degree: MA in Law

24. Hodges University

Hodges University’s online MS in Legal Studies program is geared towards students who want legal knowledge, but do not want to become practicing lawyers. This program covers a wide range of legal studies in areas such as communications, human services, political science, and health care. Students will learn the value in legal research and writing. They will enhance their communication, negotiation and advocacy skills. Students will learn to think critically, learn how to analyze risk and be able to make sound decisions. Students will gain an understanding of international and ethical law. They will learn how to apply arbitration and mediation to conflict resolution.

A small, private university founded in 1990, Hodges University is regionally accredited and has developed a solid reputation throughout Florida for educational quality and accessibility. With the Fisher School of Technology, the Johnson School of Business, and the Nichols School of Professional Studies, Hodges is committed to making a difference in the lives and careers of Florida’s working adults with accessible programs, many of them fully online.

Degree: MS in Legal Studies

25. Albany Law School

Albany Law School offers an online Master of Law with their MS in Legal Studies. This program can be taken online or in class rooms on campus. This is a flexible program that can be customized to meet the needs of each student. The online MS program for those with a Bachelors degree is concentrated on Cyber Security and Data Policy. This concentration focuses on policy and technological threats. Students focus on various cyber security frameworks that can help an organization avoid cyber security threats. Students learn how to provide risk assessments, needs analysis, risk management strategies, and create risk treatment plans.

Albany Laws Legal Studies program has concentrations in Government Affairs and Advocacy which focuses on students who are interested in careers in government affairs, lobbying, and advocacy. The Health Law and Health Care Compliance concentration is for students who want a basic understanding of health care industry laws and the regulations that enforce the way the health care industry functions. The Social Entrepreneurship concentration is for students interested in those who want to positively impact and address the legal and social needs of their communities and the world.

Degree: MS in Legal Studies

Will Employers Trust an Online Master of Law Degree?

Yes, as long as the online law degree is ABA accredited. Education from an ABA online law school signals to the employer that the prospect has received credible education and training in legal matters. ABA approved law schools can be found on the ABA’s website.

Whether an online program is right for your depends on your individual circumstances. On-campus may not be best for everyone. In the age of the internet, there are plenty of online programs and schools available to teach legal studies. Many of these programs are just as valid as in-person schooling in preparing a student for a career in this field. If you want more affordable schooling, better commute convenience, or more control over your schedule, then online education would make a great fit for you. However, if your learning style requires a more personalized touch, with in-person guidance and stable scheduling, then on-campus learning might be ideal. It is just a matter of figuring out what kind of education is best for you.

Online courses aren’t much different from in-person courses when it comes to law schooling. Depending on the program, you may need to pass pre-law courses in criminal justice or critical reading and writing. Law schools often require courses taken in politics, history, government, business, and economics. It also helps to take courses in psychology, sociology, public speaking, and logic. All of these areas are great for preparing a student for legal education.

What is ABA Accreditation?

The American Bar Association (ABA) is an organization dedicated to developing high standards and ethics within the legal services industry. It is important for legal professionals to work by a high set of standards so that the legal system is fair, balanced, and accurate in the pursuit of justice. Without an efficient legal system, people and governments risk a lack of accountability.

The American Bar Association ensure quality among legal professionals. Part of this is done by examining and promoting schools and programs that offer adequate education in legal studies. In order to receive accreditation, the ABA will require that a program or school teaches the following: thorough knowledge or substantive and procedural law, legal research, legal analysis, problem-solving, ethical and professional responsibilities, and other relevant skills needed to enter into a legal profession. The ABA looks at a program’s curriculum to evaluate whether these provisions are met. The ABA has also developed specific guidelines when dealing with distance education, as seen here.

Are There Online Legal Jobs for a Master in Legal Studies?

While a master in legal studies does not prepare students to take the Bar exam or practice law, an MSL graduate could pursue a career as a paralegal, legal secretary, legal nurse consultant, trial consultant, jury consultant, mediator, and litigation support professional. Less common law careers include solicitors, barristers, legal clerks, and tax advisers.

There are also a surprising number of online legal jobs, which degree holders can do from home. Legal work at home opportunities are actually quite common, because so much of law is devoted to forms, writing, and research. Legal work at home opportunities may range from legal research jobs to online legal writing jobs; they are often related to research or writing about legal matters on behalf of a lawyer or law firm. Legal research jobs could even be done on a freelance basis, or master’s holders could create legal work at home opportunities by setting up as a legal consultant. Online legal jobs

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