Find Top Schools for Master’s in Law Degrees in the US

Earn Your Master’s in Law Degree in the US

For many of those who are looking to start their careers, the United States may offer a number of unique professional opportunities, particularly for those who practice law. According to Pacific Research, Americans spend an average of over $250 billion dollars on civil litigation every year. That’s  $220 billion more than the next closest country. In fact, from 1950 to 2009, tort costs per capita in the US climbed from $106 to $808. These statistics show why it is of little surprise that more than 80 percent of the world’s lawyers live in America.

However, if you have a legal degree and are looking to practice in America, you should know that competition for clients is likely to be stiff. The American Bar Association reported that enrollment in US Juris Doctorate programs hit an all-time high in 2010. Many of those enrollees are just now beginning to practice. How are you to set yourself apart as you compete for coveted positions and partnerships in legal firms? Earning a Master’s in law degree in the US may be a good place to start.

What is a Master’s in Law?

What exactly is a Master’s in Law degree? It is an advanced postgraduate legal degree that practicing lawyers and academics look to specialise in. These programs offer legal professionals the chance to engage in advanced studies and research to help establish the accepted legal practices and interpretations of the day, and to prepare themselves to better serve the clientele with whom they work.

To qualify for admission to a Master’s in Law program in the United States, you need a Juris Doctorate from an accredited US law school, or its international equivalent. This may include a first professional degree such as a Bachelor of Law offered in the United Kingdom and Europe. As admission to these programs is often highly competitive, it also helps if you have professional experience to bolster your application.

Typically, a standard Master’s in law program in the US takes only one year to complete. The curriculum you will study depends on a number of different factors. If you are an international student, you may have to first take a course familiarising you with the American legal system before moving on to study and research in your area of expertise. Your advanced studies will likely include in-depth analysis and interpretation of the principles governing your particular legal discipline, whether that be:

  • Criminal law
  • Corporate law
  • Tort law
  • Contract law
  • Family law
  • Legislation and regulation

If your hope is to go into academia rather on focusing on legal practices, your Master’s in law coursework will be more geared towards understanding legal theory.

Why Should You Seek a Master’s in Law Degree?

It typically takes a minimum of three years to complete a standard Juris Doctorate or Bachelor of Law program. Why then should you consider dedicating another year to earning a Master’s in law? There are actually a number of advantages that make the extra time that this degree requires well-worth it:

  • The chance to specialise in a certain legal discipline: Many clients may rather trust their cases to attorneys who specialise in one area rather than those who offer general services.
  • The opportunity to participate in research: You can enhance your professional reputation by being included in research projects guided by the faculty of your Master’s in law program.
  • Time to improve your English skills: If you are an international student for whom English is not your first language, taking an extra year to study will help prepare you to better communicate with your clients.

What Can a Master’s in Law Degree Do for Your Career?

As was mentioned earlier, a Master’s in law degree is a terrific tool for attorneys looking to develop a specialty. Yet that is not to say that earning such a degree does not open up other career opportunities for you. Having a Master’s in law may pave the way for you to earn a doctorate degree if you want to become a professor. It may also be a terrific way to help you transition from a legal career, to a job in policy making or public service.

If you are looking to take the next step in your legal career, your best bet to continued success could come through earning a Master’s in law in the US. Your decision to continue your legal education (and perhaps, your legal career) in America may just be the best decision that you will ever make.

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