Advanced Legal Studies and Research

Learn about advanced legal studies and research programs. See how completing a degree in this field can benefit you professionally. Get career information and overviews of degree programs that include advanced legal study topics.

Are Advanced Legal Studies for Me?

Career Overview

Advanced legal studies are usually designed for people who have completed an undergraduate program and finished law school. Some professionals that can benefit from advanced law degrees are lawyers, arbitrators, judges, researchers and professors. Lawyers who wish to specialize in a particular area of law often obtain an advanced law degree. Mediators, arbitrators and other research-oriented professionals may pursue a graduate degree in legal studies instead of a Master of Laws (LL.M.) or a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.), which are common advanced law degrees.

Work Environment

Lawyers and judges sometimes have to work 50 or more hours each week and typically spend most of their time in an office, courtroom or library. Arbitrators sometimes work from home or meet with clients at a location agreed upon by both parties.

Salary and Employment Outlook Information

Lawyers and judges have some of the highest earning potential of all occupations. In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that lawyers earned a median annual salary of $114,300 and judges made $118,150 (www.bls.gov). The BLS stated that between 2012 and 2022, lawyers were expected to see a 10% increase in job opportunities and judges and hearing officers would see little, if any, employment growth during that time. Although growth is expected for lawyers, you will probably face significant competition due to the high amount of law school graduates searching for jobs.

How Can I Pursue Advanced Legal Studies?

Educational Requirements

The type of degree you should pursue depends on your career goals. LL.M. degree programs are offered in all kinds of topics, such as banking law, intellectual property law, health law and international law. Lawyers who wish to specialize in a specific area of law usually obtain a LL.M. degree. Schools also require you to complete the LL.M. program within three years of enrolling in the program. Many LL.M. programs require you to complete an extensive writing project or thesis in addition to advanced coursework. You can choose to take courses such as advanced constitutional law, antitrust practices, estate planning and comparative law.

Additional Program Options

The S.J.D. is one of the most advanced law degrees available. This type of degree program is designed for professionals who plan on being a legal educator or researching and writing for most of their career. You usually work with a faculty member to create a study plan that is tailored to your interested. S.J.D. students are typically required to design and defend a dissertation project, make a number of presentations at a law colloquium and must pass written and oral exams. Schools that have S.J.D. programs are selective and usually only admit students who did an exceptional job in a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or LL.M. program.

If you want to pursue advanced studies in law but you don't want a law degree, some schools offer a master's degree in legal studies. This type of program is good for professionals who need advanced knowledge of the legal system, government regulations and law compliance. Mediators and arbitrators often pursue a master's degree in legal studies rather than a LL.M. A legal studies graduate degree program might give you course options in cyberlaw, employee benefits law, corporate mergers and acquisitions and insurance law. Schools generally offer a variety of legal studies courses since most professionals want to focus on specific topics that pertain to their area of work.

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