Master of Studies in Law (MSL) programs are designed for those without a background in law and who want to move into the profession. The degrees are sometimes also called Master of Legal Studies, Master of Studies in law, or Master of Science in Legal Studies. What they all have in common is that they’re typically available to students who don’t have an undergraduate degree in law, which differentiates them from LL.M. programs. In this sense, MSL programs are often looked at as alternatives to LL.M. programs.
At some law schools, MSL students also study alongside LL.M. students in core or elective classes.
Although the MSL is typically a one-year, in-class degree, some law schools are now offering these programs in online formats, giving students flexibility in how, when and where they study. They also do not have to quit their jobs, as they study part-time.
The best MSL programs will help prepare students to transition into law-related fields, or may help graduates better understand legal aspects of their current jobs.
Yale Law School runs an MSL degree for a small number of non-lawyers who, over the course of a year, get a solid grounding in legal studies. Students typically include scholars and journalists. They study alongside JD and other graduate students, learning from their more experienced peers. Yale Law School is reputed the world over, with the Ivy League institution ranked as the best in the country for law by US News.View School Profile
The University of Iowa’s College of Law runs an MSL degree for non-lawyers who want an introduction to the US legal system. The law school is accredited by the American Bar Association, which ensures a high quality standard. The University of Iowa itself is the oldest school in the eponymous state and that means it has a strong reputation among employers. Plus, the 1,800 acre campus that runs alongside the Iowa Riva is a beautiful place to study.View School Profile
Cornell Law School, part of Cornell University in New York, has an MS in Legal Studies course that provides an introduction to constitutional law, property law, criminal law and contracts, civil procedures and torts. Being part of the prestigious Cornell University, one of the Ivy League institutions, means law students have access to the collegiate system, providing opportunities for expanded networking and cross-disciplinary learning. Cornell is a top-15 law school, according to the latest US News rankings.View School Profile
The University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign has a respected College of Law that runs an MSL degree. Students can complete the degree full-time in one year or part-time over two years. Established back in 1897, the College of Law has a century-old tradition of excellence and the institution is renowned across the planet.View School Profile
IE Law School in Madrid, Spain, runs an MSL focused on global corporate compliance. The course is open to those who already work in an international legal department and those who want to start an exciting new career path. They can take the program part-time over 11 months, or full-time for 10 months. The degree provides a sophisticated understanding of global legal frameworks, business ethics and compliance strategies — smarts that are increasingly in-demand across industries like finance, as regulation increases.View School Profile
Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law runs an online MLS program that is flexible in more ways than one. There are six areas students can specialize in, including Intellectual Property law, Sports Law and Sustainability Law. The program, exclusively for non-lawyers, is also affordable, as well as having a low opportunity cost since students do not give up a salary to get the degree.View School Profile
The European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) runs a two-year MLS in European Legal Studies that combines face-to-face lectures with online learning. Based in Luxembourg, the EIPA is close to leading European institutions that house top judges and lawyers, such as the European Court of Justice and the European Commission. What’s more, the degree is offered in partnership with Université de Lorraine in France, offering students a pan-European study experience.View School Profile
Another school ranked highly by US News; USC Gould runs an online MSL degree that is taught entirely online. The school also runs an on-campus MSL course that has the same learning objectives — to help non-lawyers understand complex legal matters. There are generous scholarships on offer, and students join the famed Trojan Family network of more than 11,000 USC Gould alumni worldwide, which can help create new career opportunities.View School Profile
The Pepperdine University School of Law runs an online MLS program. The course includes several concentrations, including in business, real estate, human rights, and media law. Students can also focus on human resources or dispute resolution through the law school’s Straus Institute, which is ranked highly for dispute resolution by US News.View School Profile
The WU Executive Academy in Austria runs a Master of Legal Studies program focused on European Business Law, which is taught in English. It’s designed for those who work in a wide array of industries. Through the course, they obtain legal expertise to work in the European Union’s private, public and non-profit sectors. The degree includes modules in management as well as courses that build “soft skills” like negotiation, presentation techniques and contract drafting.View School Profile