Six online Master of Legal Studies degree emphases

Today’s professional landscape includes many roles where having an understanding of the law as it pertains to a given industry can make you a more valuable employee. However, not everyone wants to pursue a law degree and become a practicing attorney. This can create a gap in expertise, because not many people other than lawyers are trained to comprehend how the law functions in a specific field. According to Arizona State University faculty, industries continue to demand more dynamic skill sets from their employees, and a background in law is often valued by employers in virtually every sector of the economy. In this way, enhancing your understanding of the legal system can help drive your career forward. If you’re interested in law but not looking to earn a Juris Doctor and sit for the bar exam, how can you further your legal knowledge?

Pursuing a Master of Legal Studies online can provide you with a foundation in law without becoming a practicing attorney. This type of program aims to explore topics like the U.S. legal structure, the constitution, legal contracts and more, which can prove useful in both your professional and personal life. Because the law affects so many different fields, you may want to focus in a specific area that will be most applicable to your career goals. For instance, emphasis options could include sports law, sustainability law, human resources and employment law, intellectual property law, criminal law or health care and corporate compliance – all of which can allow you to gain a deeper understanding of how the legal system interacts with a particular industry.

Online master’s in legal studies: curriculum at a glance

A Master of Legal Studies program works to improve your ability to think analytically as you study legal concepts and their implications. These competencies can equip you to navigate legal issues in your line of work or identify when an actual attorney will be required.

Programs typically begin with foundational courses that may cover topics such as law and legal analysis, contract fundamentals, civil procedure and constitutional law. Electives targeting your specific interests or professional needs can provide you with a more in-depth understanding of the legal circumstances associated with that industry.

Which field of law should I study?

The area of law you decide to study can depend on your interests as well as your current line of work or the industry you aspire to enter. If you’re uncertain as to where you’d like to focus, don’t hesitate to try courses in more than one area before deciding what to pursue. A flexible master’s degree in legal studies may allow you to customize your coursework to explore various interests without having all of your electives align with a single emphasis.

Here are just a few areas you can consider trying out or focusing on for your graduate program and subsequent career path:

Sports law

The ultimate goal for students interested in enhancing their expertise in sports law is often to work in the industry. A Master of Legal Studies in Sports Law can prepare you for roles such as athletic director, sports agent, general manager or NCAA compliance director, and the competencies you can build with this degree can even help you find work in related industries, such as entertainment.

A male sport manager negotiating contract with a woman in a basketball court.

Sometimes instructors can also offer professional connections that may prove vital for obtaining these types of roles. According to ASU faculty, networking opportunities are invaluable because students pursuing a master’s degree in sports law can connect with individuals who have succeeded at the highest levels of this competitive industry. Such exposure can guide you toward the kinds of sports careers best suited for your abilities and interests.

Focusing on solving problems that arise in the field, a sports law master’s degree typically teaches you how to use knowledge of the law and business to tackle issues like legalizing sports gambling, maintaining labor relations and handling antitrust scrutiny. By delving into the regulatory, revenue and branding forces at work in sports, you can become better equipped at addressing situations through your educated insight into how the legal system affects these matters.

Sustainability law

Individuals drawn to this emphasis are often seeking to address environmental challenges that may have widespread effects on humanity. A Master of Legal Studies in Sustainability Law can help prepare you for positions such as a sustainability manager, waste solutions strategist, green building advisor and more.

A master’s in sustainability law can familiarize you with the regulations that govern environmental protection and natural resources. Students typically learn how to apply relevant legal constructs toward accelerating and supporting sustainable goals. Knowledge gained through this emphasis can help you in areas such as public policy, industrial regulations, real estate development, and city and business management.

Human resources and employment law

Human resources focuses on statutes and regulations that govern the workplace, in addition to working directly with personnel. It’s a vital component for any company, and laws related to HR and employment are constantly changing. With a Master of Law Studies in HR & Employment Law you can learn to keep up with and manage the complex legal and regulatory framework in business that impacts recruiting, hiring, maintenance, promotions and terminations of employees or independent contractors. This kind of master’s program can give you the business acumen to focus your career in roles like HR manager, labor advocate and executive recruiter. The knowledge you gain could even improve your ability to manage your own business, especially if you’re unable to hire an HR manager as your company grows.

As you increase your familiarity with relevant regulations through a master’s in employment law, you can learn to identify and solve critical issues such as those related to wages, employee use of social media or others that can appear on a daily basis at any organization. Students can develop strategies for interacting with administrative laws as they’re put into effect at the federal and state levels. They can also gain enough insight into how the workplace functions to anticipate changes and adapt quickly as new regulations are passed. The competencies established as you earn your master’s in HR and employment law can prepare you to develop an effective and compliant organization, regardless of industry.

Intellectual property law

Knowing the laws that protect a person’s or an organization's intellectual property can prove vital in business and even assist in creating a competitive advantage. A Master of Legal Studies in Intellectual Property Law can add value to your career in marketing and branding, licensing, entrepreneurship or research and development. This expertise can help you support innovation by spotting situations where creative ideas and products are vulnerable to loss.

ASU faculty say that professionals must be able to navigate a complex web of legal measures in order to successfully protect intellectual property. The knowledge you can gain through a master’s in intellectual property law can help you ensure all the hard work put into developing your company’s services or products is kept safe.

Criminal law

Today’s politicians, lobbyists, policymakers and public interest groups are beginning to see the utility of an educational background that focuses on criminal law. A Master of Legal Studies in Criminal Law can give you expertise in how and why the criminal justice system operates. It can provide you with insight into the large assortment of agencies charged with enforcing the laws, protecting the rights of suspects or convicted individuals and establishing punishments.

With a master’s in criminal law, you can explore how regulations come to pass as well as how they can differ between states, enhancing your overall understanding of the legal system. With such a background in criminal law, you can pursue careers in law enforcement or social work. Potential jobs to consider include county or court clerk, FBI agent, probation officer and more.

Corporate law and health care compliance

Corporate compliance is a complex network of laws and regulations that impact how business is conducted, and it affects all areas of operation. This has led to many organizations creating compliance departments with professionals who ensure adherence to legal obligations related to areas like health care. As a compliance officer, you may also be asked to produce reports on the organization’s adherence to the tax code, the federal law restricting the release of medical information and more.

A Master of Legal Studies in Corporate and Health Care Compliance can allow you to explore compliance from an overarching perspective, studying laws and regulations that impact each area of a business, or through a more defined view, focusing on compliance for a specific department, such as human resources or finance. Engaging with the concepts and theories unique to this area of business law can prepare you to enter into a compliance-related position in almost any organization.

A Master of Legal Studies from ASU Online

With the Master of Legal Studies online program from ASU, you have the opportunity to study law at a graduate level without the expectation of becoming a lawyer. After starting with an introduction to legal theory, you’re able to select an emphasis centered around the area of law that piques your interest or aligns with your career goals. Offering the legal acumen necessary to understand and approach law-specific issues inherent to fields like sports, health care, intellectual property, sustainability and more, this degree can propel you along a career path relevant to either the industry you’re currently working in or one you’re preparing to enter.


ASU Online – Master of Legal Studies

ASU Online – Master of Legal Studies in Sports Law

Top Five Sports Law Stories for 2017 by Forbes

ASU Online – Master of Legal Studies in Sustainability Law

ASU Online – Master of Law Studies in HR & Employment Law

9 employment law issues you need to watch by The Business Journals

ASU Online – Master of Legal Studies in Intellectual Property Law

A male employee at a startup company files for a patent on his computer.
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