Non-lawyer professionals interested in studying law to further their careers can consider individual courses in topics such as business or real estate law, pursuing a paralegal certificate, or a part-time or full-time master's degree. There are many aspects of the law that are relevant to fields other than working as a lawyer.
Legal studies courses and programs are offered by the continuing education departments of colleges and universities. Since these programs are designed for non-lawyers, no prior legal knowledge is necessary to enroll, but some programs require that students have college credits or bachelor's degrees. Both for-credit and non-credit options are available. Legal studies courses and programs can help professionals learn how the law impacts their jobs, as well as preparing them to switch careers. Adult students can find general and specialized legal studies certificate programs.
A Master's in Legal Studies or a Juris Master program are for professionals who want to further their career through the study of law. These programs are usually around 30 credits, and they typically offer elective and required courses in a law school. Specialties could include business or healthcare law, tax law, estate planning, international law, insurance law, financial compliance, environmental law, employment law, human rights law, nonprofit law, or real estate law, among other topics, depending on the college or university.
Paralegal studies is another continuing education option for non-lawyers. This kind of program is intended for law professionals, such as law office staff or paralegals. Courses may include topics such as technology in a law office, ethics, writing and research for law, and electives in a variety of possible specialties; these may include business law, contract law, family law, or laws and trusts. Professionals also have the option of taking individual courses as continuing education.
Programs At a Glance
- Continuing education courses may be offered on-campus or online and could take anywhere from one to three months to complete.
- Continuing education courses in law may or may not be for credit. Some schools offer lectures on different topics that professionals can attend as a non-credit option.
- A program in this field could take anywhere from 2 months to 3 years to complete, depending on the school.
- Most universities that offer paralegal studies programs award a paralegal certificate.
Master of Legal Studies
- This program typically takes 1-4 years to complete.
- These programs may be available on-campus, online, or as a hybrid degree program.
Master of Legal Studies
Master of Legal Studies and Juris Master programs cover laws, legal proceedings and legal writing. Programs can be tailored to fit the needs of any professional, so courses vary widely. For example, a human resources professional may take classes in employment law, while a real estate professional may take classes in land use and real estate law. Master of Legal Studies programs can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time students take about a year to earn this degree. General course offerings include contracts, torts, civil procedure, dispute resolution and constitutional law. Most master's programs have at least one required course in the law school, along with electives.
Adult students interested in becoming paralegals or legal assistants can complete continuing education programs in paralegal studies. These programs vary in length, but they can take up to three years to complete. Most adult education paralegal programs award certificates. Students are typically required to have some college credits to enroll. Common courses include case management, legal research, civil litigation, legal writing and tort law for paralegals. This certificate could also be beneficial for administrative staff who work in law settings.
Adult students can take legal studies courses for personal interest, career advancement or law school preparation. Common course topics include legal documents, privacy laws, anti-discrimination rules and regulations, legal investigation, personal injury law and introductory criminal law.
In legal studies programs for non-lawyers, students can gain enhanced communication skills and a better understanding of the law. Additional skills these programs emphasize include writing, critical thinking, interpersonal, research and conflict management skills.
Master's degrees in law studies offer non-lawyers the opportunity to specialize in many different types of law, while paralegal studies is best suited to those wanting to work in law offices. Individual courses are a good option for those needing to further their law knowledge without a degree or certificate.