Contract Law Degree Program Overviews

An aspiring lawyer may earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or a Master of Laws (L.L.M.) degree. Specializations within these courses of study include intellectual property law and government procurement law which provide an excellent foundation in contract law.

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Essential Information

When applying for admission, students must already hold a bachelor's or J.D. degree, respectively. Lasting from one to three years, these programs allow students to specialize in a particular area of law.

Juris Doctor (J.D.)

Earning a J.D. is required to practice law professionally in the United States. This degree generally takes three years of study to attain, and all accredited law schools require students to take contract law courses in the first year. Many schools encourage students to choose an area of legal focus before the end of the first year of study. Specialization in an area of the law, such as entertainment or international contract law, may begin the second year. Attaining a law degree alone doesn't qualify an attorney to practice law. The student must also pass the bar examination after graduation. Because laws vary by jurisdiction, courses focus primarily on teaching students to research and analyze rather than memorize laws. Second and third year law courses that involve contract law include:

  • Administrative law and processes
  • Theoretical intellectual property law
  • Advanced media arts law
  • Digital millennium copyright legislation
  • Emerging biotechnology legal concerns
  • Procedures of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims

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Master of Laws (LL.M.)

In most cases the degree programs last one year. A J.D. degree is required for admission by the majority of accredited schools. Earning the Master of Laws degree doesn't qualify graduates to practice law. Typically, law school graduates who wish to gain expertise in a particular law field pursue this degree program. One of the benefits of the LL.M. degree is that it's recognized internationally. Courses in specialized programs such as property law and sports law place a heavy emphasis on contract-related courses. Potential course topics include:

  • Trademark contractual transactions
  • Contract performance
  • Advanced government contracts
  • Intellectual property contract management
  • Contracts and data privacy issues

Popular Careers

Many lawyers with an LL.M. degree practice law either in private practice or as specialists in larger firms. Since contracts define many legal relationships, lawyers who wish to work in contract law can find a variety of specializations, such as:

  • Intellectual property lawyer
  • Sport and entertainment lawyer
  • Government contract consultant
  • Tax contract attorney
  • International business attorney

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the U.S. had approximately 609,930 practicing lawyers in 2015. Law school graduates with job experience and an ability to relocate may have advantages in this highly competitive field (www.bls.gov). While no specific salary data is given for lawyers with expertise in contract law, median salaries for lawyers in general were reported by the BLS at $115,820 annually as of 2015.

Continuing Education

Due to changing laws and new interpretations of standing laws, attorneys need to keep abreast of the latest decisions and changes in the field. Most states require lawyers to participate in continuing education courses. Courses may be taken in law schools or through the American Bar Association, and lawyers participate in online seminars to earn their continuing education credits in some states.

A student pursuing a Juris Doctor or Master of Laws degree may choose to build a specialization in contract law. Lawyers within this specialty typically handle issues such as trademarks, patents, contract performance, sports and entertainment contracts, and government supply contracts.

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